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US trucking titans unleash their wrath over pending HoS regulations

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- A looming driver shortage, which could prove the “worst we’ve seen” is already manifesting in a significant drop of applicants for driving jobs and enrolments for driving schools, according to executives...

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — A looming driver shortage, which could prove the “worst we’ve seen” is already manifesting in a significant drop of applicants for driving jobs and enrolments for driving schools, according to executives from three large US fleets.

“We think a lot of drivers have left the industry to go into construction and other sectors and that is going to intensify,” Max Fuller, chairman and CEO of U.S. Express Enterprises said during a panel entitled Repaving Truckload’s Road to Success at the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual conference. Fuller said he has seen a 25% drop in job applications over the past month.

Fuller was joined on the panel by Derek Leathers, president and CEO, Werner Enterprises, and Dan England, chairman of C.R. England. The session was moderated by Lana Batts, co-president of Driver iQ.

Leathers confirmed he has also seen a double digit decrease in applications since last year and noted enrolment in driving schools is also on the decline.

“I think the driver shortage is upon us,” Leathers told the large crowd in attendance adding that he is seeing million-mile drivers throwing up their hands and throwing way the keys.

Leathers said it’s critical for carriers to keep raising with shippers the issue of the driver shortage, and the higher wages necessary to attract newcomers to the industry.  The fact that some private fleets are paying 20-30% more than for-hire carriers is a signal that shippers understand the need for better pay, he said.

But England, who has been a member of TCA for 35 years, wondered if there is really anything new about these developments.

“We’ve been having these exact same discussions for all these years. We’ve talked about getting more money to our drivers and I think we’ve largely failed,” he said pointing out that when inflation is taken into account, drivers today may actually be making less than they did in the 1980s.

Fuller countered that unless shippers are willing to accept higher rates, it’s difficult for carriers to raise salary levels.

The impact of pending new Hours of Service regulations will further damage the situation all three agreed. Fuller said older drivers may decide to retire early because they feel the new hours of service, which require more rest and allow less driving time, amount to “harassment” and less pay.

Moderator Batts wondered how carriers plan and manage their operations during times of uncertainty over how hours of service will be dealt with in the future.

“We have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C,” acknowledged Fuller. “You don’t know which contingency it’s going to be but you have to be ready for it,” Fuller said.

Leathers said he is planning based on the new hours of service legislationbeing ready as of July 1. He believes there is as high as a 70% chance this will happen. All three executives considered as ridiculous the government’s refusal to postpone hours of service legislation until the current court challenge of that legislation has been decided .

“It’s so unreasonable to take that sort of direction,” England said.

Leathers argued it’s illogical to change hours of service without first doing a better job at enforcing the current rules.

Last month we reported that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rejected a request from the American Trucking Associations to postpone implementation of the new US hours-of-service rules.

As a result, significant changes will go into effect as scheduled July 1, barring a court ruling to the contrary before then. A US Court will hear arguments against the new rules in March. Annette Sandberg, a former FMCSA administrator and now principal of TransSafe Consulting, said carriers shouldn’t count on a delay or the courts overturning the new rules. Sandberg said carriers should begin training drivers on the implications of the new rules now, so that they’re prepared for the roll-out in July.

If the new law goes into effect, come July 1 drivers in the US will only be able to use the 34-hour reset provision once in a seven-day period, they will have to take off two overnight periods between 1 and 5 a.m. during that reset. In addition drivers will require a 30-minute, off-duty rest break within their first eight hours on-duty, limiting their total on-duty time to 13.5 hours.

Fuller believes the new legislation could cause an 8-10% loss in productivity.

“The more efficient that you are, the more of a hit that you are going to take,” Fuller said.

Leathers’ estimate was about the same but he said he hoped that could be worked down to a 4-5% loss through fine tuning. He explained that it’s somewhat of an unknown at this point whether there is driving time in the system not being properly utilized because drivers do have more time.

Is an hours of service surcharge to cover potential losses an option?

“Clearly the cost has to be passed along,” England argued. “I don’t think it will be as an hours of service surcharge though. It will be another one of those things we will have to be constantly fighting about.”

If there is one positive to the new hours of service legislation it’s that it will be “the final nail in the coffin” for excess capacity, according to Leathers.

“If these (loss of efficiency) numbers are anywhere close to accurate, it will lock up capacity in a hurry,” Leathers said.

