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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.

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