Many industries including the scrap recycling industry are reporting serious disruptions in transportation, whether it be by rail or truck, putting pressure on manufacturers to ship materials and products to customers. In this segment we will highlight the top three regulatory issues facing the trucking industry according to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) in October 2015.
Hours of Service
For the third year in a row, the ATRI report has listed HOS rules as the top issue facing the transportation industry. There have been several changes and adaptations of these regulations over that time.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states, “You must follow three maximum duty limits at all times. They are the 14-hour “driving window” limit, 11-hour driving limit, and 60-hour/7-day and 70-hour/8-day duty limits.” What this means is that a driver can only drive 11 hours in a 14-hour “driving window.” The driving window includes any stops or non-driving activities in that window and must include a 30-minute break after eight consecutive hours of driving. Once that window is up, it must immediately follow with 10 consecutive hours off.
The second part of that equation is the 60-hour/7-day and 70-hour/8-day duty limits. If the company does not operate vehicles every day of the week, the cutoff is 60 hours driven in 7 days, and 70 hours driven in 8 days if the company operates 7 days a week. All of this information is now tracked through government mandated electronic logging devices (ELDs) for all professional truck drivers and commercial motor carriers. This has caused a perceived lack of flexibility and limits the production of this already under-manned workforce.
Compliance, Safety, and Accountability
According to the FMCSA, the CSA is an “initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicles.”
The primary tracker for this initiative is the Safety Measurement System (SMS), which measures the performance of drivers and carriers based on seven Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). The seven categories are Unsafe Driving, HOS Compliance, Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances/Alcohol, Vehicle Maintenance, Hazardous Materials Compliance and Crash Indicators.
The ATRI report disputes the effectiveness of these measurements being good predictors of crash risk. The report goes on to indicate inconsistencies in how this information is gathered and tracked from state to state, indicating a system that may need to be re-evaluated.
According to a 2015 report by the American Trucking Association, the estimated driver shortage is currently 48,000. There are believed to be several factors affecting the shortage in drivers, along with the regulations discussed above. Long hours, fair compensation, high turnover rates, and time away from loved ones are just some of the factors that have made it difficult for the industry to hire and retain drivers. There is one initiative in Congress to lower the driving age for interstate drivers to 18 from 21 (veterans are permitted to drive interstate routes under the age of 21). This along with emerging automation technology will be highlights in any infrastructure package being considered in Congress.