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7 Comments » for US trucking titans unleash their wrath over pending HoS regulations
  1. Gub says:

    When I sit and rad all these aticles about driver shortages, I can’t help but laugh.. If this industry would just go back to treating the drivers they’ve had for years with respect and if the governments would stop treating all truck drivers like criminals and start treating them like adults by stopping the constant flow of regulations down our throats every year when they themselves admit they have no idea if any of these regs will even work.

    Also, my biggest pet peeve is with load brokers and shippers. If someone comes in with a bit so low and makes you wonder how they can possibly do the job safely at the price quoted… Your answer is they can’t!!! I have seen far too many small firms here in the Brampton Ontario area that put four guys in a truck sometimes when not all are licensed drivers.. They lowball for the business by doing a trip or two for free while have non licensed drivers on the road. That practice must be stopped before this industry is going to get any respect back from the general public, older drivers, who have been screwed so many times, they are still spinning around.

    Information is the best tool.. Unfortunatly there is a constant lock on the doors of government, carriers, load brokers and shippers when it comes to this. Until this attitude towards the main part of this industry , THE DRIVER , changes to one of respect , you will have this problem for the next 100 years !!

  2. tradewind4u says:

    These large company’s that buy trucks, trailers, tires, fuel, in blocks, self-insure,
    and have lobbyist in DC preaching their cause, which is more money in their pockets
    through stiffer regulations on smaller carriers, they preach safety yet they have the most unqualified drivers in the industry. And THESE TYCOONS DON’T CARE! Most of them never have even drove a truck much less maintained one themselves. They talk like they care, they don’t. THEY ARE WHAT HAS DRIVEN THE RATES DOWN TO WHERE THEY ARE TODAY. So cheap that a driver is better off to work at wal-mart at least working there they get home at night instead of being made to believe they are going to be. Had friends that use to haul hay cubes out of Utah for around 1.80 per mile. One of these high stepping tycoons offered to do for .80 per mile. since they were bouncing out of Utah empty anyway back to LA. This is just one of many examples that could be given. yet these tycoons sit around and blame shippers for the cheap rates. What a joke.

  3. Adrian Vecchiarelli says:

    I agree that these big outfits are the cause of the lousy rates being charged. With the current hours of service, instead delivering loads in the allowed time frame, they tried to stuff more loads in less time.

    And if it is the shippers that are not willing to pay.(In some instances that is the case) Then maybe trucking companies should shut down for 1 week across the country and brokers should just outright refuse runs with poor rates.

  4. Hunter says:

    I have been driving for 17 years the last 5 have been as the night driver of our husband and wife team. I can say with certainty that the new 30 min break rule will cause problems. There are never any parking spots after 9 pm. Teams are becoming more common, night drivers will have to stop on shoulders of the road or other dangerous places to comply with this break. Driver like me who run straight through will be adding 30 mins to their day increasing the road hazards with every second. I have also realized a decrease in my individual take home pay over the past several years because I cover less ground each time new hos laws are passed. I am seriously considering giving up O.T.R. For a local job since the money will be comparable.

  5. mike says:

    I’ve been an owner/operator for 23 years and i’ve heard this stuff so many times i’m deaf to it now, what you guys are saying is all you’ll do is talk about it and complain and the industry and the goverment have always known that

  6. Tony Godsoe says:

    All of the above comments are factual. Companies give cheap rates because they have always been able to get driver;s cheap, No wages, cheat the driver;s treat him like garbage and here is your shipment to the reciever, And to the driver keep going cannott sleep cannott eat cannott shower and here is your pay maybe this week, $100. and a $500. cell bill which we do not pay. Get going the company needs to make money while you and your family starve and you get to drive a big truck, Tony

  7. Kevin says:

    Another attempt by some US Politician with his head in the sand so deep he will never see daylight. This is the most ridiculous rule anyone sensible person has ever heard of. The reset is stupid enough but the 1/2 hour break is just a time waster, driver drives for 15 minutes then could conceivably take a 1/2 break right away, and be good to go. WOW what a great idea.

    Deregulation started the downward spiral of pay for drivers, as it did the downward spiral on rates. Not too many companies out there with any integrity whatsoever when it comes to rates and or rate cutting. Even the savings are not passed on to the final consumer, but the Traffic Manager thinks he is a star by reducing the Transportation budget of his company by 3%. Take a closer look, at equipment drivers driver pay Maintenance and see what you really saved.


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