Monthly Archives: December 2017

The Big Guns Weigh In Post-ELD Enforcement Date

Well trucking industry professionals, the day has come and gone, so how do you feel? Does the fact that the ELD mandate is real and right now change the way you do business? If not, it should. Whether we like it or not, living with the ELD mandate is now a part of everyday life for trucking companies and owner-operators.

And with the date come and gone, some big voices within the trucking industry are weighing in on this new paradigm. American Trucking Associations (ATA) Vice-President for Advocacy Bill Sullivan recently remarked that trucking companies, many of whom are ATA members, can now put the mandate in their review mirror and focus their attention on tomorrow’s issue of the day.

Still, as he went on to point out, many within the ATA and industry believe the data gathered from ELD usage will dramatically change how trucking companies do business, from safety, efficiency and logistical standpoints. In the end, being able to detect technical errors or prevent truck driver harassment are both good things. If the ELD mandate is now the law of the day, trucking companies will have to adapt to it one way or another. Is your fleet ready?

ATA President and CEO Chris Spear was also quoted saying the following:

“The time has finally come to retire decades-old, burdensome paper logs that consume countless hours and are susceptible to fraud and put the safety of all motorists first. The benefits of this rule exceed the costs by more than $1 billion, making it a rule the ATA can firmly support and easily adopt. Today marks the start of a new era of safety and efficiency for our industry and we thank the champions in the Department of Transportation and Congress who have gotten us to this point.”

In later statements, Spear went on to state that his organization believes the ELD will further validate trucking companies who are operating within the hours-of-service guidelines and take compliance very seriously. He cites the potential for less accidents, better safety scores, and an overall increased benefit for truck drivers, fleets, law enforcement and other interested parties.

Adding to the list of voices advocating that the industry accept this change and learn how to embrace it is the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) association, which recently expressed its satisfaction that the mandate has now taken effect.

In their released statement, NTTC President Daniel Furth was quoted saying the following:

“The technology ultimately strengthens the partnership between carriers and shippers by prioritizing safety and compliance in the era of well-documented capacity constraints in the trucking industry. More importantly, ELDs offer professional tank truck drivers–particularly owner-operators–the ability to better manage day to day workloads, ensure accurate pay practices, and improve CSA scores. I think it’s critical to note that ELDs don’t change the existing hours of service rules, they just ensure compliance with those rules which should be the common goal of drivers, carriers, and shippers alike.”

Still, that doesn’t mean everyone is happy. The Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and other trucking interests continue to voice their dissatisfaction. Fortunately, there is a soft enforcement period in effect now through April 1, 2018. Although truck drivers still using paper logs will be facing a potential citation if they are caught, the violation will will not be recorded to their CSA scores until after the April 1 soft enforcement implementation period.

Now the question is, what kind of safety impact can trucking companies, passenger drivers, and others on the road expect from the ELD mandate? Certainly some are happy and some are mad, but as long as people are operating safely and effectively, change isn’t always a bad thing.

Your Winter Truck Driving Check-Up

It’s never a bad time during a cold winter season to remind professional truck drivers about the dos and don’ts of safe driving. Operating a heavy-duty Class 8 commercial motor vehicle isn’t an easy task to begin with, but when you add in potentially unsafe weather conditions, it becomes a real problem.

Are you taking extra precautions? If you are a long-haul truck driver operating over windy mountain passes that are susceptible to snow, would you know how to correct if you experienced wheel slippage?

These are the types of questions that any responsible truck driver operating in wintry conditions would ask themselves. It is important not just for personal safety, but for the safety of everyone else on the road. No one likes driving in unsafe conditions, so making it as safe as possible benefits everyone.

Be Adaptable

One of the main problems inexperienced truck drivers find themselves in during winter conditions arise from the operator not altering their driving habits to account for the bad weather. Just as one would alter how they drive their passenger car during a howling blizzard, a truck driver must do double the effort.

Professional truckers must have the knowledge and ability to implement proper preventative safety skills in order to stay safe on potentially unsafe road surfaces. Altering one’s driving behavior starts with how much speed they are sending to the wheels.

Slow Down

Most winter-related accidents  occur because one party was traveling too fast for the conditions. It gets complicated when the allowed speed limit is too fast for the conditions. A truck driver must be able to discern when going below the posted speed limit is necessary for safe operating condition.

Any truck driver who has operated in winter will tell you the importance of taking your time. There is no need to hurry when safety is at stake. Just consider the fact that your cargo won’t matter if you wind up in a collision because you were going to fast.

Stay Back

If there is a number two for what causes the most winter-related accidents, it would have to be following too closely. Truck drivers already know the importance of keeping a safe distance, so when the conditions are snowy or icy, they must also know that more room than they are used to may be called for.

As you are maintaining a safe distance, it is also important to be sure you are not following the tail lights of the vehicle in front of you. You know this already from nighttime truck driving, but it is even more important in low-visibility scenarios. Your first reaction may be to follow those lights because you can see even less. Don’t do it.

Stay Solo

Platooning is a big part of how some truck drivers and trucking companies get the job done. Well, if there is one time for a truck driver to not operate in a pack, it is during unsafe weather conditions. Beyond platoons, avoid traffic clusters.

When you make sure you are a safe distance away from clumps of other drivers, whether truckers or passenger drivers, you are operating safely. Snowy conditions call for solo driving, so make sure you focus on your tractor and where it’s going, rather than where anyone else on the road around you is going.

We could probably fill a four-part series blog on safe winter driving tips. From not stopping on the shoulder to proper braking and steering techniques if you loose control, there is so much to cover.

Fortunately, if you follow this year’s guiding principles, you’ll be starting out safely on those icy, snowy winter roads. Stay safe out there this season, truckers! And happy holidays!

