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Entry-Level Driver Training Rule For New Truck Drivers

The Department of Transportation (DOT) released the final rule on the Entry-Level Driver Training rule. The rule essentially establishes a core curriculum that new truck drivers will be required to learn. They will also be required to go through 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training. Finally, the rule outlines a minimum level of qualification for instructors, tests, vehicles and more. All this information would be used to create a truck driving trainer registry.

While some argue this is an unnecessary measure, something like this has been in the works for a long time, and industry players from all sides have waded in on the matter. Let’s dig a little deeper.

The Details

The proposed rule is set to thoroughly outline how classroom and practical training should go.

New truck drivers would be required to learn:

  • The basics on driving the truck
  • Operating the controls
  • Reading the instruments
  • Pre- and post-trip inspections
  • How to safely back into a dock
  • Hours-of-service regulations

The training will also require a minimum of 10 hours driving on a range and either 10 hours on public roads or 10 trips at 50 minutes a piece, again, on public roads.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has estimated that the 10-year cost of the rule will ring in at just a little over $5.5 billion. This cost considers carrier, driver, trainer and state agency costs.

The Costs

Digging deeper into the estimated costs, it looks as though the bulk of the program costs will be carried by the truck drivers themselves. By 2020 these costs are estimated to ring in at around $27 million dollars. By 2029? Almost $30 million.

Still, the FMCSA defends these numbers by saying that the rules perceived benefits will outweigh the high price tag, though they do admit some of those benefits are indirect. As an example, they cite that better training will lead to safer, more efficient driving techniques. This will result in a reduction in fuel consumption and lower environmental costs.

They point to trained truck drivers saving the industry $75 million in fuel costs by 2020 and almost $180 million by 2029. Lower maintenance and repair costs could bring in almost $45 million by 2020 and more than double that by 2029. Indirect benefits could include less severe crashes.

Voices at the Table

Fortunately, the FMCSA underwent a thorough negotiation session with the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). They also consulted major training school and trucking safety advocacy groups. Finally, they took public comment before submitting their text to the Office on Management and Budget.

The fact is, the DOT has been working on something like this for over 30 years. They began the process in 1985, as a part of the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The question now is how the final rule will impact trucking’s bottom line. From the truck driver to the motor carrier and state level, what kind of impact will this have on trucking operations? With the final rule set to land any day now, you can bet we’ll be back here telling you all about it here at the QuickTSI blog.

Food Safety Rules Are Set to Change

New federal regulations will have a direct impact on how clean a refrigerated transport truck and trailer should be. While the final details are still up in the air, it’s looking like shippers will be responsible for deciding, whether or not they are ready to do so.

The Food and Drug Administration has been preparing a set of rules to comply with the 2014’s Food Safety Modernization Act. Different aspects of the rule will be phased in over the next 11 months.

The law was passed by congress after a series of incidents where contaminated food was sold in stores. One consumer became seriously ill and died, which prompted this new wave of regulation. Although the cause was traced back to the food processing plants, Congress threw transportation into the mix as well.

What Is The Rule?

Under the new rule, shippers will be responsible for writing the sanitary requirements necessary for vehicles carrying perishable products. Temperature settings must be worked out and maintained on the shipper’s side of things.

While temperature requirements are nothing new, cleanliness is. The FDA has decided that shippers should be communicating with truck operators on what they want and how to accomplish it.

The bulk of products included under this new rule includes meat, poultry, fresh produce and frozen foods. Bulk grains, juices and milk transported in tankers also made the list. If a product can be affected, contaminated, or adulterated through temperature variation, air or sunlight exposure, it’s on the list.

How Will it Affect Trucking

The law explains “transportation equipment” as trailers and railcars, pallets, bins, hoses and fittings. Any pumps or gaskets that are integral to the food handling system are also included.

While the upkeep of these systems is often governed by state regulations, the federal rules will require additional layer of recordkeeping for both shipper and motor carrier.

Truckers responsible for the cleaning are also required to record and document standard operating procedures. Truck driver training will be mandatory and what happened during the sessions must be logged.

From Trucking’s Perspective

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has already come out asking that the regulatory comment period that closed earlier this year be reopened. Their main concern lies in the increased training and record keeping requirements.

One such example is the provision that stipulates mandatory pre-cooling of a trailer before loading. The ATA questions how that rule will be enforced and who will enforce it. According to Warren Hoeman, senior vice president of the ATA, there will be “additional costs with no quantifiable benefits.”

He goes on to state that “the FDA does not require temperature thresholds for products. They require the carrier to follow those thresholds put forth by the shipper… the FDA does not provide guidelines or require cleaning your trailer a certain way.”

The main thrust of this rulemaking lies in the shipper’s guidelines explaining how and when to clean the equipment. A visual inspection should follow, then documentation.

What This Means for the Future

Even now, the Food Safety Modernization Act is evolving. It will be important for private fleets to tap into their quality assurance talent in the quest to find out how these new FSMA compliance requirements will affect them and their customers.

For-hire carriers should touch bases with their food facility customers in order to properly understand how they intend to be in compliance with the new regulations. There will be new checks all along the line, so shippers, carriers and receivers will all need to communicate how they intend to handle what’s coming.

