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Archive for May 30, 2017

Are You Considering Trucker Re-Hires?

In many industries, lifetime employment ending in generous pensions and retirement security have become a think of the past. Still, lifetime relationships remain important. Additionally, for those looking to replenish their operator ranks, rehiring former experienced, professional truck drivers who have departed may be just the answer.

For many fleets, exit survey results show that when truck drivers leave an organization for preventable or non-performance-related reasons, they would consider re-joining the company at a later date. Consider how difficult it is for some fleets to find qualified truck drivers, and you can see why this statistic if so important.

As the economy expands, if you want to lure your former truck drivers back, you have to create a reliable and effective return program that touches on every aspect of the organization, from recruiting to training and human resources – or employee relations.

Starting at the Door

The effort to bring back experienced truck drivers who contribute not only to your bottom line, but to your safety culture should begin with the recruiting department. Bundle these efforts with your recruiting budget.

What makes this method so valuable is that a rapport already exists between the recruiter and the candidate. There should be an opportunity for candid conversation based on what the potential employee already knows, from the organization’s mission to its management structure.

Also, consider that rehiring truck drivers already familiar with your equipment and practices are likely able to be trained in a shorter time frame. When they already know the systems, they should be a quick study.

Where the Challenge Lies

To say that re-hiring past operators comes with no inherent risk would be disingenuous. Considerations must be made. One of the most obvious being that the truck driver left in the first place. Why did they leave?

As an example, if someone left due to a sour relationship with their supervisor, but that supervisor has since either left the company or moved to another department, perhaps this is a golden opportunity to win back a great employee without having to start all over again.

What any enterprising fleet manager needs to be paying attention to is the long game. Of course, some fleets are opposed to re-hiring truck drivers, for a number of reasons. Conventional wisdom is that if the truck driver left the company to begin with, there must have been a good reason for doing so.

While this may be true, it also could be akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face. Let’s go back to that idea of a lifetime relationship. Still, embracing the idea of employee reentry is something many a hiring manager struggles with.

Those who do get it understand that they are playing a long game. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, so for an organization to be ready when an experienced, qualified and capable truck driver returns, they are going to lose him or her to someone else before they can get the job done.

Before They Exit

Another way to look at truck driver retention and hiring back the right people is to never lose them in the first place. Is there a way to salvage a relationship before it ends with one half of the party throwing in the towel?

One way to prevent this from happening is to develop a trucker profile that will allow you to determine who may stay and who may go, in addition to who is suitable for promotions.

Finally, initiate a recovery conversation. Ensure someone with the authority to make hiring and firing decisions sits down with the employee and inquiries into the reasons why they are leaving and how the company may address them. By preventing a valuable truck driver from leaving in the first place, you need not worry about how or why you’ll need to get them back.

Welcome To Trucking’s New Classroom – Entry-Level Driver Training – ELDT

FMCSA published an entry-level driver training (ELDT) on February 6th 2017 but it will be followed by a 3-year grace period, allowing trucking companies time to adjust to the new training requirements.

The new core requirements establish training standards that govern both core classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training requirements.

FMCSA-Approved

There will also be a FMCSA-governed registry of approved trainers available to train entry-level truck drivers across the nation. There will be separate standards of training for Class A and Class B CDL applications. For those looking for hazmat or passenger endorsements, additional training will be required.

In what may be a rarity for trucking industry advocacy groups, both the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) strongly support the new training rules.

There are some differences, however, from the prior guidance the FMCSA put out in March. In this new version they have removed the requirement that potential truck drivers must complete 30 hours behind-the-wheel prior to getting their CDL.

Left in were the requirements for behind-the-wheel and public road training, but it no longer requires the 30-hour timeline. As the rule is now written, new applicant training will be considered completed when trainees are able to show they have successfully completed both behind-the-wheel training and that “all elements of the curricula are proficiently demonstrated while the driver-trainee has actual control of the power unit during a driving lesson.

The Specifics

The FMCSA has also removed the time requirement where classroom training is concerned. Instead, the agency requires that the training make sure to cover all aspects of the suggested curriculum:

  • Basic operation of the vehicle
  • Backing up and docking
  • Coupling and uncoupling
  • Pre- and post-trip inspections
  • Distracted driving
  • Vehicle communication – including signals and other equipment
  • What to do in an emergency
  • Roadside inspections
  • Trip planning
  • Cargo handling
  • Regulatory compliance

For those applying for a Class A CDL, the required curriculum will include elements administered by the FMCSA-approved trainer. The state will be required to certify people applying for their CDL have been properly trained according to the guidelines. Only then should they be allowed to take the skills test and move on to get their CDL.

But who are these trainers? The agency is pushing to use trainers from registries managed by the states. They will go by the term Trainer Provider Registry (TPR).

