Monthly Archives: May 2018

Tracking The Ongoing Trucking Evolution

The number of disrupting trends in the trucking industry grows by the day. From connectivity to new spec’ing to advances in autonomy, the market continues to be a challenging and ever-evolving space for those making a living in some way, shape, or form in the trucking or freight transportation industry. That’s why we wanted to take a full spectrum look at all the developments shaping our industry today.

Connectivity

If you had asked this of fleet managers even a decade ago, they would have asked you if the connectivity you were referring to related wiring in a tractor. Today it refers to the power of communication that motor carriers now have at their fingertips.

Problems can be diagnosed faster, training and feedback can occur real-time, the moment the information is required, and efficiencies can be uncovered in just about every corner of your company, whether you are an owner-operator or a large trucking company.

Improving connectivity allows you to eliminate waste and increase safety, timeliness, and ultimately the positive impact on your company’s bottom line. It also provides a touch point with you and the customer or client. For any collaboration to work, it requires three essential components: trust, efficiency, and communication.

Trust and efficiency are important, but effective communication is the glue that binds it all together. Connectivity in trucking allows trucking companies a way to differentiate themselves from the competition. Fleets are adapting to change and adopting new technologies and methodologies by the day, which leaves the door open for enterprising motor carriers ready to get out and ahead of the game.

Opportunity arises when massive change disrupts an industry the size and complexity of trucking. Operators that get ahead of the game and are using new connectivity technologies and methods before their competitors will be poised for success.

Culture

Today, trucking companies thrive by developing a culture that promotes the business all while improving employee morale and getting freight delivered on time. Are you developing a fleet of truck drivers, technicians, back-office workers, yard hands, and others? If so, you need to make sure you are fostering a culture of fairness, friendly competition, high achievement, and brand awareness.

As you adopt new methodologies for recruiting, retaining, and training new truck drivers and employees, it will be critical that you are fair in all things you do. Here at the QuickTSI blog we have talked a lot about privacy and in-cab video capture technology. How fairly is your fleet deploying such technologies? Do you have the truck driver’s consent? Are they excited by these new technologies?

Friendly competition and high achievement go together. One of the major retention efforts being used by fleets today are ways to recognize high achievement or good performance. Whether a company incentivizes their employees through gift cards, extra home time, a day off or something else, fleet managers are donning their creative caps to find ways to improve morale and put a high level of focus on creating a company culture that supports these efforts.

Once you have happy people working for you, talking about your business, operating your equipment, and sharing the tales of your success far and wide, you will be building the brand not just through organic marketing efforts but through the power of your company culture.

Complication

If there is one thing that is a constant in the trucking world, it is the level of complexity we operate within. Many view the trucking world as a simple one. Put boxes or other freight types into or onto a transport container or bed, then you are good to go! We know better and say that is not so!

Just take the topic of connectivity as one example. If you now have your shop wirelessly connected to the diagnostics unit on your tractors, would it cause a distraction if you have a fleet of 500 tractors giving a buzz or beep anytime something – legitimate or not – appears to be going wrong on the tractor?

If you get a code that tells you something is going wrong, but it turns out to be something else down the line that is causing the fault, your first glance might be the wrong glance. This increased level of connectivity also adds pressure at the dealer level, by pushing them to complete repairs faster.

Fortunately, there is enough complication built into the system that no one must worry about losing their job anytime soon. While all the talk surrounds artificial intelligence and autonomous trucks, there is far too much complexity baked into the industry – and with the constant change – a human hand will still be required to help navigate the change, both literally and figuratively.

Partners

Many trucking companies have given up trying to do things themselves and instead are choosing to establish partnerships with those already experts in their fields. Take telematics as one example. Companies are being built from the bottom up to handle the telematics needs of trucking companies. Fleets simply don’t have the IT staff or computing infrastructure needed to build and maintain telematics systems.

The same goes for repair work. Motor carriers are finding it easier to establish a relationship with a mobile repair shop. Working with mobile repair shops takes the pressure off technicians so that they can focus on the big jobs. With outside vendors totally capable of handling small repairs, both time, money, and greater efficiencies are realized.

It is essential to get the proper people and partners in place to handle all the moving pieces associated with a trucking business. This is especially true in an age of technological change. Even once-simple tasks such as spec’ing the right equipment has become a herculean request, one in which different pieces of technology must be compatible within an interconnected network of the modern tractor-trailer.

