Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!


Are private fleets about to hit a wall?

By John D. Schulz, Contributing Editor
March 01, 2011

The trucking world is about to be turned on its regulatory head. An aggressive and costly new truck safety agenda is being rolled out this year by the Obama administration that promises to increase costs for all fleets. Carriers will have to spend more on equipment, personnel, and planning in order to comply with the new regs.

While few are disputing that the potential changes in trucking enforcement will toss the “bad apples” out of the bushel of 4 million truck drivers, the cost of making the highways safer for all of us will eventually be paid through higher driver wages that carriers will be offering to a diminished pool of available, qualified, legal drivers.

The changes are coming in two major regulatory initiatives: CSA 2010 and truck driver hours of service, known as HOS.

CSA stands for “Comprehensive, Safety, Accountability,” a program that’s being rolled out in earnest over the course of 2011. It’s a new initiative designed to improve the efficiency of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) enforcement and compliance program to achieve the agency’s stated mission of reducing commercial motor vehicle crashes, fatalities, and injuries.

How big of a change is this? American Trucking Associations’ President and CEO Bill Graves has called CSA potentially the biggest change in the industry since trucking was economically deregulated in 1980.

Scott Willert, senior manager of private and dedicated fleets at Kraft Foods, calls CSA “a very significant change” in the way truck safety is measured and monitored. In fact, Willert says it has the potential to greatly reduce the availability of qualified drivers at Kraft, which operates more than 2,500 power units and 1,100 trailers. Willert says Kraft Foods “fully supports” the new initiatives because of their overall benefit to highway safety, but acknowledges the new system will be more complex, and expensive for all carriers.

In a nutshell, CSA uses a new safety measurement system that’s more comprehensive and is better able to pinpoint specific violations to better identify high crash-risk behavior by drivers. It involves more interventions, and a wider range of inspections to try and match the government’s enforcement efforts with fleet safety performance levels.

By their very nature, private fleets have a huge advantage over the for-hire sector when it comes to CSA 2010, industry officials and private fleet operators say:  Their more stringent hiring and operational procedures are already in place.

“We don’t think CSA will be a big problem for our members,” says Gary Petty, president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council. “When there’s an economic turnaround, truck capacity may not be available to shippers at any price. So, from the private fleet perspective, we feel that this has a pretty positive outlook.”

The second half of the double-whammy about to hit trucking is proposed changes on the HOS rules. A highly-charged political issue, HOS has the potential to reduce available truck capacity by about 9 percent if the legal daily limit on driving is reduced from the current 11 hours a day to 10 hours.

“A change in the HOS rules is going to have some effect on how we operate,” says Greg Whisenhant, a 16-year industry veteran and transportation safety manager for Shaw Industries, a Dalton, Ga.-based floor covering business that operates a sizable private fleet consisting of 900 drivers and 1,400 power units.

“We won’t be able to get as many drop offs in a day if we went back to a 10-hour driving day,” Whisenhant says. “It’s going to be a financial hit in some lanes where we now run single drivers, but might have to use a team operation. Teams are a tougher dog.”

In a typical Washington move, the federal government has not actually ordered such a reduction, at least not yet; although FMCSA has indicated it would like to make that change. According to our reporting, the trucking industry is united in wanting to maintain the current 11 hours, though there will likely be reductions through greater mandatory off-duty time and other driving limits.

Again, while the private fleet sector is not immune from these changes, private fleet operators say that any changes in HOS will be mitigated by the very high-service, high-cost nature of fleet operations.

So, what are the top private fleet managers doing to help mitigate the costs of these expensive new regulatory initiatives? Logistics Management found some of the best private fleet operators and most knowledgeable industry insiders to discover how they’re preparing their operations for this ongoing one-two regulatory punch.

About the Author

image
John D. Schulz
Contributing Editor

John D. Schulz has been a transportation journalist for more than 20 years, specializing in the trucking industry. He is known to own the fattest Rolodex in the business, and is on a first-name basis with scores of top-level trucking executives who are able to give shippers their latest insights on the industry on a regular basis. This wise Washington owl has performed and produced at some of the highest levels of journalism in his 40-year career, mostly as a Washington newsman.


Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

The PMI, the ISM’s index to measure growth, increased 1.8 percent to 57.1 in July. This is 1.8 percent higher than the 12-month average of 55.3. The PMI has grown in 18 of the last 20 months, with economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanding for the last 14 months as the overall economy was up for the 62nd consecutive month.

YRC Worldwide, whose regional and long-haul units provide the second-largest LTL capacity in the trucking industry, narrowed its second-quarter loss to $4.9 million on $1.32 billion revenue, compared with $15.1 million loss on $1.24 billion revenue in the year-ago quarter.

With NFL training camps in full swing, it stands to reason that Congress must be replete with football fans, given how it basically has elected to punt on federal transportation funding yet again, with the Senate yesterday signing off on a ten-month bill to keep federal surface transportation funding intact through May 2015 through a nearly $11 billion stopgap measure.

Carload volumes were up 4.3 percent at 306,988, and intermodal volume for the week ending July 26 was up 3.3 percent at 264,809

Article Topics

· Trucking · March 2011 · Transportation · HOS · CSA 2010 · All topics

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.


© Copyright 2013 Peerless Media LLC, a division of EH Publishing, Inc • 111 Speen Street, Ste 200, Framingham, MA 01701 USA