HOS Impacts Both US and Canada

The US’ new Hours of Service rules for truck drivers went into full effect on July 1, 2013, and there are very real implications for drivers on both sides of the border (US / Canada).

CLICK HERE to read the full story in the July/Aug 2013 Edition of Desi Trucking Magazine.


Special thanks to Chett Winchell of C.W. Enterprises for his commentary on this topic.


Interestingly, the article is also translated into Punjabi:

Border Crossing By Ferry

What a great way to cross the US – Canadian border if you are a truck driver.

My latest feature in Western Trucking News profiles the M.V. Coho Ferry which connects Vancouver Island (Victoria, BC) to the US (Port Angeles, WA).

Having personally enjoyed the amenities of the ferry, I can vouch for its comfort.  Having spoken with truck drivers and trucking company managers about the ferry, I can say that this is an effective way to go to or from Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

Read the full story by clicking here (PDF).

Driver Shortage In Canada?

Driver Training at Saferway
Driver Training at Saferway Driver Training School in British Columbia, Photo Courtesy of Randy Eckert

In the US we have heard for years about the driver shortage.  But, what about in Canada – are they experiencing the same issues?  That’s the topic of one of my latest columns for Western Trucking News.

Is the story really in different on either side of the border?

Article Highlights:

    • A new report (February 2013)  by the Conference Board of Canada (CBC) suggests that due to aging in the driver workforce and a growing demand from trucking services, “the for hire trucking industry can expect to face a driver supply and demand gap of nearly 25,000 drivers by 2020 in a business-as-usual scenario.” But, it could become worse if labor productivity is lower in future years.
    • A 2012 report by the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Driver Shortage identified truck drivers as the most important asset of the industry and that respect would go a long way in helping with recruitment and tenure.
    • Randy Eckert, President of Saferway Driver Training School in British Columbia says the demand for new truck drivers is palpable.
    • Eckert suggests that the standards are too low, the testing at the Drivers Service Centers is too low, and the training standards are too low.
    • North America has known of the driver shortage problem for many years, yet it is as if the governments have had their heads shoved in the sand


Hours of Service Questions

It’s fascinating how the new US Hours of Service rules are impacting drivers across North America.  Quite frankly, there is significant concern about the financial impact to drivers of the new rule.  And, that concern is not just relegated to American drivers.  Interestingly, that’s the topic of my latest column in Canada’s Western Trucking News, where I try to get some clarification.

US DOT Headquarters

Read the column, which includes commentary from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and an expert in DOT rules, Chett Winchell of Your Compliance Center.





Keystone XL – Approve It!

Keystone Oil Pipeline Contruction - North Dakota; Copyright © TransCanada Corporation. All rights reserved.

The TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Project had been the source of much controversy during President Obama’s first term.  Opposed by environmental groups, touted by the energy industry, the debate is endless.  The Governor of Nebraska had to address to pressures from environmental interest groups in 2011 and ultimately denied a pipeline siting permit for the project that stalled the remainder of the planning.

Beyond state siting issues, the US State Department must also issue a Presidential Permit for the project (because it crosses international borders).  The President has enjoyed the cover of the state of Nebraska’s delay since 2011, but that delay is now over.  On January 22, 2013, Governor Dave Heineman gave approval for the pipeline’s siting through Nebraska.  The new path avoids the controversial “Sand Hills” area of Nebraska.

Read the Governor’s Approval Letter by clicking here.
Read TransCanada’s Statement on the Governor’s Approval by clicking here.

On the same day Gov. Heineman approved the pipeline, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked if we could expect the project to move forward now.  Carney largely avoided the answer, suggesting these things take time, and reminding folks that the Obama Administration blames the Nebraska Governor for the delay.  “One of the things that delayed or postponed this process had to do with the opposition of the Nebraska Governor and others in that state to the route that Keystone was proposed to take, the pipeline was proposed to take,” said Carney.  The “others” mentioned by Carney will likely oppose the pipeline regardless.

   If the President’s State of the Union is any indication, it’s unlikely he will move quickly on giving final approval for the pipeline.  The only comments related to energy security or independence in that address were directed at “green energy.”  “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise,” said Obama.

