Trucking Industry Prospers, Trade Policy Holds Uncertain Effects

The economy is booming and unemployment rates are low at 3.8 percent, according to a recent article by Transport Topics. There are actually more trucking jobs than there are people looking for those jobs. There are currently 50,000 available full-time trucking jobs needed to support NAFTA. However, with the United States placing tariffs on other countries, including allies Mexico and Canada, it’s unclear what effects these tariffs may have on the industry.

Burney Simpson, Staff Reporter for Transport Topics writes:

The economy and trucking are in good shape for the second half of this year despite issues including the driver shortage. But uncertain trade policy is having an impact on future expansion, according to three industry experts who spoke June 7 at American Trucking Associations’ 2018 National Accounting & Finance Council annual conference in Raleigh, N.C.

The panel Economic Trends in Trucking Amidst Policy Changes featured Brad Delco, managing director of investment firm Stephens Inc., and Kenny Vieth, president of industry analyst ACT Research Co. It was moderated by ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

Summer is here and the overall economy is strong with three important forces doing well simultaneously, reported Costello. First, the consumer is at work with an unemployment rate at 3.8%.

“We have more job openings than people looking for work. This year wages could go up 3.5%. There is fast growth and that brings spending,” Costello said.

Then there’s a busy construction industry and factory output possibly growing 3% this year, Costello said.

Specific to trucking, business is growing as “more firms are going to two-day delivery. Inventory is cycled through faster at warehouses, but at the same time they have to have inventory on hand to be delivered,” Costello said.

Another positive is the sales and orders for trucks, Vieth said. “The technology in the new trucks is changing. Automated manual transmissions are huge, the safety technology is becoming a must have, the driver-assist technology such as lane departure, automatic braking, anti-rollover, all of this is wanted now,” Vieth said.

So, Costello asked, what challenges face the industry?

“The only constraint on this industry is a lack of drivers,” Delco said. And many carriers are addressing that by raising compensation to recruit and retain drivers.

The major problem at the moment is uncertainty on U.S. trade policy and the threat of tariffs, Vieth said. Tariffs typically lead to higher prices for steel and other commodities needed to build equipment.

“Policy is not clear. Then we’ve got events like Italy possibly leaving the European Union,” Vieth said. “Is that much ado about nothing? What happens to the EU when you consider Italy is the seventh largest economy in the world?”

Delco believes the economy will slow in 2019. He argues the long bull market in stocks appears to have hit its peak as trading whipsaws up and down. Meanwhile, policy announcements from the White House give investors pause.

“The stock cycle is long in the tooth, there’s greater volatility, the uncertainty is greater and people may pull back capital,” Delco said.

And it’s not clear why the United States is placing tariffs on allies such as Canada and Mexico, especially since it has trade surpluses in key commodities with these countries, Costello said. The renegotiation of the NAFTA trade agreement has become contentious and any deal, if it happens, won’t be signed until 2019.

“NAFTA is very important to trucking,” Costello said. “There are 50,000 full-time trucking jobs needed to support NAFTA, including 31,000 drivers. It means $6.6 billion annually to the trucking industry.”

In sum, trucks this summer have a full load and a relatively open road but be prepared next year for some congestion.

The NAFC conference was held in conjunction with ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council Fleet Data Management & Cybersecurity Conference at the Marriott City Center in Raleigh.


The Future of our Highway Infrastructure

According to the following opinion piece published in Transport Topics, America was number one in infrastructure back in 2005. However, today, we are ranked number 9. The question now is: How are we going to bounce back?

In an opinion piece, Ed Rendell and Ray LaHood | Co-Chairs, Building America’s Future, write in Transport Topics:

The expansive infrastructure networks that were built in the 20th century have served our nation well. As America’s economy grew, people and goods continued to move across the country, and the quality of life for all our citizens continued to improve. But in recent years, our infrastructure has been neglected and underfunded as policymakers in Washington have ignored the decay and disrepair of our roads, bridges and transit systems.

For decades, America’s roads and bridges were paid for by the users of transportation systems through modest fuel taxes. The system worked well for years, but as vehicles became more fuel efficient and cars that use little or no fuelat all became more prevalent, less revenue from this user fee flowed into the Highway Trust Fund.

Since 1993, the fuel tax rates of 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel and 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline have not increased, and have due to inflation lost a good deal of their purchasing power. Congress has declined to take any action to approve even a modest increase in these rates or even index them to inflation.

