The constricting effects of US regulations on trucking productivity could leave the industry having to hire twice as many drivers by 2018 as it does today, just to offset productivity losses. But Noel Perry, senior consultant with FTR, said that wasn’t always the case.
From the early years of over-the-road trucking in the 1930s right through to the mid-90s, government regulations and policy actually increased trucking’s productivity by 150%. The hours-of-service restrictions introduced in 2004 marked the reversal, setting the tone for the regulations that have followed, which have required carriers to accomplish more with less.
During its State of Freight Webinar June 12, FTR said it is currently monitoring 21 regulations the US has on the books, which could each further restrict trucking productivity. Six have the potential to reduce the hiring pool (ie. CSA, health regulations, drug and alcohol database); 10 will increase turnover or make hiring less productive (ie. training, minimum insurance); and 10 will reduce operating productivity (ie. speed limiters, hours-of-service).
If all the regulations are enacted as planned, the trucking industry could have to double its hiring efforts by 2018, Perry noted.
“We are asking the industry to increase the number of people it hires by about double, so this is a very big deal. Even if our quantification is off by 30%, it doesn’t change the conclusion,” Perry said.
Historically, Perry noted, the trucking industry has been unable to quickly ramp up its hiring when spikes in demand have occurred, resulting in a shortage of trucking capacity.
When the proposed regulations – including the mandatory use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) – come into force later this decade, Perry said “It will be an unprecedented assault on the hiring capability of the industry.”
This will also strain the trucking industry’s ability to provide capacity, he noted.
With capacity utilization likely to remain in the 98-99% range, Perry said any short-term shocks (such as the extreme weather seen this past winter) will have an immediate impact on trucking supply.
If the economy strengthens as the impending regulations come into effect, Perry warned the industry may have trouble meeting capacity demands. If a recession occurs, the choking effect caused by the onset of new regulations may be abated temporarily.
FTR hosts regular Webinars on the State of Freight. To find out more, visit www.ftrintel.com.
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