This may come in the form of fleet managers approaching shippers to offer guidance if they seem slow to adopt procedures that comply with regulations. After all, new safety and compliance rules seem to hit by the week. Fleets want to make sure they aren’t on the receiving end of a country’s ire because one of their customers failed a food safety requirement that led to contamination.

Trucking Braces for New Environmental Protection Agency Regulations

As the administration continues to focus on efforts to combat climate change, President Obama has added emission rules for big-rigs to the agenda.

Some time ago, the president gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the go-ahead to develop new rules designed to improve fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions for heavy-duty trucks. Now the industry is looking to see whether smaller fleets can meet the standard without going out of business.

The New York Times has come out saying they already know what the proposed rule will be, although it has not yet been published to the agency’s register. According to their report an official notice could come any day now. Although the exact number may not yet be known, let’s take a look at the signals we’ve been getting from the agency to date.

New Governmental Regulations

Although many at first assumed these regulations governed only the truck and the engine, the EPA has also added emission regulations for trailers, fairings and rolling resistance. According to one administration official, the unveiling will be a “big rule” that contains so many different components, it easily could be broken down into separate regulations by themselves.

While there is much anticipation of this new rule, it won’t actually go into effect for another four years. In 2011, the EPA outlined rules for vehicle model years 2014 – 2018. This new rule will govern vehicle model years “post-2018,” likely through 2027.

The government has reported that these changes will reduce petroleum consumption by more than 530 million barrels of oil and reduce carbon emissions by 270 million metric tons.

Current long-haul truck fuel economy averages are in the neighborhood of 5.5 to 6 miles per gallon (mpg). The 2011 rule pegged the standard to a 20 percent savings. The final number for later years is set to have heavy-duty commercial trucks increase their fuel economy by as much as 40 percent through 2027, when compared to 2010 levels.

These new heavy-duty truck rules are in addition to a bevy of hotly contested emissions rules the government is instituting for power plants, dubbed the Clean Power Plan. The president is using emissions reductions as a key final part to his second-term legacy-building efforts.

From Trucking’s Perspective

Fleets have been moving to greater efficiency for some time now. One truck from the 1970s belched out more carbon emissions than 67 of today’s trucks running at full throttle. While more can always be done, trucking wants to make sure jobs and commerce aren’t threatened by regulation.

As Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) Representative Scott Grenerth pointed out, there are two main concerns that industry has regarding the rule. “The cost of the truck, and reliability of the truck – that’s the bottom line,” he stated.

After traveling to Washington, D.C. last month to meet with the White House budget office, Grenerth came away saying reliability and downtime for truck repairs were the focus. They also discussed a cost-benefit rule and how to mesh emissions goals with fuel economy standards.

Glen Kedzie, environmental counsel for the American Truck Associations (ATA), while saying he has no idea what the eventual rule will be, conceded that the EPA has done an extreme amount of outreach to win over industry insiders. In his own words it has been “a lot more than I have ever seen on a rule.”

Even so, Kedzie is not without reservation. These regulations are broad in their scope and carry major implications for the trucking industry.

“A truck is a mobile office,” he went on to say. “It’s a cog to keep this economy moving along. The EPA is dealing with this economic aspect here. They have to be careful not to make the standards cost prohibitive.”

Observers are suggesting that the EPA will take a bit longer than The New York Times posited to issue the new truck standards. As the trucking industry holds its breath, only time will tell what the final rule will be. When it hits, you can be sure we’ll report on it.

Trucking Update from Washington

Congress met on April 29th to discuss issues affecting truck drivers and the trucking industry. The title of the hearing was The Future of Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety: Technology, Safety Initiatives, and the Role of Federal Regulation.

The congressional hearing covered everything from hours of service to CSA scores to entry-level driver training. Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association’s (OOIDA) Danny Schnautz spoke on behalf of his group, while the American Trucking Association (ATA) was represented by Tom Kretsinger.

What the congressional hearing showed is that Washington still has a long way to go in squaring government regulation with the needs of the trucking industry. At times the hearing grew heated on both sides, with passionate points and counterpoints being lobbied back and forth.

From Trucking’s Perspective

In his testimony, Schnautz, who is an operations manager for a national freight line, explained how burdensome regulatory actions and technological “solutions” run amok are affecting the industry. The shadow of government mandates and ever-changing rules can hinder small businesses and push longstanding safe drivers and carriers out of business.

“The current focus on technology initiatives actually hinders safety by placing more pressure on drivers when they are already caught between a regulatory rock and an economic hard place,” Schnautz said.

In his expansive testimony Schnautz tried to convey that technology can never be a substitute for skilled, professional truck drivers. He states that the focus on an alert system, rather than drivers making real-time safety decisions, degrades the skill of the truck driver and de-values the entire supply chain.

From Washington’s Perspective

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, convened the meeting. After the opening hearing, he didn’t waste time jumping right into the issues. His first target was the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Graves stated that he is concerned about the agency’s rapid growth since it was created in 2001. “While I support a strong safety program,” he began, “we need to ensure that funds are being spent on initiatives that will move the needle in terms of reducing crashes, injuries, and fatalities on the nation’s highways.”