Unfortunately, inaction has severe consequences. Since the Highway Trust Fund has not kept up with our nation’s growing needs, the result has been clear: Our roads are cratered with potholes, our bridges no longer handle growing traffic volume, and traffic congestion has grown to unbearable levels in many of our cities. And we are falling behind our global economic competitors. The World Economic Forum ranked our infrastructure No. 1 in the world in 2005, but after years of inaction we have fallen to No. 9 — a significant step back.

It’s time to forge a new path forward. Competing in the 21st century requires 21st century infrastructure and a 21st century way to pay for it.

Congress should look no further than the states that have been testing the feasibility of replacing the system that charges drivers by how much fuel they consume with how many miles they drive. States like Oregon and California have been at the forefront of this testing, and Washington, Colorado, Utah and Minnesota have also been exploring this concept.

A road user charge would address the growing fuel efficiency of vehicles while at the same time ensure that hybrid and electric vehicles that currently pay little or nothing contribute their fair share. In addition to generating needed revenue, such a program could also be used to better manage traffic congestion by using variable pricing based on time of day and traffic volume. Variable pricing is already widely used on highways around the country. The 495 Express Lanes in Northern Virginia, the I-15 Express Lanes near San Diego and 95 Express in Miami are three examples.

Full-scale implementation of a national road user charge is several years away. In the interim, we must continue to rely on fuel taxes, but it is imperative that they be increased and indexed to inflation.

The Highway Trust Fund is projected to go bankrupt in 2020. If something isn’t done to increase funding — be it an increase in fuel taxes, transfers from the general fund of the treasury or something else — it will have a $138 billion shortfall over the next 10 years. And if that shortfall is addressed with an increase and indexing of the gas tax, there would be no impact on the federal deficit. This would not be the case if money is transferred from the general fund.

We believe this proposal is the bridge to the 21st century that is needed to get America’s infrastructure back to No. 1. It will require vision, courage and action from our policymakers.

With the close of the recent 6th annual Infrastructure Week, now is the time to act. The future won’t wait. Neither can we. It’s #TimeToBuild.


DOT Highlights Various Drone Tests

It’s no secret that drones are making their way into various industries. With ever-evolving technology and the need to deliver goods to consumers more quickly and efficiently, drones are a driving force in this effort. Additionally, drones are being tested in other areas, such as farming.

Alan Levin of Bloomberg News writes (published in Transport Topics):

A who’s who of technology and aviation companies won U.S. approval to push the edge of the envelope in drone flights, from testing people’s tolerance for delivery devices hovering over their rooftops to ensuring farmers’ drones won’t hit crop dusters.

In the most far-reaching test program to date for burgeoning drone commerce, the Department of Transportation announced the selection of 10 state, local and tribal governments — in partnership with companies that may include Alphabet Inc.’s Project Wing and Intel Corp. — as social and scientific test beds.

“The enthusiastic response to our request for applications demonstrated the many innovative technological and operational solutions already on the horizon,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

The communities hosting the pilot projects include San Diego, Raleigh, N.C., Topeka, Kan., Reno, Nev., and Fairbanks, Alaska.

The program was pushed by President Donald Trump’s White House as a way to speed approvals of more far-ranging unmanned flight operations.

The Integration Pilot Program, as it’s called, has created palpable enthusiasm in the drone world, from startups including Flirtey Inc. and AirMap Inc. to established companies developing unmanned devices such as Inc., which wants to deliver packages to people’s homes.

Flirtey, which has tested a variety of ways to deliver goods using small drones, is part of a test program operated by Reno that is one of the 10 winners, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said in a press release May 8.


Technology Helping to Detect Risky Drivers

Most trucking companies today have implemented technology in some facet. One thing that is and forever will be crucial to monitor is safety. There is technology today that many many companies have launched to monitor driver behavior and quickly detect and mitigate risk.

Aaron Huff of CCJ Digital writes:

In October 2017, a top-performing driver for Oakley Transport crossed the centerline of a bridge at approximately 4 a.m.

A windshield-mounted Bendix AutoVue camera system detected the lane departure and instantaneously shared event data with an in-vehicle SmartRecorder device from SmartDrive.

The SmartRecorder captured and transmitted a 20-second video clip of the event to Oakley Transport for review using the SmartIQ web portal from SmartDrive.

“It was a scary moment to watch,” recalls Craig Stevens, Oakley’s vice president of operations and strategic initiatives. He saw the driver shaking himself to stay alert.