Read the President’s State of the Union Address by clicking here.

What the President and others in the Administration need to understand is that no matter how promising new energy technologies might be in the future, the United States and the globe are largely a carbon based society.  To do anything significantly different that would truly eliminate the need for carbon based energy will take much larger investments and infrastructure than most are willing to discuss.  That, in part, is why we need to continue to look at new energy technologies while still working to become more energy independent in the current reality.

  We need the Keystone XL Pipeline Project to be approved.  As such, I send kudos to my old friend, U.S. Senator John Barrasso and about 52 other Senators for sending a letter to President Obama encouraging him to “finish the review process and approve the Keystone XL pipeline by the Administration’s own March 2013 deadline.”

Read the text of the letter by clicking here.

  The letter concludes, “After four and a half years of stude, we urge you to stick to your deadlines.  The American people need a timely decision on the Presidential Permit.”

  I would argue that the American people not only need a timely decision, but they DESERVE a timely decision.  Far too often government delays important decisions in the name of appeasing certain interest groups.  Any delay in approving this project only hurts the American people.  The American people deserve the 5000-6000 temporary construction jobs; the American economy deserves the private sector investment of $20+ billion; states and communities along the pipeline route deserve the $585 million in new taxes; and the nation deserves strengthened energy security with the pipelines 1.1million barrels per day capacity (with contracts to support it).

Learn the facts by clicking here.

   Mr. President, approving the pipeline is good for America!

Program Keeps Trucking Despite Low Interest

My December 2012 column in Challenge Magazine focuses on the Mexican trucking cross-border program, and specifically the lack of participation in the program.  It’s this lack of participation that has caught the attention of some.

In the column, I write “The never-ending saga that is the Mexican trucking cross-border program continues to see support from the administration, and to some degree in Congress, but apparently not from the trucking industry….”

Click here to read the entire column and to find out why Congressman John Mica told me he is concerned about the lack of participation in the program. 

In addition to the column, I had the opportunity to visit with Peter Boyles on 630 KHOW in Denver, Colorado, about the issue.

Listen to the audio here:  PeterBoylesKHOW12052012

Howe to talk Border Trucking on Denver Radio

Michael Howe Hosts "In the Booth"Michael Howe, seasoned trucking industry writer, will join the Peter Boyles Show on Talk Radio 630 KHOW in Denver tomorrow, December 5, at 6:00am Mountain Time.

Visit the KHOW website to listen online.

Mike has been a frequent guest on the show, updating listeners about the Cross Border Program with Mexico and other transportation issues.

Mike will specifically talk about his December Challenge Magazine “Trucking Through DC” column “Cross Border Program Lacks Participants.”  Read the column here.

2012 Election – Now What

By Michael Howe

The 2012 election is over, the results – for the most part – are in, so now the question becomes “what does this all mean for the trucking industry?”

The one thing we knew for certain prior to the results being announced was that we would have a new Secretary of Transportation.  Current Secretary Ray LaHood had already made his intentions clear that he plans to step down at the end of President Obama’s first term.  When that will happen exactly is somewhat unclear, but certainly within the first few months 2013.  Will policies change much at the DOT?  Probably not.  There will continue to be an emphasis on stronger safety regulations for the trucking industry, concerns about infrastructure and more.  What will matter with the new Secretary is the level of emphasis placed on each area.

With the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) I would be surprised if current Administrator Ferro did not continue in that role for at least another year or two, unless the President decides to elevate her to Secretary (which I also doubt).  Under Ferro’s Administration the FMCSA has not been shy about shutting down high risk truck and bus companies.  In addition, FMCSA continues to work on EOBR mandates, Distracted Driving regulations, and of course the cross border program.  They also continue to research the Hours of Service regulations.

Outside of the bureaucracy, President Obama’s economic and tax policies create some concern for trucking companies.  This goes back to the old adage of the only thing you can count on are death and taxes.  Well, it’s the taxes part – specifically increasing taxes – that are most worrisome to the trucking industry.

