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The rapid pace of change

Remember the old adage "May you live in interesting times?" It's frequently alleged to be Chinese in origin, but there are those who dispute that source. The point is that at first blush it seems to b...




Remember the old adage “May you live in interesting times?” It’s frequently alleged to be Chinese in origin, but there are those who dispute that source. The point is that at first blush it seems to be a form of well-wishing, but in fact it is more often considered to be a curse.

Consider the last couple of years in the trucking industry: if you like rapid change, you have surely been enjoying yourself, but if you are among those who prefer a more leisurely pace that allows the time to adjust, the last few years may have been a nightmare for you. Interesting times indeed.

Recently, the pace of change was the topic of a discussion among a small group of industry people. We took turns contributing to the list of things in this industry that had changed dramatically over a short period of time, and as the list grew it became apparent that we had all become almost oblivious to the speed of change, and had simply learned to adapt.

The list that developed out of the conversation, although not all-encompassing, served as reminder of just how trucking has been impacted over the past couple of years. At the risk of dredging up bad memories, let me point to just a few of the points that were raised.

The most significant impetus for change we agreed was the recession.

As freight dried up, carriers were forced to park trucks, lay off drivers, and begin to seriously consider ways of reducing costs, or controlling those that couldn’t be eliminated altogether. In many fleets this drove a complete re-think of all aspects of the business. Private or for-hire, carriers began to examine ways to curtail costs and make difficult decisions concerning what freight they wanted to haul and what they should step aside from.

The tentacles from the recession reached out and touched every aspect of the trucking industry from OEMs, to carriers, to shippers, to employees. The title of a biography of Jim Morrison of the late ’60s rock band The Doors springs to mind –No One Here Gets Out Alive. A bit overstated perhaps, but there was, and to some extent still is that feeling.

Coupled with the economic woes, in the last few years we also dealt with the introduction of emissions-friendly engine modifications -the first round in 2007 followed in 2010 by the next. While OEMs tried hard to explain the impact to the industry (and many presented their case at PMTC conferences), there remained an air of mystery and rumour concerning escalating engine costs and declining fuel efficiency. Fleet managers and buyers had decisions to make and not a lot of information or history to consider.

Continuing through the list, Ontario has been busy introducing change. The long overdue pilot program for LCVs was one of the more welcome initiatives, while the retesting of commercial drivers aged 65+ caused turmoil and anger in the trucking community. Opinions on speed limiters wound up somewhere in between the two extremes, while a modernized facility audit has met with some acceptance.

The LCV pilot was almost universally applauded by the trucking community, not so much by the railroad groupies. A good deal of planning and thought went in to the development of the pilot, and that effort should ensure its success.

We are still dealing with the fallout from the 65+ re-testing policy. Some very good drivers voluntarily downgrade their licence or retired from the industry rather than submit to the re-test. We’re still not convinced this was necessary and continue to work with the Ministry to modify the requirements.

The topic of speed limiters has been battered around enough that it doesn’t need further explanation. Prior to the legislation, many fleets already controlled speed as part of a safety program, others adapted afterward. No statistics have been published that would indicate whether the legislation has actually improved safety. For the purpose of this column, let’s just say that it was a change that caused a lot of turmoil.

The hands-free communications bandwagon has been jumped on by almost every jurisdiction, despite studies that opine that it is not the holding on to a communications device that causes the distraction, but the conversation itself. But, once again it was a change to which we needed to adapt.

Looking forward a little, CSA 2010 and its impact on safety records is hovering over carriers that operate in the US. This new enforcement and compliance model should allow for early intervention by FMCSA and its state partners in order to address safety deficiencies before crashes occur.

There is lots of detail available on CSA 2010, and for carriers that emphasize safety in their operations there may not be a great deal to be concerned about -but if yours is one of the other types of carriers, it may be a different story. Either way, it’s new and if you operate in the US you need to know about it.

And of course I haven’t begun to detail all of the changes, implemented or under consideration, that have affected the trucking community (ie. mandatory EOBRs), but I’m almost out of space. It was just an innocent conversation among a group of friends, but it was pretty revealing.

-The Private Motor Truck Council is the only national association dedicated to the private trucking community. Direct comments and questions to trucks@pmtc.ca.


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