Motor carriers who want to conduct their training in-house are permitted to do so, but their trainers must complete a curriculum that meets the standards any other trainer in the registry will had to have gone through. For an individual to personally train a friend or family member, they must go through a process and receive verification from the FMCSA.

The Costs and Benefits

As always with new rules like these, there is an associated cost. The FMCSA estimates the total cost of the rule will run the trucking industry over $3.6 billion by 2029. That breaks down to over $366 million per year, starting when the regulation goes into effect – 2020.

But while some people say the cost is too great, the FMCSA points to potential cost offsets in the way of $2.38 billion saved from increased fuel efficiency, more efficient operational capacity, reduced maintenance costs and far fewer accidents.

Considering these training programs are coming as a mandated rule, motor carriers are increasingly preparing to get out in front of this change. Whether they are utilizing video systems, on-site training or other methods, they are preparing their truck drivers for the future of trucking. After all, if they don’t do it, who will?

An Update On ‘Driver Mode’ And New Out-Of-Service Criteria

With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) setting new guidance standards on a slew of issues, the new one on the docket is a proposed guideline aimed at cutting down on incidents of distracted driving.

The idea is to compel cell phone manufacturers to include device pairing and ‘driver mode’ into their handsets, two moves that would essentially block the phone’s functions when the truck driver is operating the vehicle.

What is Paring and ‘Driver Mode?’

Pairing refers to the act of linking a smartphone to some type of in-vehicle software system. When the mobile device is paired with the system, NHTSA recommends that the device’s visual interface be inaccessible, although emergency services, calls and notifications would be allowed.

For devices that cannot be paired, the agency recommends that the ‘driver mode’ be installed. This mode would essentially block any functions from being used when the vehicle is operating. The functions being recommended for lockout include:

  • Anything not related to operating the vehicle
  • Sending SMS messages
  • Watching video (with a maps exception)
  • Scrolling through photos or viewing a photo gallery (with a maps exception)
  • Watching automatic scrolling text
  • Reading digital books, magazines, news articles, Facebook or other social media

Of course, current technology limits the detection between truck driver and passenger, which is why a manual function works best. The NHTSA says they are making this push in the effort to encourage drivers to “put down their phones and other devices, and just drive.”

To put your voice in for public comment on the rule, follow this link.

For more information on the full list of recommendations, follow this link.

Changes to Out-Of-Service Criteria

Have you heard? The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has changed their Out-of-Service criteria. Here’s how their handbook breaks down, for those looking on additional information before investing in the manual:

  • Covers violations that would place a truck driver out-of-service
  • Shines a spotlight on critical vehicle inspection points and offers direction resolving them
  • Outlines when a commercial motor vehicle should be considered unsafe due to risk of an accident or breakdown
  • Provides specific guidance on the transportation of hazardous materials, including hazard communication and type
  • Explains the criteria that might put a motor carrier out-of-service

Here is a breakdown of the recent changes:

  • Tires: Language was added to the rule that established a direct connection and modifier for finding and explaining debris lodged between a dual set up.
  • Lights: Outlined situations where a pigtail may have been left unplugged or had become unplugged during transit. Covers defects in the cord or connector. In these situations, a reasonable violation would be classified under section 393.23 of the FMCSRs, under the heading for lamps and power supplies.
  • Steering: New language has been added to cover situations where there is a missing power assist cylinder in the vehicle. The criteria was also refined to cover just how loose a cylinder had to be in order for a vehicle to be put out of service; all necessary clarifications to prevent needless out-of-service issues.
  • Driveline: Where it comes to the driveline and driveshaft, language was added to cover situations where there is a missing bearing cap or retainer clip. The group also covered “imminent hazard” situations. These include the U-joint bearing cap retainer clip coming unseated from the grove.”

The fact is the trucking industry is going through near-constant change. With new regulations on the horizon and changes to the way we do business, there’s pride to be taken in keeping the nation’s supply-chain rolling. And you can be assured that when these changes roll down the pipe, we’ll be right here reporting on them at the Quick Transport Solutions Blog.

 

An Update On Congressional 34-Hour Restart Measures

Remember back in January 2016 when a FMCSA acting administrator Scott Darling appeared before the Senate’s commerce committee regarding the 2014-instituted 34-hour restart study? Well, the 34-hour restart rule is now back in the news.

The senate recently passed a bill clarifying the 34-hour restart rule, but here’s the detail on the original story.

A year ago, Congress inadvertently put the 34-hour restart rule on the chopping block, but recently unveiled new legislation designed to address the original problem. As recently as last week lawmakers are meeting to clarify the rule governing trucker’s use of the rule.

The Present Situation

For now, professional truck drivers can continue operating as normal, with normal being that truckers do not have to include two rest periods at 1:00am and 5:00am. Also, the 34-hour restart rule can be utilized by truck drivers as many times as they would like without restriction.