In a second term Presidents don’t have to worry about re-election, so there is a tendency early in the term to be a little more aggressive.  The first 2-3 years might be the time when President Obama makes a big move on climate change issues.  Any such legislation from Congress or regulation from the EPA such as a carbon tax, stricter emissions regulations, or other climate related regulations would undoubtedly result in increased cost pressures on the trucking industry.

Fuel prices will continue to be a concern, though they would be a concern with whoever was in office.  The real issue here is what is our nation’s energy policy?  The Keystone Pipeline likely won’t easily become a reality – ok, it likely won’t become a reality at all.  You can also expect the administration to look more at fracking and perhaps work to impose regulations on that.  We’re not going to see a significant increase in domestic drilling and offshore drilling permits, so the largely unnecessary dependence on foreign oil will continue.  Expect prices to continue rising, fluctuating for seasonal demands, but rising overall.

Congress really didn’t change much either.

In the US Senate the Democrats were able to pick up 2 seats, though they are still far shy of the 60 seats needed to stop a filibuster.  This is interesting because with a filibuster the Republicans will still be able to prevent legislation of force a compromise.   Something to watch, however, will be an early attempt by Democrats to force a vote on limiting filibusters.

In the US House, Republicans retained control.  Rep. John Mica, Chair of the Transportation Infrastructure Committee (and friend of trucking) was re-elected, as was another friend of trucking Rep. Tom Graves.  Obviously there are other “friends of trucking,” but these are just two who I found to be of interest based on my interviews with them.

So, the end result – not much has changedWe have the same people in charge that were in charge before the election.  This is the same group of leaders that negotiated themselves into the corner that is the looming “fiscal cliff.”  This is the same group of leaders that has been largely unable to pass any meaningful long term highway bill (and no, the recent one was not long term in my opinion). 

Major issues facing the trucking industry in the next 6-12 months:

  • Fiscal Cliff
  • Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBRs)
  • Hours of Service (possibly)
  • Cross Border Trucking with Mexico
  • Who is the new Secretary of Transportation?
  • New Environmental Regulations
  • Additional Distracted Driving Regulations
  • Tax increases?
  • Infrastructure Funding
  • Fuel Prices / Energy Policy

And how will the trucking industry fare with any or all of those issues?

With Congress we have and will continue to have gridlock.

With the President, we have an administration not afraid to impose costly regulations on the trucking industry, and because Congress is in a perpetual state of gridlock there is little hope they can effectively legislate a way out of the costly regulations.  With the President, we have an administration not afraid to propose tax increases, and because Congress is in a perpetual state of gridlock they are almost always in a situation where a forced “compromise” is necessary to get anything done, thus opening the door for less than industry friendly proposals.

In essence, buckle up…….we may need to steer around a pot hole or two.

Related articles of interest:
Rough Road Ahead (Fiscal Cliff), Challenge Magazine October 2012
FMCSA’s Safety Resolve, Challenge Magazine November 2012
Talking Safety with Anne Ferro, Challenge Magazine June 2012
A Conversation with Ray LaHood, Challenge Magazine March 2012

Hoffa Talks Trucking

James P. Hoffa
By Michael Howe

Note: This feature was originally written for one of the trucking industry publications I write for, but due to unforseen timing issues it is not able to be printed as planned. So, I share it here.

James Hoffa – Teamsters President

“President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march….Everybody here’s got a vote…Let’s take these sons of bitches out and give American back to an America where we belong.”  That was how James Hoffa concluded his speech at a rally for President Obama in Michigan on Labor Day 2011.  It was in that speech where he was speaking of the battle, the war on workers, the challenges of the economy, and he called out the Tea Party for many of the challenges facing America.

With a dynamic personality and an instantly recognizable name, James Hoffa invokes an instant reaction from anyone that hears him or hears of him.  He is both unifying and polarizing.   And, whether you love him or hate him, his voice is one that matters because he has significant influence on policies that impact many industries.  As the leader of approximately 1.4 million current Teamsters, 500,000 retirees, and 1900 Teamster affiliates throughout the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, James Hoffa is someone to watch.