Specs

It is no secret that specs are changing. Trucks are rolling off the assembly line geared with safety in mind. While semi-autonomous and fully electric trucks are proven in concept and have been being tested out on the nation’s roads, the short-term changes are safety changes.

When they aren’t related to safety, spec evolution centers around fuel efficiency. It is true that safety and fuel efficiency are the number one targets for manufacturers building products and those delivering services within the trucking industry – as well as within the fleets themselves.

Trucking advocacy organizations like the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and even the Owner Operators Independent Alliance (OOIDA), two groups who are often on different sides of an issue, have forged an uneasy partnership in pushing for greater safety and fuel efficiency, if it does not come at the expense of the truck driver or company shareholders.

Powertrains

One spec that has taken hold and doesn’t seem to be letting go is the automated transmission. Take Peterbilt as just one example of the long march away from manual drive tractors. In the last two years alone, Peterbilt has gone from including automated-manual transmissions (AMTs) on 10 percent of their vehicles to a whopping 90 percent.

AMTs first made their appearance on Peterbilt refuse trucks and concrete mixers. Vocational trucks had the most to gain from their adoption, but now Peterbilt has witnessed the trend move beyond vocational applications. When it comes to decreasing truck driver distractions while increasing their on-road situational awareness, AMTs certainly do the trick.

There has also been a move towards smaller-displacement engines. Why? Consider the advances in engine technologies. Today’s 13-litre engines now offer the same torque and horsepower as the 16-litre engines of yesteryear. There is no real reason for trucking companies not to spec a lower displacement engine when they can get the same performance out of it.

Fuel Economy

Smaller displacement engines also cut down on fuel consumption, making them a logical choice for sustainably-minded motor carriers. The technologies promising greater fuel efficiencies for truckers seem to appear in multitudes by the day. The priorities by which fleets based their needs upon have shifted over the years.

No longer are motor carriers single-mindedly focused on horsepower alone. In fact, horsepower is often only a concern if they are worried the trucks they are spec’ing won’t have enough of it to haul the type of loads they do business hauling.

If their vehicles can be spec’d with enough horsepower and torque to get the job done, their main concern shifts to fuel economy, fuel economy, and more fuel economy. Whether they get the job done through under-the-hood components or through aerodynamic additions or changes in truck driver behavior, burning less fuel is the holy grail of trucking in the modern era.

Nowadays, fleets expect the dealer to be able to advise them on what is best for their fleet. When choosing to purchase or upgrade equipment, always make sure to do a little research ahead of time and write down questions you don’t want to forget when the time comes to discuss specs.

With today’s trucking trends turning into certainties tomorrow, it is important to stay current on the big moves being made in trucking. Fortunately, that’s what we are here for, as thought leaders in the industry.

Examining The Non-Stop Technological Changes Within The Trucking Industry

There is a lot of change coming. Trucking companies must prepare for a future where the job is simply done differently. Did you know that there are UPS electric bikes in Portland, Oregon? Did you ever imagine the day you would see a UPS biker? Likely not.

Yet, it isn’t just the evolution of the truck and truck driver that has driven the change. Take your shop, as an example. Had you ever considered that you might have to teach your fleet technicians how to service an electric bike? When the electric bike driver is maneuvering around the yard, how might you manage the large pieces of equipment and heavy duty commercial motor vehicles?

UPS has been dealing with the issue in interesting ways as the level of last-mile delivery rises throughout the supply chain. New inventory items like bicycle tire tubes and bicycle batteries were suddenly added to the balance sheet. Smaller companies can survive through outsourcing some of the needs of the new century.

Consider the knowledge that fleet technicians have had to work with over the years. Advanced new systems require a different type of training. Going from the legacy systems of old to cutting-edge technology requires a certain grace period; yet trucking companies don’t have one.

How Will Small Fleets Cope?

There is so much more to it than electric UPS bikers. Semi-autonomous trucks, platooning, and just about every other form of high technology has come to trucking. Motor carriers who don’t adapt to the change risk being left behind in the digital dust.

There are small fleets to consider, however. Not every business will find it easy to effectively transition into the high-tech age of trucking. Many may feel overwhelmed by the prospect. Technology is changing so quickly and finding the expertise trucking companies need in some cases has not even been developed yet.