After the technology identified the fatigued driver, Oakley Transport’s safety department intervened and provided treatment for what had been a previously undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Fatigue is one of many risky driving behaviors that can be detected using advanced technology. New developments are leading to a convergence of driver-assist technologies and safety data to identify more complex patterns of risk that traditionally have been hidden from view.

Breaking down the technical and competitive barriers of safety technology has made it possible for fleets to more effectively mitigate risks by having more comprehensive and real-time management of vehicle and driver performance.

A single subscription

One of the forces driving technology convergence is the prevalence of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Eventually, ADAS technology will power autonomous trucks, but in the meantime they are expanding the possibilities to mitigate risks.

Today, fleets may be cobbling together data from multiple ADAS technologies and Internet of Things devices and sensors. For example, a telematics system may report speeding and sudden braking events while a separate video event recorder is used to identify more complex behaviors that triggered the events like fatigue and distraction.

SmartDrive’s latest SR4 platform has expanded possibilities for data integration for reducing costs and giving fleets a “single source of truth” for driver and vehicle performance, says Steve Mitgang, SmartDrive’s chief executive.

Oakley Transport, based in Lake Wales, Fla., is installing the SR4 in its 500-truck fleet.

Oakley Transport orders its Volvo trucks with Bendix AutoVue lane departure warning and Bendix Wingman Fusion systems installed at the factory. The Wingman Fusion system combines adaptive cruise control with active braking and collision mitigation technologies.

The Bendix ADAS systems integrate with the SmartDrive platform to trigger capture of video records based on lane departures and following distances.

Kelly McDowell, Oakley’s director of safety and compliance, says everything managers want to know about driver behaviors and risk is available through the SmartDrive program, which brings data together into “one package to measure safety.”

Vehicle integrators

Truck manufacturers are helping drive the integration of ADAS technology with telematics, video and other safety technologies with connected vehicle platforms.

In 2013, Navistar began using data from telematics systems that its fleet customers were already using to power its remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance service, OnCommand Connection.

In 2017, Navistar launched its own aftermarket telematics hardware and software platform under the same name, OnCommand Connection, with fleet management and ELD applications.

Starting this year, Navistar will be installing OnCommand Connection in all International Trucks at the factory. The technology will serve as an integration hub for ADAS and other connected vehicle technologies that its customers use.

“We have been successful for a long time pulling data from different trucks into one screen. Most fleets don’t own one truck (brand) so we do not have any reason to not continue the same strategy,” says Terry Kline, Navistar’s senior vice president and chief information officer.

By integrating with ADAS systems on a vehicle, Kline can “easily see a future” where OnCommand Connection will alert fleets if a driver has a lane departure event caused by fatigued or distracted driving “so that someone can intervene.”

OnCommand Connection will be able to capture video and data from ADAS and camera systems on vehicles, he adds, and give users to event data and footage through an online portal.

“We view OnCommand Connection as the connection to the vehicle for those data points on safety, lane departure and collision avoidance,” he says.

Bringing it together

With an ever-increasing amount of information that is available on driver safety and performance, it has become difficult for a single vendor to supply everything through a single subscription package.

Some vendors have decided to instead focus on their core strengths, which may be to package information from a multitude of sources for fleet managers and drivers to modify behaviors.

Fleet mobility provider PeopleNet, for instance, continues adding more sources of information to its Onboard Event Recorder (OER) application. OER captures data from the vehicle and various ADAS sensors when critical events occur like speeding or sudden deceleration.

PeopleNet’s Video Intelligence product adds video footage to OER events from cameras around the vehicle. The data it captures on driver safety also includes hours-of-service and driving habits and brings everything together into a net score. The scores are managed using an online Safety Analytics dashboard.

Samsara, an enterprise IoT systems company, offers what it describes as “a complete data platform” for transportation operations that combines real-time GPS tracking, wireless sensors, video, and mobile applications.

The platform flags harsh events as they take place for fleet managers to review the footage from those incidents. Samsara doesn’t employ people to review the footage to make risk observations, which helps to keep costs down and gives fleets immediate access to data and video records, says Saleh ElHattab, product manager at Samsara.

Samsara is developing new machine vision technologies that will automatically identify risky behaviors, like distraction, that contribute to critical safety events, he says. Fleet safety scores are shown to drivers via the Samsara Driver App.

Mix Telematics is “always looking for different data streams to integrate with,” says Pete Allen, chief client officer. The company offers an integrated camera for its telematics platform and has integrations with Mobileye’s forward collision warning system and Seeing Machines’ fatigue detection system.