As the son of James R. Hoffa, James P. Hoffa grew up on the picket lines and in union meetings.  When he turned 18 he received his own union card and was sworn in by his father.  His Teamster career began in the 1960’s when he was a Teamster laborer in Detroit and Alaska where he loaded and unloaded freight from ships, drove trucks and buses, and operated heavy equipment.  From there, he served as a Teamster attorney from 1968-1993 where he represented members in workers compensation cases, Social Security, and personal legal matters.  He also represented Teamster joint councils and local unions.

Moving up the organization, Hoffa served as the Administrative Assistant to the President of Michigan Joint Council 43 from 1993-1998.  He was first elected General President of the Teamsters in 1999 and has served in that position ever since, and was in fact re-elected in 2011.

In any discussion with the General President of the Teamsters (www.teamsters.org) it is difficult not to ask the general question about the state of the labor movement and what the future holds for the labor movement.  One thing is for certain from this discussion with Hoffa – he feels it is strong, but threatened.  “The labor movement and working families have been under a constant and calculated attack from the radical far-right forces and big business – but as everyone has seen this past year, we aren’t going to be pushed around,” says Hoffa.

Referencing legislation in Ohio that was designed to remove collective bargaining rights from public employees, Hoffa speaks of victory for labor.  “We fought back and won in Ohio,” says Hoffa.  He also speaks of victory other areas, especially when working against “right to work” legislation.  “So-called “right to work” legislation was filed in 13 states this year, and labor fought back and defeated every attempt,” says Hoffa.

Like those in the Occupy Movements, Hoffa sees this as a battle between the haves and the have not’s.  For him, it’s a battle against the top 1 percent.  “The “1 percenters” in this country think that they can keep getting rich on the backs of the average American. They have an agenda, but the labor movement isn’t going stand by and watch every gain we have bled and died for be taken away,” says Hoffa.  “If anything, these attacks on working families have galvanized our movement.”  He says that is what the country saw in 2011 with protests in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, and that it’s also what the nation  is seeing with the Occupy Wall Street protests across the country.

Hoffa’s schedule is busy and his plate of issues is full.  But, throughout his Teamster career he has never lost sight of his roots or his appreciation for the workers on the front line.  It’s only natural then that he hold a great deal of respect for the American truck driver and the work they do.  “American truck drivers are the hardest working people in this country,” says Hoffa. “We have thousands of members that get behind a wheel for a living.”

Hoffa is also cognizant of the professionalism required to drive a truck, and wishes more people would take time to thank truckers for the work they do.  “These men and women are skilled workers who are held to stringent safety and health regulations. Most people don’t realize that everything they buy gets to where it’s going thanks to American truckers,” says Hoffa.

Issues facing the trucking industry are frequently the same issues Hoffa and the Teamsters are working on.  Anyone who has followed the Cross Border Program with Mexico or has read my “Driving Through DC” columns in Challenge Magazine knows that Hoffa and the Teamsters are staunch opponents of this program and continue to fight it.  “Our union has been fighting this same battle for 16 years and there is one thing that has remained true that entire time – Mexican trucks are not safe,” says Hoffa. “They do not meet U.S. safety standards.”        On this specific issue, Hoffa sees more issues than just the safety as trucks as a problem though.  In addition to safety issues he is quick to cite the drug war in Mexico and the current economic situation in the US.  Similar to past “Driving Through DC” columns, Hoffa sees the need to protect American jobs as a priority.  “And here in the United States, we have an unemployment rate of around 9 percent. It makes no sense with regard to safety, security and keeping good-paying jobs here at home,” says Hoffa.

Click Here (HoffaMexTrksto Listen to Mike talk to Mr. Hoffa about Mexican Trucking on his local radio program, “In The Booth” on KONP radio in Port Angeles, WA. www.michaelhoweshow.com

Hoffa also points out that there is a lack of support for the program in Congress, where in the past Congress has voted overwhelmingly to shut down this program and legislation has been filed to do it again. “The American people do not support opening our border to unsafe trucks from Mexico,” says Hoffa.