One of the initiatives that Graves mentioned as a solution seeking a problem was the push to increase insurance requirements for motor carriers. Brian Scott, who spoke on behalf of the United Motorcoach Association stated that raising insurance requirements on carriers would surely put some out of business.

Assessing Regulatory Burdens

For much of the session, subcommittee members focused their questioning on rules recently outlined by the FMCSA, with hours of service being the most talked about. Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., said that the hours of service rule “actually made the world less safe for people in your industry.”

Speaking on behalf of the ATA, Tom Kretsinger highlighted how micromanagement of truckers’ hours can end up with “laws of unintended consequences.”

The final target for committee members was the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program. Schnautz testified that “under its current methodology, CSA inaccurately paints small carriers as unsafe, reducing access to business and opening them up to misguided enforcement activities.”

Even law enforcement got in on the action, as Idaho State Police representative Captain Bill Reese endorsed legislation to remove CSA data from public view. OOIDA also backed this view, saying some of the data doesn’t have real bearing on a fleet’s ability to carry out safe operations.

Not All Bad

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however. The subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C., stated that she was pleased to see the industry and FMCSA working together on rules for entry-level truck driver training programs.

“More robust driver training is something Congress has directed DOT to consider for nearly 25 years,” she said. “The first directive was in a bill in 1991. To say this rule is overdue is putting it fairly mildly. I hope this new Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee can facilitate a rule that all parties can agree on,” she concluded.

Even though there was some good and some bad on both sides, the hearing highlighted a glaring deficiency between industry and government, and within government itself. As Republicans drive for less regulation, and Democrats more, which way this regulatory battle plays out is anyone’s guess.

Are Youth, Women, and Returning Veterans the Answer to the Driver Squeeze?

The truck driver shortage is constantly being talked about within industry circles. While to some the subject may have been beaten into the Earth, it still remains a problem. From recruiting laid-off oil workers to offering lucrative pay packages, trucking is scrambling to fill truck driver seats.

The new salvo in the ongoing recruiting push is in recruiting people that don’t readily make up the bulk of truck drivers today: young people, women, and veterans. Let’s take a closer look at the efforts being made to get as many bodies into seats as possible.

Targeting Youth

Generally speaking, the youth of today don’t view trucking as a desirable profession. The nature of our society is to push youth from high school to college to a cubicle. The data bears this out, as the majority of truck drivers are either empty nesters or people in their 40s seeking a second career.

One of the problems is that federal regulations stipulate that someone must be 21 before they can become an interstate truck driver, due to federal regulations. Once they’ve hit that age, they will most likely have already gotten involved in another trade or profession, even if they had been interested in trucking before that.

Add in that most insurance carriers need drivers to be at least 23 years old with two verifiable years of experience, and you can see where the problem lies. This problem is particularly acute for small and mid-size fleets that don’t or can’t self-insure.

While some groups are developing initiatives to help address this problem, not all fleets can put out the kind of investment necessary in training younger drivers. Nor might they have the kind of leverage that would allow them to negotiate a younger driving age with their insurance companies.

As a result, the ATA is pushing Congress to include a lower driving age in the upcoming federal highway bill. Should this pass, expect to see a lot more targeted efforts in recruiting America’s youth.

Targeting Women

The number of women who are commercial truck drivers makes up only 5 – 7% of the total, which leaves a huge labor pool to tap.  Many carriers are catching onto this and have stepped up their efforts in highlighting the successes and experiences of female drivers.

Strategies that carriers are employing include making sure their recruiting ads appeal to both men and women and showcasing women in high profile management roles. Other fleets are addressing the physical differences between males and females and how it affects truck makers’ ergonomics.  Some specs that are considered “female-friendly” include automated transmissions, height and placement of grab handles and easy access to maintenance checks.

The final arrow in the quiver of recruiting female drivers lies in addressing truck driver culture. It’s no secret this is an industry dominated by men. Companies are beginning to revisit their sexual and gender harassment policies and highlighting that women truck drivers are every bit the equals to their male counterparts.

Targeting Veterans

Several trucking associations have come out committing themselves to advocating the hiring of thousands of veteran truck drivers in the coming years. Fleets are also committed to boosting their veteran truck driving numbers.

Quite a few companies, such as J.B. Hunt, already boast a truck driving workforce that is 20% made up of veterans. Their onboarding process pairs new truck drivers with another veteran from the training staff. Interacting with someone who knows exactly what the new hire is going through helps guard against attrition and provides an easier transition.

Another little known aspect of hiring veterans relates to one of the problems with hiring youth. Many high school graduates who join the military do a four-year stint and then transition back to civilian life, which puts them at the 22 year old age needed to get a CDL and be insured. This is perfect timing from the eyes of a carrier.

But will a focus on younger truck drivers, women, military veterans, or other recruits be enough? If fleets want to be able to meet demand and keep commerce moving, they need to tap a wider labor pool for their drivers. These are just some first steps.

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