Alerts from the Mobileye and Seeing Machines systems can be part of MiX Telematics’ data stream, he says, to identify correlations with driver behaviors caught on camera such as distractions.

“Driver behaviors are precursors to other events happening,” he says.

Teletrac Navman is in the process of deploying a forward-facing camera for its telematics system, Teletrac Navman Director. The system will record video footage when triggered by behaviors such as harsh driving and speeding, says Marco Encinas, marketing and product manager of global platforms.

The company is also working on next-generation cameras to incorporate a 360-degree view around the vehicle to detect risky driving behaviors and event records.

As a mobile workforce platform, Verizon Connect has not introduced a camera. Instead, the company integrates with a number of third-party camera systems.

Verizon Connect is focused on creating value for its customers through scorecards rather than adding more IoT devices. The platform comes with a built-in driver scorecard that can utilize event data, such as lane departures, from third-party systems.

Verizon Connect also offers a Coach mobile app that shows drivers how their performance compares to their peers, says Mark Wallin, vice president of product.

Machine learning

As motor carriers continue to adopt ADAS and other forms of safety technology, some companies are using artificial intelligence to detect new patterns of risky behaviors as the volume of data increases.

SmartDrive is using data it captures from OEM and third-party systems to continuously develop and refine driver-assist sensors and machine learning algorithms that detect risk patterns. The company will soon release sensors that can alert drivers, assess behaviors and trigger the capture of event data and video for lane departures, short following distances, forward collision warnings, posted speed detection, traffic signs and signal violations.

Lytx, whose DriveCam program is used by more 3,000 fleets with 500,000 vehicles, is using artificial intelligence to mine its large database and develop new machine vision technologies that will help its customers better understand and predict risk in driving and non-driving events.

Lytx is adding approximately 1 billion of driving miles to its database every two weeks. The scale of data makes it possible to automatically recognize more patterns in unique data sets, says Brandon Nixon, chief executive officer.

“As long as you have unique data sets, you can train (machine vision) to recognize almost anything,” he says.


The Driver Shortage: Searching for Solutions

The search for drivers is becoming extremely competitive in today’s market. Many company’s are changing their pay structure, incentives and benefits packages to attract drivers.

Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ) Digital is working on a three-month series that examines the driver shortage and ways to reduce the impact of this crisis.

Linda Longton of CCJ Digital writes:

Strong freight, tight capacity and surging rates mean conditions for carriers “are approaching their most favorable situation in 14 years,” according to FTR’s Trucking Conditions Index.

Except, that is, when it comes to drivers.

Long a major headache for carriers, in today’s environment, the search for drivers is “getting really, really competitive,” says Gordon Klemp, president of the National Transportation Institute, whose company tracks driver pay and benefits. “In the first two months of this year, the numbers of pay changes — we’ve never had a first quarter that’s even close,” he says. “And the size of some of the changes is pretty impressive.”

Desperate to take advantage of the booming freight market, carriers are offering drivers incentives ranging from higher pay and jumbo-sized bonuses to improved creature comforts and generous benefit packages. While experts say such approaches only encourage turnover, other tactics could provide long-term solutions to some of trucking’s systemic problems. At the same time, increasingly sophisticated technologies are giving fleets more tools to help recruit and retain this scarce resource.

Ask drivers why recruiting and retaining them is so challenging, and three out of four say carriers “don’t pay enough,” according to a recent survey by CCJ sister brands Truckers News and Overdrive. That’s a criticism many fleets are taking to heart: Truckers News has reported more than 25 pay changes since October, and Klemp notes that many took effect immediately. Historically, fleets might announce a pay bump in January but make it effective in late March, he says.

Klemp also expects some fleets that made announcements early in the year to raise pay again, possibly in the third quarter, based on competitive pressures and continuing strength in freight rates. “Pay won’t move unless rates are going up,” he says. Klemp predicts that if GDP is above 3 percent in the last three quarters, pay will be 15 percent higher on Dec. 31, 2018, than it was the prior year.

Alongside pay increases, many fleets are offering attention-grabbing sign-on bonuses. Klemp’s company reports median sign-on bonus amounts in February were three or four times as high as those a year earlier, depending on the segment. While such bonuses are common, many experts suggest any sign-on pay beyond what’s needed to cushion the transition to a new job only encourages turnover.

