Thursday, August 30 2018
ORLANDO, Fla. —This month of September we close the 3rd quarter of the year and it’s that time of the year when the industry analyzes current trends and challenges to identify areas of opportunity as well as a course of action to be proposed for the following year.
Many of these issues and challenges have been previously discussed in our blog. On a recent interview, Chris Spear, chief executive of the American Trucking Associations, reiterated his aggressive agenda that includes recruiting teenage truck drivers, a gas tax increase to fix roads and safety technology for greater trucking industry productivity.
Four topics, aside from the driver shortage issue, are taking most of the attention in terms of priorities for the next year: Productivity, infrastructure, safety technology and tariffs.
Trucking is booming. But a shortage of trucks and technicians to fix them is as chronic as the lack of drivers. The capacity crunch is raising load prices. That’s good in the short term. But unless the industry can become more efficient, it risks losing business to other transportation modes. According to Spear, there are many laws that haven’t been modified for the last 35 years, included are the productivity laws that haven’t been changed since 1982. One example he emphasized on are regulations like the hours-of-service rule that restricts drivers to 11 hours behind the wheel in a 14-hour period need to be modified because some shippers are considering it an inefficient practice not up to speed with the economy growth.
Also, truckers could drive less and earn the same pay if regulations allowed more flexible sleep breaks to avoid traffic bottlenecks, according to a study by the American Transportation Research Institute. Replicating flexible hours-of-service rest breaks across the industry could save drivers 2.3 million hours and $150 million in annual operating expenses, according to ATRI.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began studying alternatives to the 10-hour sleep mandate in 2015. The agency on Aug. 21 announced a 30-day comment period for an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to changes in the hours-of-service rules.
Automated driving assist and autonomous driving technologies could help drivers be safer, more efficient, more productive and less fatigued. The chief executive of the American Trucking Association believes there is no reason for truck drivers to feel threatened by it. He compared its implementation to that of airplanes that could take off and land on their own but still, pilots are the ones in control.
The trucking industry pays half of the federal Highway Trust Fund. According to the association’s top executive, without new money or continued diversion of funds from other areas, the trust fund will go broke in 2020. He believes a 20-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase over four years that would raise $340 billion will be included and defends higher fuel taxes as the most efficient way to pay for road and bridge upkeep.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an important discussion because trucks account for most of the border crossings into Mexico and Canada. Right now, truck and trailer makers are building in surcharges to offset tariffs on imported aluminum and steel.
Although some tensions were present at the beginning of the process the recent deal with Mexico came quickly enough to bring back hope to members of this important industry for our country.