Truckers Take To The Streets As Washington Reshapes Trucking Safety

Every so often we like to update you on the latest changes coming out of Washington, especially where safety is concerned. No matter who makes what change – we take no sides – it is important to report on it and keep you, our loyal readers, up-to-date.

Part of your latest update from Washington comes from December 4, when around 3.5 million truck drivers showed up in Washington D.C. and statehouses across the country hoping to somehow stop or slow the impending ELD mandate that goes into effect on the 18th.

Many of the truckers were hoping the current administration would halt or delay the ELD mandate, but it doesn’t appear that will happen. The ELD mandate will replace paper logs, which have been in place as the trucking standard since shortly after the Great Depression.

While the argument remains from some corners that implementing electronic logging devices is expensive and not practical for small fleets, there doesn’t seem to be much appetite in Washington to roll it back, despite some moves to roll back other trucking regulations from the previous administration.

What Are the Arguments?

Many truckers say the hours of service rule – which mandates a workday must end 14 hours after it starts – does not factor in long wait times at the shipper or receiver or other road delays. Since most truck drivers are paid by the mile, those wait times (along with being forced to end the day at the time mandated) can eat into what a truck driver takes home.

Still, this view comes primarily from smaller trucking companies. Larger trucking companies stand on the other side of the argument citing safety and logistical reasons. This is where trucking safety advocates say the ELD mandate helps prevent accidents related to things like fatigue.

Under the Obama Administration, the FMCSA worked with trucking industry players and advocates to draft the ELD mandate as a way to help fleets screen and treat truck drivers for sleep apnea, but that particular regulation was reversed under the current administration.

Another regulation change that gave truck drivers against the ELD rule hope was the quiet shuttering of the motor carrier safety rating system overhaul. Another change came when the speed-limiting device rule was canceled. Rules governing underride guards and automatic emergency braking on trucks also appear to have been placed on the waiting list.

The turnaround on these regulations has trucking safety advocates wondering what the future of trucking safety will look like. They point to statistics that show trucking-related crashes and injuries are on the rise, with that number now going over 4,000.

The Timing is Wrong

Although some have looked to these rollbacks as a sign that the ELD mandate may be jettisoned, their timing may be off. The ELD mandate was well into being implemented by the majority of large trucking companies, many of whom had already spent the capital to outfit their fleet, so they were firmly on the other side.

Now the question is, will the ELD mandate be proven to have a significant impact on trucking safety outcomes? Perhaps. But at the same time, our government is still operating in an anti-regulatory environment. For how much longer the current regulations will stick, or whether others will be created, is all up in the air.

We should know more once President Trump’s new FMCSA administrator Ray Martinez is confirmed by the Senate, which will likely have happened by the time you are reading these words. Although the trucking safety landscape looks set for more change, one thing looks sure: The ELD mandate is here to stay.

Is Excessive Commuting A Trucking Safety Problem

Have you heard? The FMCSA has come out stating that they believe “excessive commuting” by truck drivers may be a problem and they are seeking public comment on the matter. They also plan on surveying commercial truck and bus drivers to see what their commuting habits are. But what is excessive commuting?

According to the FMCSA, any commute that takes 150 minutes or more is considered excessive. In the FMCSA’s statement on the survey, which they have forwarded to the White House Office of Management and Budget for permission to complete, they stated the following:

“As the number of workers has increased and the distance to affordable housing has also increased in most metropolitan areas, commuting times have increased in the U.S. According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and kept travelers stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours (42 hours per rush-hour commuter).”

If the Office of Management and Budget ends up giving the all-clear for the survey, the FMCSA will put together an online system designed to poll up to 12,000 truck drivers regarding their commuting habits.

In providing a notice on the survey, which was published on November 27 in the Federal Register, the agency specifically pointed to Section 5515 of the Fixing America’s Surface Infrastructure (FAST) Act. Section 5515 specifically requires the FMCSA to conduct a study on whether or not commutes represent a safety problem in the trucking industry.

The survey will be designed to gather specific details about:

  • How much excessive commuting occurs within the trucking industry, data will include overall number and percentage of truck drivers?
  • How far truck drivers travel during their commutes?
  • Did they cross any time zones?
  • What method of transportation are they using in their commute?
  • Is there an impact on safety or fatigue from long commutes?
  • Are there other ways the FMCSA can impact long truck driver commute times?

The FMCSA also stated that long commutes can negatively impact truck drivers in a number of ways. They also provided additional background on the survey in this comment:

“In the past two decades, as the number of workers has increased and the distance to affordable housing has also increased in most metropolitan areas, commuting times have increased in the United States.”

The areas where commuting delays can have a significant impact on truckers were found to be in missing or compromised off-duty time due to long commute and negative impacts to overall truck driver health.

In supporting these initiatives, the FMCSA went on to say:

“Long commuting times can reduce a driver’s available off-duty time for sleep and personal activities. This can lead to excessive fatigue while on duty, creating safety concerns for both the CMV driver and other drivers on the roads. A recent study was conducted that monitored 4,297 adults from 12 metropolitan Texas counties. In this region, 90% of people commute to work. The study found that the drivers who have long commuting times were more likely to have poor cardiovascular health and be less physically fit. This study showed that people who commute long distances to work weigh more, are less physically active, and have higher blood pressure.”

Now the question is, what do you think? With the public comment period open, don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts with the FMCSA. After all, these are the rules and regulations that directly impact your job. Do you feel like excessive commuting impacts you or perhaps you think it isn’t that much of a problem?

Either way, follow this link to leave your opinion on the survey page. And as usual, we will be right here reporting on the final results when they are released.