But now, with a new study on the horizon, could this all change? A pending study by the FMCSA is once again putting a spotlight on two early morning rest periods for truck drivers. They would also limit the 34-hour restart limit to once per week, rather than as many times as desired.

The study currently under review will conclusively determine whether the rules would be safer with these proposed changes. The study was originally requested by Congress to clarify the rule.

Still, Congress managed to include clarifying language in a 2017 Continuing Resolution government funding bill. This hours of service clarification appears to be the only trucking-related item in the spending bill, and the bill is expected to pass both chambers of Congress.

Even as Congress takes these actions, the FMCSA is still amid the study, having recently stated that they have completed the data gathering phase. Although the agency still has not said when they will release their final rule, it appears they are getting closer.

What’s Next?

Whether the Hours of Service rule reverts to the pre-2014 regulation depends on whether or not the FMCSA’s study finds that truckers are abiding by the rules. Their specific verbiage states that the agency needs to see truck drivers “demonstrate statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity, and work schedules, in comparison to…drivers who operated on the restart provisions in effect June 30, 2013.”

Essentially, the FMCSA wants to know if safety numbers are vastly different depending on which hours of service rule the truck drivers in the study operated under. The study followed hundreds of truck drivers as they operated within several different work schedules and conditions.

The original Congressional intent two years ago, when lawmakers rolled back the 2013 rules was to put the study in place. The problem is that lawmakers never clarified which specific provisions would be left or removed based on the study’s outcome.

Then, trying to fix the problem, Congress put language into a bill to rectify the hours of service problem, but that language had unintended consequences, essentially cutting the 34-hour restart option completely, depending on what they find.

With the new legislation, the original 2014 rule stays in place and the problem with the 2015 bill was fixed. Now the question is: What next?

With a new administration taking shape and a unified Republican government, what’s next for these rules? As the trucking industry holds its breath, everyone waits for what’s to come. At least for now, truckers across the country seem to have some consistency in rules regarding their work. How long that will last, however, is anybody’s guess.­

How Long Before Hydrogen-Powered Semi-Trucks Hit The Road?

Have you heard? With much fanfare, Nikola, the company working on electric cars, has unveiled their first hydrogen-powered semi concept. The fact is it’s not just passenger cars that are inching away from gasoline-combustion engines, but big rigs are also saying goodbye to the old way of doing things.

Recently, at an unveiling in Salt Lake City, Nikola unveiled their first long-haul truck concept. Per their marketing department deliveries are expected to be taken on the truck starting in 2020. Let’s dig a little deeper into the details of this advanced new machine and discover how viable it really is.

Hydrogen-Powered Trucks

The new Class-8 truck comes in with a range between 800 and 1,200 miles between refueling. If the company can carry through with this promise, expect these vehicles to get from California to Wyoming on a single tank of gas.

The company has also announced that they will build several hydrogen stations across the United States and Canada to refuel in both countries. The company expects to start breaking ground on the stations in 2018. The first should be scheduled to open in 2019.

Consider that without the hydrogen stations, it won’t matter how great the truck is, considering there is no way for the vehicles to get the freight where it needs to go. On the road, expect the technology to run the show.

How it Works

Per the company, the truck’s navigation system will determine the best routes between destinations and where it needs to go. Much like some other prototypes appearing on the market, the Nikola One will have a large display mounted mid-center in the cab.

The vehicle will use a combination hydrogen and electric power setup designed to offer the same level of performance found in comparable diesel varieties. There is an electric motor also attached to each wheel, which helps with acceleration due to increased torque vectoring and regenerative braking.

But although the technology shows a lot promise, there’s one sticking point, and that’s the infrastructure problem. The Nikola truck utilizes a fully electric hybrid drivetrain powered by both lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells.

Where will these stations go? Nikola has announced a partnership with Ryder to build a network of hydrogen fueling stations across the country. Additionally, Toyota Motor Corp. is itself looking at plans to invest in a nationwide hydrogen fueling network.

Building a Network

But where can hydrogen look for inspiration? Take CNG and LNG as an example. While the network isn’t expansive, the U.S. CNG and LNG network spans across 1,040 fueling stations. As for hydrogen fueling stations? There are only 31, most which are in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

With almost double the distance of the Nikola’s range coming in between California and South Carolina, no doubt there will need to be a far greater amount of infrastructure built to support a fleet of hydrogen-powered big rigs.

Still, companies are on the case. A company called NMC plans to build a network of 364 hydrogen fueling stations across the nation.

Don’t think that sounds like much? Consider that if the planned network gets fully built out, that would equate to more H-stations than there are currently Love’s Truck Stops.

So, what can a fleet equipment purchasing manager expect to pay for such an advanced piece of machinery? As of this publication date they are set to come in at or around $400,000.

But while they may be expensive, the potential for major change using these vehicles is very alluring. How soon we will see fleets of hybrid hydrogen-electric fuel cell big rigs on the road? Only time will tell.

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