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How Dry Van Regulations Shape The Industry

Just as with so many other industries, sometimes what the customers, companies and government want aren’t all the same things. While every company wants to answer to its customers and shareholders first, sometimes there’s a bigger boss to deal with first: The federal government.

Generally, when trucking and government collide, messes ensue. With government already operating in a severely dysfunctional fashion, it’s difficult to navigate regulatory waters. The passing then reversal of the 34-hour restart rule is one such example.

In one recent case, however, it spears a new regulation coming down the pipe might not cause as much industry angst as past proposals have. The new regulation would require stronger rear under-ride guards on dry vans. The main reason for this is that most manufacturers already meet or exceed those standards.

What’s Going to Happen?

The key thing to note is that right now these are just proposals. Still, stringent Canadian regulations are already forcing some dry van manufacturers to equip their trailers with rear impact guards. The new U.S. regulations would merely bring existing law in line with what Canada is already doing, so any players who’ve adopted those standards will start out ahead of the game.

The government clearly outlined its recognition when it released the rulemaking proposal. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) cited the Truck Trailer Manufacturer’s Association’s assertion that right now 93 percent of new trailers sold in the United States would already comply with the new rule.

While industry insiders don’t expect the new rule to have a significant impact on larger fleet operations, they acknowledge a minority of small trailer manufacturers not building trailer models that would comply with the proposed rule.

What Trucking Wants

While there hasn’t been too much hue and cry in the trucking community over this new proposed rule, the trucking industry does have its concerns. The fact is, fleets want to spec dry vans more on how they can save money or what the application and less on what new regulations are forcing them to do.

Fortunately, consumers and manufacturers alike are already heading in the right direction. Customers are asking for lightweight, load securement, cube, HD, ingress and egress options more and more by the day. These are the weight saving and durability options that cut down in costs while meeting current or new federal regulations.

And while weight savings and durability may seem like opposing options, advancements have been made in material design without compromising structural integrity. Weight savings combines with aerodynamic options for further savings.

With California requiring certain aerodynamic options are installed on vehicles operating within their state’s borders, the rapid increase in factory installed aerodynamic devices has already begun. Other trends include the adoption of advanced trailer telematics systems and disc brakes.

The Manufacturing Vanguard

Even as fuel prices drop, manufacturers are already positioning themselves to be ready for whatever new regulations come their way. Tire inflation systems and low rolling resistance tires are all part of the modern fleet’s arsenal as well.

Still, in good news for the manufacturing side of things, customers seldom spec mix-and-match components. One example of this is in disc brakes. Generally, a customer will go with the disc brake offerings provides by the suspension manufacturer. Part of the logic could be the cost associated with transitioning to disc brakes.

Air brakes still have not seen large growth in the van segment, to date. Once costs start to come down, however, there will be more interest in spec’ing dry vans with them.

For many fleets and manufacturers, any new regulations should only pad what they are already doing. With fuel economy and digital technology transforming ever aspects of our lives, the humble dry van is not excluded.

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