Interestingly, Hoffa has found many allies on this issue that are often on the opposite side of other issues, and he finds this appealing.  “This is not about red or blue – this is about American jobs and safety. I was just down at the border in Otay Mesa, California, in October to protest the cross-border pilot program. I was joined by hundreds of Teamsters from across the West, Todd Spencer from the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association and Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA). We all agree – the border must stay closed to Mexican carriers.”
This non-partisan issue does not mean, however, that Hoffa won’t take a political stand.  In fact, he makes it very clear that he wants President Obama to be re-elected.  In fact, it was his 2011 Labor Day speech that really set the tone for the 2012 election.  Hoffa says it is crucial that President Obama be re-elected.  “There’s no other way to describe it. The war on workers will only gain momentum if there is an anti-worker Republican in the White House,” says Hoffa.  “President Obama is a friend to organized labor and the middle class, and I expect that labor will turn out to support his run for re-election.”

Just to be clear, Hoffa has never backed away from the comments he made in his Labor Day speech, despite some suggesting he should.  He continues to stand by his comments.  What is most interesting is that he is a supporter of President Obama’s re-election bid, yet he is also not afraid to criticize certain policies – like the cross border program reinstated under Obama’s leadership.

Throughout Hoffa’s travels and meetings he is constantly presented with issues the American worker is facing.  Given this is one of the most difficult economic periods in US history, his perspective and the perspectives of those he meets with is worth noting – especially in this election year.

“As part of my job, I constantly travel to speak with our members across this great country. Many of them are concerned about the direction this country is taking. Working Americans are under attack at every turn while the rich get richer on the backs of the middle class,” says Hoffa.  This is a sentiment popular among the workers and the Occupy movements.  How it might impact the 2012 elections will be interesting to watch, but there are definite concerns among the public.

“They are afraid that their children will grow up in an America without opportunity. One without good jobs that pay a fair wage and benefits that will allow them to provide for their children,” says Hoffa. “They worry that their children won’t have a real shot at the American Dream.”

It’s that American Dream that we all pursue.  Even as the economy struggles the pursuit of that dream is still important and relevant.  For many truckers, the dream is of owning and operating their own truck, and then perhaps expanding a little – essentially developing a small fleet.  Hoffa appreciates this dream, but also believes the larger companies need to do more to help drivers succeed and achieve the dream.

To the carriers, Hoffa offers some advice.  “Treat your drivers as you would want to be treated. Pay them a livable wage and provide affordable benefits and you will have drivers that will stay with your company,” says Hoffa.  “Experience and loyalty are keys to providing a dependable, quality service.”

He isn’t speaking from just emotion either.  Hoffa cites an example of how one company has succeeded, even in these challenging economic times.  “UPS is a great example of what can happen when you have an experienced and efficient workforce. We have 240,000 workers at UPS and they have a strong contract that helps them provide for their families,” says Hoffa. “Detractors will say that a unionized workforce hurts your bottom line. Tell that to UPS. They have had a phenomenal year so far, and project as much as a 48 percent jump in profits over last year.”

Hoffa acknowledges that times are tough and many are struggling to make ends meet.  He does see some cause to be optimistic though and offers some parting comments to truckers everywhere.  “Don’t lose faith. We are going through a rough patch right now, but if we just stand together and keep our eyes on the road and our foot on the gas, we’ll get through it and win back our country,” says Hoffa.

Recent Media Appearances

Michael Howe Hosts "In the Booth"This month I had the wonderful opportunity to discuss the FMCSA’s Mexican Trucking program with two outstanding radio hosts.  Both discussions were somewhat related to my February 27th blog post, “US DOT Recruiting Carriers for Border Program – Lack of Interest.”


In reverse chronological order:

On March 16th I appeared on the Martha Zoller Program.  Martha is a solid conservative host in Georgia who is also currently running for US Congress.  It was quite interesting to hear her agree with James Hoffa and the Teamsters on an issue – that just doesn’t happen very often.

Listen Here (5:22):  Howe on Martha Zoller

On March 5th I appeared on the Peter Boyles Show on KHOW radio in Denver, Colorado.  This is a show I have appeared on numerous times in the past discussing this issue, NAFTA, and more.  I’m a fan of Peter, no doubt!

Listen Here (9:17; admittedly not my best appearance though):  Howe on Peter Boyles