To make matters worse, waiting still is not an option. Trucking companies cannot ponder their future on a straight line in a world of unpredictable change and industry disruption. As industries change, complaisance is a killer. What is fantastic today could be utterly mediocre tomorrow.

The change needs to be born out of the problems of today. What intractable issues are trucking companies dealing with as they try to cope with the industry’s evolution?

Vehicle Technology Goes Extreme

If there is one aspect of trucking that has been the harbinger of change, it is the big rigs themselves. The days of low-tech, smoke-spouting diesels are nearly history, yet not gone. Consider the small owner-operator.

There are small trucking operations that still rely on older technology. Adapting to the change isn’t easy for them. It does not help that the government makes it even harder. GHG Phase II regulations may foist the adaptation upon motor carriers, whether they are ready for it or not.

Safety is another major driver. Crashes involving heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles have been on the rise in the past few years. Older-model semi-trucks are not built to incorporate some of the technology associated with advanced safety systems. Some may not survive the change as they try to transition their fleet.

Change makes opportunity. The level of technology changing the trucking industry has also provided a gift: A treasure trove of data.

Within the Digital Ether

All along the technological march, trucking companies are generating huge amounts of data. It is a goldmine of potential information, yet where do fleets store it? The server space required to store all that information – especially for larger trucking companies – is enormous. They simply do not have the infrastructure required.

Here is the rub, even trucking companies who are still running most of their business within on-site servers, there is still a chance that some of their data is still stored in the cloud somewhere. The apps they use and software products they adopt to manage their information may themselves store it in the cloud. Systems referred to as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) are almost always stored in and run from the cloud.

Furthermore, trucking technology OEMs and partners have moved their data needs into the digital ether. Cloud-based storage and applications have been a part of our landscape for a long time. Gone are the days when one referred to a cloud and nearly everyone associated it with a fluffy white thing in the sky. The technical term for massive space within huge sets of server farms is now ubiquitous.

The network of internet-connected computer servers that make up the cloud provides the backbone for technology companies working both within and without the trucking industry. There are private clouds and public clouds, such as those offered by Amazon and Microsoft. Storage can be rented within a cloud as though it were a digital storage unit. Instead of physical items, bits and bites are stored within clouds.

The Evolution of Data Storage

There are some specific reasons why cloud-based storage systems have become more ubiquitous over the years. As always, it is a matter of money. By moving data-storage needs to the cloud, fleets and their partners save lots of it. Investing in storage infrastructure is not cheap. Netflix does not run their operation on their own servers. They use a cloud provider.

Trucking companies have slowly come around to take advantage of the new data paradigm. IT staff on companies both large and small know what services they can safely leave on-site and what services can be put into the cloud. The market understands that the capabilities are there to allow for reliable data storage and access.

Some may think that cloud resources are only good for large fleets, but we would advise them to think again. Small fleets have plenty of opportunity to get a head start on their competitors specifically because they don’t have to house on-site storage needs or figure out how to hire an IT team to manage it all.

Where smaller operators have had questions in the past regarding data security, companies operating within the cloud have the answers. No longer do the small guys worry that their information is not secure or susceptible to corruption.

Companies operating within the telematic space were the first to realize the potentials of the cloud and small trucking companies found opportunity in working with them. By preventing the necessary capital outlay to bring on and manage critical infrastructure, small operators were able to compete with some of the larger companies they regularly compete with.

The ironic thing is that many years ago, the idea of storing data in the cloud would have been a challenging sell. Think about how the trucking industry’s perception of these technologies has changed. While there still may be some concerns surrounding data accessibility and downtime, the trend continues unabated.

High-Speed Data and Backup Security Trends Drive the Evolution

Better technology has created a more receptive atmosphere for cloud-adoption. Systems operating in the virtual world rely on better hardware to get the job done. The vast computing power on-hand within the huge powerhouse cloud providers makes it easy for software providers to offer products that really wow.

New ways of addressing things like fuel efficiency, cargo security, and more have all come about because of the cloud revolution. The increase in bandwidth has advanced the development of technologies that might not have ever before been associated with the trucking industry.

Scalability has also become a big attractor for fleets who are small now but want to grow big later. Providers within the space allow trucking companies to scale up on their services without a huge investment or time commitment. Faster response times, more complex data processing capabilities, and thorough analytics providing real-world, actionable data are all part of the promise of the cloud.