And sign-on bonuses may not be all that effective — at least for attracting the best candidates. Most veteran drivers “don’t trust them,” says Michael Fisk, director of hiring, marketing and driver development for Roadmaster Group, based in Glendale, Ariz. That’s perhaps why only 2 percent of respondents to a recent Truckers News survey said they would change jobs for a large sign-on bonus.

Fleets in the Southeast that typically lag other regions in terms of pay have announced the largest cost-per-mile raises, Klemp says. “The aggressiveness of pay changes down there might indicate they are hurrying to catch up to their counterparts in the Midwest and Northeast where they bump up against them.” The Northeast is historically the highest-paying region, and pay changes there have been fewer, he says.

Increasingly, fleets are tailoring pay packages to not only attract new talent but also reward existing drivers. K&B Transportation (CCJ Top 250, No. 124), based in South Sioux City, Neb., recently announced graduated pay increases tied to company longevity and starting at zero to six months on up to more than five years. Similarly, Joplin, Mo.-based CFI announced its Experienced Driver pay package in November when “we realized it took too long for our own experienced drivers to reach the top of our pay scale,” says Michael Hinz, senior vice president of sales and operations.

Bringing consistency to driver pay is key, says Phil Byrd, chief executive officer of Bulldog Hiway Express, based in North Charleston, S.C. “Drivers and potential drivers are looking for reliable income — not $1,000 this week, $500 next week,” Byrd says. “They want a predictable weekly income like most people do.” Drivers paid on Bulldog’s “salary plus” receive a salary and then incentives to help them earn above their base.

The growth of Amazon and consumer expectations for next-day deliveries have enabled teams to command large pay premiums, Klemp says, with experienced teams getting “into pretty rarified air” compensation-wise. Some carriers such as Tennessee-based Covenant Transport (No. 39) and U.S. Xpress (No. 16) are offering teams substantial bonuses. Covenant’s program pays $2,000 every time a team passes 60,000 paid miles together, up to a total of $40,000. U.S. Xpress has a similar plan but is offering a $50,000 bonus paid in $2,000 increments and in vacation time over a four-year period to current and future team drivers.

Beyond pay and bonuses, many carriers are looking for creative ways to cut through the recruiting noise and get drivers’ attention. Inwood, N.Y.-based Express Trucking & Courier, which provides expedited high-value shipping, offers free health insurance for drivers and their families with a $15 co-pay through United Health Care — a benefit that Ken Deocharran, Express president, values at $2,000 per month. If drivers already have medical coverage through a spouse, they can use the money to pay for their mortgage, rent or car payment, up to the $2,000, he says. The concept has been well-received, Deocharran says. “We put out an ad, and within 24 hours, 60 drivers responded. … It gave us a competitive edge in the market.”

However, it does little good to raise pay, boost bonuses and sweeten benefits if fleets don’t communicate these changes effectively to potential candidates and their own drivers. That’s where technology plays an increasingly important role. Whether through social media, email or a customized fleet portal, successful fleets use any means available to cultivate relationships with drivers. “It used to be ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ ” says Roadmaster’s Fisk. “Now, if it’s a ‘no’ now, we’re going to stay in touch with you. It has to be relational, where they’re interacting with you as well.”

As carriers deal with the realities of today’s more severe driver shortage, many are looking for ways to be more flexible in their hiring standards while maintaining safe operations, FTR notes in its Trucking Update. Fisk suggests fleets take a more sophisticated approach to hiring. “We constantly assess and reassess how we hire,” he says, evaluating each candidate from an individual perspective.

If a driver had a traffic accident at 19 and now is 35, Fisk considers the current level of maturity and possible change in habits “instead of just having a list of nonqualifiers,” he says. Such flexibility may require implementing additional programs or other requirements for the new hire to be successful.

Meanwhile, despite fleets’ best efforts to recruit each other’s drivers, many are content to stay put. Amid the flurry of carrier pay announcements, last month Truckers News and Overdrive asked drivers and owner-operators how likely they were to change jobs. Forty-seven percent said they have no plans to jump carriers because they are happy with their current employer. Another 17 percent said changing jobs was “just too much hassle.”

Link to story with visuals:


Technology Investments Driving Change in Transportation

Technology has become a driving force behind just about everything these days, and that includes that transportation industry. While technology is often viewed by many as disruptive, it is also necessary to grow in an ever-changing environment.

Daniel P. Bearth of Transport Topics writes:

The combination of technology and innovation is changing the business of transportation and logistics in ways that are both potentially disruptive and critical to improving existing processes.

