Fleets frustrated over impact of new rules and regulations on operating costs

TORONTO, Ont. — US and Canadian trucking companies have much in common, including their growing frustration over government interference in their businesses, with seemingly little thought given to the full implications of their decisions.

That was evidenced during a panel discussion on The Impact of Rules and Legislations on Fleet Operating Costs, hosted by Performance Innovation Transport at its second annual conference. Providing a fleet perspective on the subject were Mike Kelley, vice-president, YRC Freight and Mark Irwin, director of maintenance, eastern region, Bison Transport. Among their shared frustrations was the idea that government does not hesitate to foist costly regulations on the industry, while it continues to prohibit the use of safe and proven systems such as larger pup trailers in the US and 6×2 axle configurations in Canada.

YRC’s Kelley said the LTL trucking industry in the US would like to move from 28-ft. pup trailers to 33-footers, which would provide an 18% increase in capacity.

“The last time we’ve had any significant productivity increase was in 1982,” he complained. “We can save four billion tonnes of CO2 annually. But this will be anything but an engineering decision, it’s going to be a political decision and we’re in for a dogfight.”

Closer to home, Irwin would like to see the latest generation 6×2 axles allowed in Canada, pointing to weight savings of several hundred pounds.

“We need to get into this,” Irwin said. “This is something where we’re seeing significant fuel savings. It has been tested by PIT and we have confidence in PIT and what they do. The restrictions or the limitations of operating in Ontario as a result of this actually impacts our ability to perform business in Ontario.”

He noted US carriers are coming into Canada using 6x2s and gaining a competitive advantage and that some Canadian fleets are also using the system, despite it being illegal. Geoff Wood, vice-president of operations and safety with the Ontario Trucking Association and Canadian Trucking Alliance warned they do so at their own peril.

“If you have technology that is not allowed and doesn’t fit within the provincial framework and something happens, you might have a problem on your hands legally and civilly,” he suggested. He noted the associations are discussing the issues related to 6x2s with government, but added a formal position has not yet been taken.

While governments in both countries seem bound on limiting productivity in some ways, they are also not afraid to introduce new legislation that brings tremendous cost to the industry, Kelley pointed out, citing electronic logging devices as a timely example.

“We’ll have two years to put ELDs in 8,000 trucks. This is ironic, because we’ve been talking about this since 1997 and we’ll have a two-year implementation window and we can’t act on it now because we don’t know what the standards will be,” Kelley said.

He is also worried about talk a Pigovian tax could be applied to the trucking industry as punishment for the carbon emissions it produces. Kelley would prefer to see a modest increase in fuel taxes, since only 2-4% of the money collected in this manner goes towards administrative costs. A Pigovian tax, which is an extreme tax intended to change behaviour, won’t work in trucking, because the deliveries must still be made, Kelley pointed out.

He would prefer the government shift its attention to helping the industry, through the elimination of barriers, including traffic congestion. He cited a stat that suggested traffic congestion at freight chokepoints in the US each year produce an outcome equivalent to 51,000 trucks and drivers sitting idle for an entire year.

“We should be able to align industry, environmentalists and the Administration to get a long-term comprehensive plan to address freight chokepoints,” he said.

Kelley also had concerns with how the latest emissions standards for heavy trucks have been implemented, driving up costs of new trucks by 45% while at the same time, cars have increased in price just 15%. While Kelley said he agrees with the importance of cleaning the air, the new standards have resulted in less reliable equipment that has been especially troubling in an LTL environment with ever-tightening delivery windows.

“The nation’s commerce is on wheels,” he said. “We have some of the biggest retailers in North America that we serve now and if we are late by three hours, they don’t have product on their shelves and they get really upset with us and then they don’t pay us.”

Bison’s Irwin agreed that customer expectations are constantly rising and that regulations that curtail productivity are a hindrance. He’d like to see Ontario’s long combination vehicle (LCV) program expanded more rapidly, as one example.