When you can access your systems from anywhere there is an internet connection, the flexibility and convenience factor becomes hard to deny. Imagine multiple users in several locations, some perhaps even within their vehicle at an internet-enabled truck stop, accessing the same platform. There is a lot of potential for collaboration and increased efficiency.

As speed and storage capacity increases, so does the potential the cloud provides. Lower-cost services also help increase adoption. The price for a piece of pie within the cloud is a lot lower than it used to be. When you get down to economies of scale, utilizing services that are software-based have simply become less expensive and easier to justify to the finance department.

Finally, security is always king. As public and private cloud systems have increased their level of data backup frequency and security. Some cloud providers might take longer than 24 hours to recover the data and restart the operation, but can some of the larger fleets afford to be offline that long? A motor carrier considering a cloud backup solution may want to make sure their partner offers limited downtime.

Things like backup vaulting and emergency recovery services make your data ready to go and, in some cases, minimal downtime can be virtually guaranteed. If you haven’t considered the benefits of the data and cloud evolution, no matter the size of your fleet, it is time to change your train of thought.

The Disruptive Changes Making Ripples Throughout Trucking

Everyone in trucking is wondering when the next big trend in trucking will upset the natural order of things. What will be the next big thing? How many disparate forces must come together to create a real shift within the industry?

While the newest, most technologically advanced tractor always get a moment of fame, by themselves they don’t command the headlines. Everyone and their brother had been shouting about autonomous trucks for a long time now. Yet you don’t hear it as much anymore. Why? Certainly, it isn’t because the move towards autonomy isn’t happening. No, it is because no one sees them as a true viable option any time soon.

State and federal regulations – or lack thereof – cloud the picture. There are enough advancements happening with regular trucks-with-drivers, let alone computers on eighteen wheels.

Others point to the fancy Tesla and Nikola electric big rigs. While these certainly are impressive, shiny, new objects, there still isn’t enough information regarding range, durability, industry adoption, and so much more.

It would appear driving cool, new, battery-powered tractors might seem like an appealing proposition to someone looking for a new job in a secure industry, but they are a long way off. Conventional and hybrid powertrain options will continue to dominate for many more years.

Monumental shifts within an industry must happen organically. They must build from the bottom, growing slowly, then usually taking off with a boom once players from both inside and outside the industry take note and themselves adjust to the change. While autonomous and electric commercial motor vehicles have plenty of appeal, they don’t appear to be disrupters in the immediate or short-term.

Every topic has had its day, from platooning to greater natural gas adoption. But none of those seem like the real disruptor; the new thing that will shift the earth within the industry. What advanced technology or new initiative will ripple throughout the industry and leave change within its wake?

Trucking Makes Its Way Through DC

There is no doubt that the nation is seeing economic growth. With a business-friendly climate taking hold, what is going on in Washington D.C.? As the mid-term elections approach, trucking advocacy organizations and even trucking companies themselves want some assurances no matter who is in power, an open flow of the nation’s supply chain must be maintained.

A lot of regulations have disappeared in the past 18 months. Regardless of the rhyme or reason, this has had an impact on the industry. Even as the ELD mandate added an entirely new layer of complication, the speed-limiter test is gone, as is the sleep apnea language – and more.

The nature of change facing the trucking industry now is far more manageable. What lies beyond the horizon?

Many would argue infrastructure would be the true gamechanger. If meaningful repair and retrofit of the nation’s roads and bridges were to happen, once and for all, it could open the floodgates of commerce and lead to even greater economic growth. Will it happen, is the question.

What the administration has proposed, what Congress would be okay with, what the American people want, what trucking advocacy groups want – it’s all a mishmash of conflicting interests and desires.

With the Trump administration currently renegotiating NAFTA, the trucking industry wonders how they will fare once the deal shakes out. Cross-border trucking trade with Mexico and Canada continues to be at some of the highest levels it has ever been. This leads to positive economic activity on both sides.

Used Tractor Market Recovers

The used truck market showed strength after a sluggish 2017, a year in which prices lagged and sales slowed across the sector. Fortunately, most dealers report market stabilization. While prices have not crept up by a whole lot, used tractors continue to be an appealing option for owner-operators and large companies looking to plug some holes in their fleet.

The used truck market is affected by niche needs. Vocational truck requirements typically fluctuate, but with big, urban centers growing faster than ever, regional and residential-use vehicles of a variety of types show growth. This is a hot market and prices are up

Over-the-road used tractors have not seen the same kind of selling price growth. There has been very little price fluctuation mainly because the trucking employment shortage has put a crimp on growth. Vocational employment has not seen the same kind of shortage that OTR employment rolls have.