And the changes are coming from inside and outside of the industry.

XPO Logistics, which rode a string of high-profile acquisitions to become the largest third-party logistics company in North America in 2017, is investing $450 million in technology, and CEO Bradley Jacobs said he sees it as the key to maintaining the company’s position in the market.

“The logistics space is wide open for the development of exciting technologies,” Jacobs recently told investment analysts. “We view our technology as being critical to continuously improving customer service, controlling our costs and leveraging our scale.”

At the same time, investors are pouring money into startups and groundbreaking new technologies that have the potential to radically alter the landscape of the industry.

Firms such as Uber Technologies, Alphabet’s Waymo and Tesla Inc. are pushing the frontiers of self-driving vehicles, for example, while global players such as Deutsche Post DHL and UPS Inc. are testing the use of robots as part of a move to automate warehousing and distribution activities.

Since 2013, investors have poured $14.4 billion into equity financing for new companies in the transportation, logistics and supply chain management sectors, according to data from CB Insights, a New York-based research firm that specializes in tracking investment in technology and new business startups.

In Chattanooga, Tenn., a group of local business executives have teamed up to provide seed capital and mentoring for entrepreneurs with ideas for improving the business of transportation and logistics.

So far, logistics venture fund Dynamo has funded 13 companies, including Steam Logistics, which provides ocean and airfreight forwarding. Another Chattanooga-based fund, Lamp Post Group, has funded Bellhops, Bellhops, an Uber-like on-demand moving company, and Reliance Partners, an insurance brokerage firm.

One of the first beneficiaries of Dynamo’s investment is 20-year-old Jacob Boudreau, who ran a web marketing business while still in high school in Atlanta and who now with his partner, 21-year-old Sean Henry, heads up a company called Stord that helps warehouse operators market underutilized space.


Drivers Note No Difference Since the ELD Mandate Enforcement Date

April 1, 2018 was the official date for the ELD mandate enforcement. The rule is that if drivers get caught violating this mandate, they will be put out of service for 10 hours, and then, they can continue their delivery with paper logs. However, they must be ELD compliant by the time they are dispatched on their next load.

The Overdrive staff at overdriveonline writes:

The first day of so-called “hard enforcement” of the ELD mandate came and went with little fanfare, based on a sampling of drivers’ online comments. In an interesting quirk of the calendar, the day coincided with April Fool’s Day and Easter Sunday, the day of the week itself one where truck-enforcement activity is characteristically light.

As noted by Overdrive in late March, the U.S. DOT and its enforcement partner the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will begin putting truckers out of service for 10 hours if they’re required by regulations to have an ELD and aren’t running one. After the 10-hour period is up, drivers can continue to deliver their load on paper logs, though they must be compliant by the time they’re dispatched on their next load or be subject to another 10-hour out-of-service order.

 April 1 also marked the date by which ELD violations would begin counting against carriers’ scores in the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.
Most owner-operators responding Monday to an evening request for comments posted to Overdrive‘s Facebook page noted nothing out of the ordinary in general terms from enforcement.“Haven’t noticed a thing” different, wrote Jeff Clark.

Glen Murphy concurred: “Haven’t seen anything out of the normal.”

To that point, noted Rick Underwood, “All of the California scales have been open for business today” on his routes through the state, known for its busy inspectors.

Several owner-ops and drivers took the opportunity to weigh in with either opposition to or support for the new reality that is the ELD mandate. A round-up follows below.

Renee Peek-Wiggins Crabtree: We haul livestock and are not required to use ELDs yet. We are working to get hours of service changed to accommodate everyone. That’s the real problem, more so than ELDs. 

Crabtree went on to espouse the view that ELDs nonetheless constituted a “big brother” invasion of privacy.

Ben Krull: I don’t drive a truck for a living but do deal with drivers every day. I hate the new law, because now all of the drivers are in a hurry and impatient.

Andy Brant: The same people complaining about [ELDs] are the same ones who are trying to bend the rules. The hours of service are the exact same now as they’ve been for a number of years now, and the government only sees the hours of service if you or your company get an audit [or inspection]. Every industry has a set of standards and rules for that specific industry, and you know them when you sign up. This isn’t changing those rules — it is enforcing people to be in compliance with the ones already set in place. This will actually make it easier for you to do your job correctly and by the law, if you take five minutes out of your day to learn it. Let’s face it, if you’re reading this you’re using the same type of technology as e-logs, so “the technology is too difficult” can’t be an excuse.

