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:

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

EOBRs and the American Dream

There have been several news stories in a variety of publications talking about how Electronic On Board Recorders are dividing the industry between the large carriers and the small independents. Based on my recent observations (and I am posting this later than I wanted to, but hey, things happen), this is so very true.

Last week the FMCSA held the second “listening session” on driver harassment and Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBRs). The session was lightly attended, primarily by a few already at the CVSA conference, and it was broadcast over the web (though that seemed to have minimal attendance as well). My kudos though to the FMCSA for making it available on the web – that was a nice way to reach out.

During the session (which I also live Tweeted about @TruckingDC), there were a few things that struck me:

  • It’s obvious there is a divide between large carriers and the smaller independent carriers / owner operators (recent news stories have also reported on this, including this one in the Journal of Commerce).
  • FMCSA appeared, from my perspective anyway, to be more accepting of supportive comments and wanted to delve further into the unsupportive comments, almost debating the issue right there and wanting to change minds instead of “listening” or asking more probative questions.

  • FMCSA will move forward with EOBR mandates regardless. Don’t be surprised when FMCSA concludes EOBRs will not create new harassment issues.
    Much of the session was not about harassment.
  • Questions about EOBRs remain: If a carrier operates primarily intrastate, but has a few trucks that run interstate, will all trucks require an EOBR? What if the EOBR stops working – will drivers be required to maintain a paper log book anyway? How will EOBRs be mandated for buses? How can we assure the data from an EOBR won’t be manipulated?
  • I think the questions that remain (other than the bus question) will be addressed after the rule is implemented to see if they are even an issue.

There’s little doubt an EOBR mandate is coming. This, like so many government mandates will be an unfunded mandate. Independent owner operators will be required to reach deep into their already thinned out pockets to plop down around $1000 to be in compliance. It will simply be a cost of doing business. Unlike the larger carriers who can absorb the cost or pass it on to their customers, the independent will have a more difficult time doing this as they work to remain competitive or accept the rates dictated by larger carriers.

New unfunded mandates are not the solution for improved safety. Unfortunately though, we tend to regulate/manage to the lowest common denominator (thus punishing those who are proven safe) instead of rewarding and incentivizing desired behavior. In the end, its small business – the American Dream – that becomes just a tad more of a challenge to succeed with.

See the Tweets form the April 26 Listening Session at www.twitter.com/TruckingDC