When combined, the growth in vocational numbers and the plateau in OTR orders is still growth. The market for used tractors shows resilience. With economic models showing continued growth, if the employment bottleneck breaks, the trucking industry will need all the new or used tractors it can get.

Nearly Half-Over

Would you choke on your beverage if we told you that 2018 was nearly half-over? Time flies, there is no doubt about that. It feels like just yesterday, right here at the Quick TSI blog team, we were just talking about the trucking trends that would shape 2018. And now here we are, well into the year.

With the middle mark already on the horizon, what should the trucking industry look out for as we finish the year and move into 2019, just like that. If 2018 is anything to go by, there is room for optimism. With the economy growing, there has been an expectation of growth in the supply chain.

Fed by the need for more and more truck drivers, OEMs have backlogs on tractor deliveries. Even with the United States economy staying at baseline, industry-wide growth is expected. Beyond new companies and new truck drivers coming on board, many current operators see the logic and the imperative of updating their own equipment.

With half the year burned through, dealerships are reporting that many of their large customers have already put in their late-2018, early-2019 orders. The trucking industry appears bullish on future economic prospects. With consumer confidence higher and consumer spending showing no signs of danger, motor carriers are looking to expand.

Too Much Business?

Is there ever a problem of too much business? Nearly every business owner’s natural instinct is to say, “Of course not!” Bring on the business and you bring on the profit. Yet trucking companies are having a problem finding truck drivers to fill the cabs.

When an industry does not have the number of qualified employees it needs to keep up with demand, you reach a situation where too much business becomes a problem. The silver lining out of all this? You hear very few fleets reporting business being bad or trucking companies failing in higher numbers than usual.

The truck driver shortage continues to be the single factor limiting growth within the industry. If there were enough people lining up to drive the routes required, it is possible you could see it reflected in overall GDP numbers.

Trucking Goes Virtual

Have you ever heard of the virtual head office? It is essentially a model where decision-makers across the organization are fanned out in different locations but can react as quickly and effectively to unexpected situations as they could have were they all together in a physical office setting.

Executives, directors, managers, and others of a company’s choosing, dons a headset and views a virtual window where they can see other participants within the virtual “room” and interact with each other. Some companies are testing out virtual white boards, where a user in one physical location can use a digital pen and a flat surface – such as a wall – can carry out a full-scale presentation.

Imagine being able to clearly map out your proposal to dozens of people spread out across the network. Large trucking companies have already begun to employ this technology. How long will it be before we see full adoption?

Traditional Hierarchies Offer Stability

Traditional management structures less reliant on technology and innovation still dominate industries. Having people in place who specifically focus on corporate recruiting, project management, marketing, fleet sales and services, shop services, and more, ensures the success of the organization. “Do we have the right people in place?” is never a bad question to ask yourself, from an operational perspective, of course.

When you have people within your organization who are specialists, excelling within their chosen field, magic happens. Not only are your people happy, but so is the community in which they work.

Trucking companies, shipping companies, freight brokerages, stores, markets, and so much more – all these businesses stand at the core of our nation’s economy. People eat, put gas in their car, go on road trips, buy clothing, and so much more, all on the backs of our nation’s transportation network.

Traditional business models focus on better customer service, more effective retention strategies, and the best ways to manage disruption in an industry primed for change. How will individual motor carriers and advocacy organizations handle this change? One thing is for certain, goods must continue to flow, as the American consumer desires, so everyone will adapt.

What is the IFTA And Should We Raise Fuel Taxes?

From new truck drivers to experienced owner-operators, understanding the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and what it means for the industry is like navigating a maze. Generally, it is something left to back-office accountants or fleet managers.

Yet, this is an important aspect of how companies make money on the road. Prior to the IFTA, truck drivers and fleets were required to purchase a fuel permit at their port of entry, which inevitably led to lost time and additional route miles. It wasn’t long after that officials in three states agreed on a universal permit. Then, over the course of the 1990s, 48 states and 10 Canadian provinces became part of the IFTA.

The original intent was to unify the process so that tax authorities, no matter where they are from, could assess one permit-type. The taxes could then be distributed to states and localities purely based on the number of miles the truck driver drove in a particular jurisdiction.