Missi Howard I got my class a license in 2015 so all I know is ELD. I miss the good old days when the cheaters could fill out their comic books any way they wanted and just keep driving. There was so much more parking then. ELDs have created a real parking crisis for me and I hate it.

And, Howard added, given she’s known nothing other than e-logs for hours recording, “if I ever have to do paper logs in an emergency I’m in trouble.”



ELD Mandate Grace Period Coming to an End

Starting on April 1, drivers caught without an ELD will be placed out of service for 10 hours. Additionally, drivers may have points added to their safety and compliance scores, and could even be hit with a fine.

Eric Miller of Transport Topics writes:

The three-month law enforcement grace period for trucks to be equipped with electronic logging devices is almost over.

As of April 1, drivers caught without ELDs are due to be placed out of service for 10 hours, and may have points added to their Compliance, Safety, Accountability program scores, or could even be assessed a civil fine.

Collin Mooney, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, said that after the 10-hour out-of-service order is completed, drivers can use paper records of duty to get to their final destination.

“But they can’t be re-dispatched until they have an ELD installed,” Mooney said.

“Some inspectors or officers may just place the driver out of service for 10 hours,” Mooney said. “Others may place the driver out of service and issue a citation as well. It’s really up to the officer within each jurisdiction.”

Mooney added, “But we’re recommending that a roadside report is generated for points to be assigned. If no roadside report is generated then the violation wouldn’t appear on someone’s CSA score.”

With few exceptions, the rule mandates any driver required to previously keep a paper record of duty status must install an ELD.

Despite a variety of complaints by drivers about the new mandate, federal regulators are quick to point out that the ELD rule really doesn’t change the hours-of-service requirements that have been in place since 2005. However, the technology will help ensure that drivers comply with the 11-hour daily driving time and 14-hour on-duty time maximums.

Joseph DeLorenzo, director of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s office of compliance and enforcement, said during an ELD listening session at the Mid-America Trucking Show that some drivers preferred paper logs because they could “make the paperwork the way [they] want. But you can’t make it the way you want with an ELD.”

Indeed, cheating on paper logs has been widespread, according to FMCSA records.

For example, in 2017, roadside inspectors issued nearly 43,000 violations for false reports of driver record of duty status, 32,000 violations for no driver record of duty status, and nearly 54,000 violations for paper logs not being current.

Ken Evans, CEO of ELD provider Konexial, said the devices are nearly impossible to defeat because they are synchronized with the engine’s computer and record drive time when the truck’s speed exceeds 5 mph.

Evans said that when he was exhibiting the product at truck shows last year, drivers commonly said, “I don’t want to talk to you unless you can help me cheat.”

There are a number of specific requirements and suggested practices associated with the ELDs. Some of them include:

• Drivers and carriers must choose an ELD from a registration list of self-certified ELDs that are reviewed by FMCSA.

• The ELD must be capable of transferring data to inspectors during roadside inspections. Drivers may use one of two options, either by telematics such as e-mail or web services, or locally via the use of Universal Serial Bus or Bluetooth.

• When an ELD malfunctions, the driver must provide written notice to the carrier within 24 hours and maintain paper logs over the course of eight days, the maximum time FMCSA allows for a device to be repaired or replaced.

• Drivers or carriers can make edits to their ELD record, but drive time cannot be shortened. The driver, who has the last say on the edits, must re-certify the data after edits are made.

• Drivers should remember to log off the ELD at the end of the day. Officials say one of the biggest problems is drivers not logging out because it can create complications, for example, when a mechanic moves the truck to perform maintenance.

“I like to remind people that this transition on the industry side is difficult,” DeLorenzo said at the agency forum. “It’s a big change for people that are not technology users. But the things that you struggle with on the transition to technology, we also struggle with on the enforcement side.”


Some Nor’Eastern States Ban Trucks from Highways During Winter Storm

In the span of just two weeks, the Northeast has gotten pounded with snow and severe weather conditions. This, of course, affects the roads and highways. Currently, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have placed a tractor-trailer ban on highways, as there have been several tractor-trailer involved accidents. Needless to say, drivers be careful out there and check your routes!

Matt Cole of Overdrive writes:

For the third time in two weeks, a nor’easter storm is wreaking havoc on the Northeast, causing some states to institute tractor-trailer bans on highways Tuesday, March 13.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation placed a travel ban on tractor-trailers on all state highways from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday. Gov. Gina Raimondo announced the truck ban late Monday night on Twitter.