The company has been running LCVs for 11 years and they now account for 26% of all its miles travelled, or 2.8 million miles per month. They average about 5.5 mpg compared to the single-trailer fleet’s average of 6.5 mpg, but looked at another way, they nearly double trailer productivity to 11 mpg per trailer.

“That’s pretty efficient and that’s the world we want to live in,” Irwin said.

He also has an issue with roadside enforcement being overly aggressive when inspecting LCV equipment. An ABS light out results in the loss of a permit for three to four months, even though the braking system is still functional.

Irwin would like to see government trust the research done by organizations such as PIT and the OEMs and more quickly approve new technologies that can improve freight efficiency. He suggested conducting “rapid testing” on promising new technologies so that they can be put into service more quickly.


James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • Can anyone name one thing government has gotten their greedy fingers into that has actually improved a current situation?

    As for LCV , pulling two full size trailers and losing one MPG..I’m sure if an owner operator tractor is in from of this unit, it’s getting the twice the per mile revenue as a single ? Didn’t think so.

  • Some of the added costs for new programs, laws, technology, etc. have put some operators and companies right out of business.

    The rule makers never seem to do the math when they enact some of these rules. How many trucks are F.O.R.D. since the advent of all this emission electronics? LOTS. Non-stop sensor replacement, connector failures, and the like, happen very frequently. Nothing is actually wrong with the truck, just that $300 sensor isn’t working. Add to this new emission controls, ABS, anti-roll, multiplexing, and the like and if you have problems you are out of business. There is always a rush to market for any environmental or safety product, but the beta testing is done in the marketplace.

    Often it is not so much the repair, its the downtime, its crazy. I have seen guys taking their trucks in almost every weekend for something, or worse, being towed once a week. That warranty doesn’t do much good when you work 5 days a month and are in the shop for 20. The truck payments, insurance, licensing don’t stop just because the wheels do.

    People must not realize that the largest part of the price of anything is freight. Freight to get the raw material from the ground, freight to haul it to a manufacturer, freight to get it from the plant to the wholesaler, freight to get it from the warehouse to the retailer, and finally, more freight to get it from the retailer to the final destination.

  • WOW. We just realized that government interference isn’t good for industry?
    Oddly enough, the want-to-be bureaucrats that run our two biggest Trucking Associations in Canada keep inviting government in.
    Speed limiters – posted speed limit in Ontario has always been 100km/h on the 400 series highway – perhaps we should have just enforced it (cars and trucks alike) – instead the OTA lobbies for speed limiters…lol.
    Mandatory entry level training – Ontario already has an agency to ensure adequate training before licensing – A Public Service Cooperation called DriveTest. Perhaps our time would be better spent investigating why the current system isn’t working….lol.
    Electronic logs – we already have an agency in place to enforce the HOS regulations. Perhaps the MTO, OPP and local law authorities need to be held more accountable to uphold the regulations…lol.
    OTA, CTA and many of the other trucking Associations continue to support the Governments suppression of the industry. They keep introducing new regulations and laws on an already OVER-BURDENED INDUSTRY.

  • True enough Jason, enforce the laws already in place. Then tune up the bureaucrats, they wouldn’t be happy unless they are trying to tune up some imaginary problem. They are to often swayed by special interest groups that have no CLUE about what is going on.

    Some things are tragic, sure, take wheel off situations for instance. How often does it really happen? I have been in the business for 30 years and in my experience as a mechanic it has happened twice, and there was no horrific result and I was at a major fleet for a lot of that time.

    Yes, someone getting killed is bad, but if we used took same logic and applied it to everything there would be no stairs, step ladders, spoon, swimming pools, rope, Take your pick.

  • Jason….Is there a way you can run for some level of government? you’ve already got my vote. Every point you made is a good one, and most points are quite obvious to those inside this industry. However, this government is too busy with their heads up their — to recognize the obvious, much less react accordingly to the issues at hand.