How Does It Work?

The IFTA basically simplifies a complicated arrangement of fuel taxes collected amongst the states and provinces. It then distributes them accordingly.  After the initial 48 states joined, the number remains at 48, since two states are still not part of the program.

Oregon does not participate in the program, although they do have agreements written up with states who are in the program. Their system is designed to track where the fuel is used. This way companies that operate in the other states benefit from the program. What does this mean for truck drivers operating in Oregon? They should only purchase the fuel they are planning to use in the state as they enter the state.

The other state not officially on the program is Hawaii, who’s reasons for not being on the system should be obvious. Honestly, if you are driving a big rig in Hawaii, all we have to say to you is, well, enjoy the scenery!

There are some other intricacies that other states adhere to; mainly fuel “surcharge” states. For those states, which includes Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia, you will want to – much like Oregon – buy only the fuel you plan on using in the state once you enter the state.

The mechanics of the IFTA were developed by a non-profit organization tasked with helping come up with the agreement. The fact that so many people were questioning the IFTA and how the taxes were distributed were what led to its creation.

How the IFTA Increased Efficiency

The IFTA was created to foster efficiency when it comes to collecting fuel taxes from fleets. At the same time, however, motor carriers must be well aware of how the agreement works. Without that, additional costs could become a major problem.

Consider this: the taxes are divvied up based on the number of miles driven in each state. If a truck driver fuels up in New Mexico and then drives into Texas, the truck driver will receive the tax from New Mexico for each mile driven in New Mexico.

If you are a truck driver buying your fuel in Pittsburg and then going on through Ohio, your taxes will be disbursed accordingly, depending on the state. Issuing a single fuel tax license covers truck driver in states that operate within them. This eliminates fleets from having to purchase multiple permits for multi-state travel.

Are There Problems?

One of the most common problems associated with the IFTA is the confusion surrounding the different tax rates in each state. Consider that in Oklahoma, the tax rate is 38.4 cents per gallon, as opposed to Connecticut, where the tax is 79.3 cents per gallon.

Many question how the reports are calculated. Trucking companies should be aware that they are calculated by the quarter and any money owed or money due will be calculated by state. You will owe taxes at the end of the quarter, depending on the state.

The breakdown is based upon the state. So, if you buy fuel in Connecticut and run through the fuel in Burlington or Boston, you will receive a credit on your charges at the end of the quarter. While this program may seem obtuse at first, it is far better than wondering where you will end up at the end of the day where state taxes are concerned.

On the flipside, owner-operators that are working for a fleet are responsible for keeping track of their tax liabilities and ensuring they are paid. While the rules are confusing, the agreement itself streamlines the process by which state taxes are determined depending on the amount of time the trucker operates in said state.

Do Truckers Support Higher Taxes?

Truck drivers in the United States use quite a lot of fuel. In fact, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA) truckers and trucking companies use an average of 28 billion gallons on an annual basis.

Conventional wisdom would say that this is one industry that does not want to see a rise in federal fuel taxes. Consider that fleets and owner-operators already fork over 24.4 cents per gallon and it isn’t difficult to see where they might have a problem with that cost rising even higher. If you look at the official numbers, what truck drivers pay in fuel taxes is quite higher than what passenger car drivers pay.

It could be for this reason that the ATA’s support of a rise in the federal fuel tax comes as a surprise. The ATA has been pushing Congress to raise the fuel tax many times over the past decade. There is a critical reason why this is so.

Truck drivers depend on roads, bridges, and tunnels to get the job done. If the nation’s infrastructure is failing because of a lack of funding, the people and organizations that suffer the most are those that stand at the forefront of our supply chain.

What is the Problem?

There is an unfortunate fault that was written into the original legislation. Fuel taxes are not levied to inflation. Even when the fuel tax was last raised in 1993, it was inadequate at best. The level of funding put into the Highway Trust Fund has been sorely inadequate in keeping up with our nation’s infrastructure needs.

Some Highway Trust Fund advocacy groups have proposed the fund be buttressed and finally indexed to inflation, which would decrease negative revenue impacts to motor carriers and improve overall fuel efficiency. The real heart of the matter hearkens back to something we have discussed before: The current infrastructure proposal.

The trucking industry has announced that they prefer fuel taxes over converting the interstate highway system to a high level of toll roads. In an interesting twist, this is one area where the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) and the ATA actually agree. According to a combined analysis, manning the toll system employment and infrastructure would move money away from infrastructure upgrades.