 Several tractor trailer accidents in Massachusetts Tuesday morning prompted the Massachusetts State Police to issue a truck ban on the Massachusetts Turnpike(I-90) from the New York state line to exit 14, just west of Boston. There is no timetable on when the restriction will be lifted.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy issued a statement Monday night acknowledging Rhode Island’s truck ban, but said his state didn’t have plans at the time for a similar ban.

snowy truck

ATA President Addresses Trucking Efforts at the 2018 Technology and Maintenance Council Annual Meeting

Trucking is the backbone of the American economy, which is why the American Trucking Association’s (ATA) President, Chris Spear, stated that trucking deserves a seat at the negotiating table. Spear went on to say that while we’re experiencing a booming economy, that also means that demands go up.

Jack Roberts of Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT)/Truckinginfo writes:

American Trucking Associations president Chris Spear told a packed room at the 2018 Technology and Maintenance Council Annual Meeting that the time was right for trucking to take its rightful seat at the negotiating table, tell its story and make certain it was not cut out of the picture in the legislative, policy and technology issues both today and in the future.

“We believe the best way to to that is to tell the truth and pack it to the brim with data is the best way to insure positive outcomes in those negotiations,” Spear told attendees at TMC’s Town Meeting, Monday evening in Atlanta. “You are driving those outcomes. You are framing the future that will allow this industry to grow.”

The Strong Economy

Spear began his remarks by acknowledging recent changes made to TMC’s leadership structure and program to reflect both a changing industry and attendee and exhibitor wishes. He then noted strong economic conditions in the United States today, pointing out that trucking today moves 71% of all domestic freight in the country today. Trucking also employees 7.4 million Americans in today, with 3.5 million truck driving jobs in the mix. Spear also noted that 1 in 16 of every job in the U.S. today is in the trucking industry, with trucking now the top job employing Americans in 29 states.

“This is our time to shine,” Spear said. “We are the backbone of this economy today, which is booming thanks to the largest tax code reform since 1986. All the key ingredients are coming into place to insure a wonderful future for this industry.”

But, Spear cautioned, a booming economy also mean demands to move even more freight and expose the industry’s weaknesses. “The economy is strong, but it shows we have a lot of work to do,” Spear summed up. “We are short of 50,000 truck drivers now. And that shortage could grow to 100,000 drivers in five years if current trends continue.”

Finding the Next Generation of Drivers

The time has come, Spear told TMC attendees, to stop talking about problems and start solving them, instead. To that end, he pointed out recent ATA efforts to address the 18 to 21 year old hiring ban that keeps young drivers out of truck cabs — often until they’ve already been snapped up and started careers in other industries. “The fact that we can’t hire these young people to drive our trucks, but they are old enough to go overseas and fight our wars and operate multi-million dollar pieces of equipment is absurd,” Spear said. “To counter this problem, ATA is working on new solutions with built-in controls to protect the public while attracting young talent and nurturing them and helping them eventually earn a Commercial Driver’s License.”

A key part of this effort, Spear said, was for ATA to work closely with the U.S. Department of Labor to initiate President Trump’s new Apprenticeship Program. “There is no better industry than trucking to partner with the Federal government and wisely use taxpayer dollars to bridge that relationship,” Spear added.

Spear also called out the media for what he called “hyping” emerging technologies in ways that could scare potential workers away from the trucking industry. Trucking should embrace new technology, Spear said, and not fear it.

“We need to get past the hype, however,” Spear warned. “For the media to suggest that drivers will be taken out of the picture — that we’re going to have trucks with no steering wheels, or pedals or drivers tomorrow can drive potential employees away. Who would want to join an industry where autonomous technology will take their job away in a few short years. So, I say to the media, let’s be realistic and solve the problems new technology will create. But let’s not blow new technology out of proportion.”

Spear wrapped up his remarks by noting that a strong, modern infrastructure was also crucial for trucking to continue to power the U.S. economy and compete globally. To counter this trend, Spear said ATA was continuing to advocate Congress for a fuel tax “baked into the price of fuel and hardly noticeable to consumers,” as a way to short up the U.S. highway trust fund and generating $340 billion in real revenue that can be used to repair the nation’s degrading roads and bridges. “This is an investment in our future, which is why Ronald Reagan signed two similar bills into law during his presidency,” Spear said. “If we don’t invest in our infrastructure now, our roads and bridges will continue to deteriorate at a rate that we will eventually not be able to recover from.”