Fortunately, there have been some plans floated to address the problem without significantly shocking the system. Let’s take a deeper look at the specifics of these proposals.

Different Fuel Tax Funding Plans

One of the plans floated has been to gradually increase the fuel tax by 20 cents per gallon. If you look at that over the next decade, it could raise nearly $335 billion. That looks like a big number, but it still doesn’t come close to covering the gap. Many trucking analysts put the sweet spot number at just a couple hundred-billion shy of a trillion dollars.

Could the trucking industry weather a fuel tax hike designed to raise nearly a trillion dollars, let alone over a quarter-billion? Proponents of the plan state that the trucking industry has survived regardless of the fluctuations in diesel prices, which leads some to say that all the idle speculation is premature.

With the economy in good shape and economists unsure of what the effect of a potential fuel tax hike would have on the trucking industry, lots of questions abound. With the industry constantly battling congested highways and roadways in utter decline, everybody who has a stake in the industry is hoping for beneficial change.

Will infrastructure spending from a hike in the fuel tax – as opposed to increased deficit spending – cure the infrastructure ills of our nation? At this point no one knows. There are some signs of inflation creeping up. When combined with the fed’s signs that they will increase interest rates, one can only wonder what the long-term industry effects will be.

No matter what, there is never a bad time to invest in the nation’s infrastructure. Investing in the health of our transportation system makes simple economic sense. Not only does it create jobs and a sense of security, but it raises the morale of a nation. Seeing our highways built up the way they should be; in a way that can compete with some of the most advanced countries of the world, is a net benefit for everyone involved. If an increase in the fuel tax needs to be the catalyst for that change, some say so be it.

Trucking Outlook Update From Pennsylvania Avenue To Main Street

With the first quarter of 2018 drawing to a close, there has been a lot of movement in the trucking industry, and there continues to be so. That’s why we wanted to take a moment to look at what is on the horizon for trucking, both from political moves to industry hiring practices and more. Hop in the cab, buckle up, and get ready because it’s going to be a wild ride of trucking news in today’s QuickTSI blog post.

The REST Act

First up is a big update coming out of Washington. A newly proposed bill has been put forth by Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) to allow tuckers a daily break of up to 3 consecutive hours. These breaks would not eat into the 14-hour on-duty allotment that the Hours of Service rule provides.

Rep. Babin has been no stranger to rules introduced aimed to change the way trucking gets done. Early last year he attached a rider to a house bill in an attempt to end the coming ELD mandate. That rider would go on to be removed in committee.

The new proposal was introduced within the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is titled the Responsible and Effective Standards for Truckers (REST) Act, or H.R. 5417. Rep. Babin released a statement after proposing the bill stating that the legislation would modernize hours of service regulations for truckers.

The details of the bill are clear. It specifically calls for a single off-duty rest period that would not be accounted towards the truck driver’s 14-hour on-duty allowance. It would essentially be off the books, also not extending the total, allowable drive time. Truck drivers would still need to log 10 consecutive hours off duty before the start of their next shift, however. Finally, if enacted, the bill would eliminate the 30-minute rest break requirement.

In a separate statement, Rep. Babin said that he was “proud to introduce the REST Act and give America’s truckers the options they need to safely operate under today’s rigid federal regulations.” He posited that the bill would be an important step in improving highway safety.

If passed, the REST Act would mandate the DOT to update Hours of Service to allow a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for up to 3 consecutive hours provided the driver is not on-duty. The Owner Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA), long a supporter of Rep. Babin’s attempts to change trucking regulations, quickly released a statement supporting the proposal. In their statement, the OOIDA referred to a lack of options for truck drivers to safely operate, calling today’s Hours of Service regulations “overly rigid.”

Now the question is, will the proposal see the light of day and come out of committee unscathed? With Rep. Babin’s previous attempts going nowhere, some say that there is little chance for this attempt to pass. Yet, many also agree that the Hours of Service rules need changing, having largely remained unchanged nearly a century. At this point, only time will tell where this latest attempt will go.

The FMCSA Seeks Public Comment

In other news from the Capitol, the FMCSA is asking for public comment on self-driving vehicle regulations. The government agency has come out saying that they may need to update, modify or eliminate regulations related to the safe introduction of autonomous vehicles.

Specifically, the agency has asked the National Transportation Systems Center – itself an offshoot of the DOT – to complete a preliminary review of federal regulations surrounding what they refer to as automated driving systems (ADS). They also want to know if current safety regulation will pose a roadblock to the testing and integration of ADS into the nation’s fleets.

At the same time, they are seeking comment on what the future impact of ADS and ADS-related regulations will be. They are specifically looking for comment from companies that are currently involved in the design, development, and testing of ADS-equipped commercial motor vehicles.

Their public notice asks for the following:

  • Specific scenarios or situations where entities expect automated driving systems to be tested and integrated into commercial motor vehicles, whether it be on public roads or on interstate highways for the purposes of interstate commerce.
  • Specific operational or design domains in which the systems in question will be tested and deployed, along with environmental details.
  • Specific recommended measures they believe are required to ensure the safety and protection of proprietary or confidential business information they intend to share with the agency.

The question now is what the agency plans to do with these comments. In the current administration’s anti-regulatory environment, some wonder whether there will be enough protections placed on public safety when autonomous vehicles are introduced. With recent reports of crashes involving autonomous vehicles, it is obvious that more work needs to be done to address concerns in this area.

Trucking companies themselves are in no hurry to employ the use of autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles any time soon. As a matter of fact, more pressing issues on their mind can be found a lot closer to home, and that is in the truck driver employment squeeze, which seems to get worse by the day.

As we have reported on in the past, fleets are having a harder time than ever trying to recruit and retain qualified truck drivers. Still, with the freight industry continuing to expand in response to a growing economy, motor carriers must get creative in their drive to woo the right people. Let’s take a closer look at their expansion plans and what they have in mind to ensure they attract the talent they need to keep our nation’s supply chain on the move.

Transportation Companies Announce Expansion Plans

In trucking employment news, an area that seems bereft of good headlines as trucker employment shortages abound, positive news can be found in the news that more than three-quarters of transportation companies expect to grow their workforce this year. The question remains: How successful will they be when the trucking employment shortage seems to grow more acute by the day?

The employment solutions company HireRight recently released its annual employment screening benchmark survey and the details surrounding motor carrier hiring were certainly interesting. Their survey shows that fleets are trying an array of different strategies to handle the truck driver employment shortage.

As a result, trucking companies revealed plans on making major investments into retention and training and development programs. For trucking companies that reported more than 2,500 employees, the percentage of respondents putting an emphasis on retention was even higher. Fleets also reported setting their sights on more trade events, extending orientation periods and utilizing experienced truckers as mentors and liaisons.

Still, the main problem lies in retirement. HireRight’s survey found that nearly a quarter of all truck drivers were exiting the industry because it was simply time to retire. Aiming their recruitment strategies at a younger, more diverse audience is key to finding the right people for the cab. Fleets are finding that the old recruiting methods are less effective than they used to be.

Referrals are still reported as one of the most effective ways to find fleet candidates. One of the big places where fleet recruiters are putting their energy is in social media, which rose by 42% in 2017. On the flipside, print media recruiting has continued a big decline. Even outreach through job fairs has seen a dip.

Trucking companies continue to look for innovative ways to find and keep the right people. Yet what truck drivers see on their paycheck cannot be discounted as a big motivating factor.

Truck Driver Pay Increases

As fleets compete for an ever-shrinking pool of qualified truck drivers, pay has been seeing a big bump, with it increasing by 18% in the past few years. The market is competitive and trucking companies are being forced to answer the call in a big way with large pay increases.

According to the American Trucking Associations Driver Compensation Study, the median salary for a truckload truck driver working an irregular route jumped by 15% to just over $53,000 per year, when compared to the ATA’s last survey, which covered pay for 2013. Truckers operating in private fleets have seen an even larger increase, with an 18% jump to around $86,000 annually.

The ATA announced that the latest survey included data from more than 100,000 truck drivers and shows that fleets are reacting to an increasingly tight market. The large survey pool showed that motor carriers are reacting to the tight employment market by adding dollars signs to their pay packages. Benefits packages and other incentive programs are also seeing a boost.

Part of the trucker pay bump can also be traced back to a marked increase in signing bonuses, which in some cases have jumped to $10,000 or more. These are huge numbers when compared to where the industry was only five years ago. Attractive 401(k) plans, paid leave, and comprehensive insurance plans also sweeten the pot.