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US fleets fear HoS reduction, driver shortage

DALLAS, Texas -- There are several issues weighing heavily on the minds of US fleet executives who were speaki...


DALLAS, Texas — There are several issues weighing heavily on the minds of US fleet executives who were speaking at the Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference this week in Dallas, and they may not be what you’d expect.

Trucking industry leaders at the event seemed satisfied that freight volumes, and even trucking rates, were rebounding. What really concerned them was a growing sense that US hours-of-service will soon be reduced and that a driver shortage of unprecedented proportions will soon arrive.

US hours-of-service rules have been under review since late last year, when a coalition of special interest groups convinced the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration they were unsafe, even though highway safety has improved under the existing rules.

Fleet managers in attendance seemed resigned to the fact that allowable daily driving hours will be reduced by one or two hours as early as this fall and the 34-hour restart provision could even be stretched to 48 hours if lobbyists have their way.

“The hours-of-service rewrite is a political football and it will have nothing to do with good science,” said ATA chairman Tommy Hodges. “It’s a political football that is going to get passed over our heads. There’s a good possibility we will lose one to two hours of driving time and there’s a strong possibility we’ll lose the 34-hour restart.”

Losing two hours of driving time per day would effectively reduce truck productivity by 18-19%, Hodges pointed out.

Truckers cannot afford a productivity loss, especially when it’s likely to coincide with a massive shortage of drivers. Consider that capacity is already tight and that CSA 2010 could make as many as 200,000 current drivers unemployable and you have a perfect storm brewing – a capacity crunch so severe that it could mean freight sits undelivered on shippers’ docks.

“CSA 2010 is going to be a catastrophic event,” said Leo Suggs, chairman and CEO of Greatwide Logistics Services, which has an ambitious plan to hire 800-1,000 owner/operators by the end of the year. “If you couple the reduction in hours-of-service to the driver shortage today and then to CSA, then I think we have a crisis situation shaping up from a capacity standpoint. I think the magnitude of that will depend on how quickly the federal government recognizes we have a problem and figures out some way to delay or mitigate the impact (of the regulatory changes).”

Other fleet executives speaking on the same panel were less apocalyptic about CSA 2010, however they agreed a driver shortage combined with a loss of productivity should hours-of-service be revised could be a devastating one-two punch.

“The availability of drivers is going to be extremely tough and we’re going to hear about freight that doesn’t move,” said Max Fuller, co-chairman of US Xpress. He predicted a shortage of drivers in the hundreds of thousands and says “freight will be left on the dock and it’s going to be a big game-changer for the shipper.”

It will also be a game-changer for carriers, the panelists agreed, and will require trucking company managers to change their traditional ways of thinking.

“This industry historically thinks in terms of miles,” said Tom Kretsinger, president and CEO of American Central Transport. “I think one of the key measures will have to be time. What percentage of this limited time can we put to good revenue use for us and the driver.”

Kretsinger said when his fleet deployed electronic on-board recorders, it was surprised to learn just how much of its drivers’ on-duty hours were not spent productively. Trucking companies will have to better manage their drivers’ on-duty time and that may mean fines for shippers who hold up drivers and equipment.

“As shippers compete for scarce trucks, I think this will add a new dimension to rates,” Kretsinger said.

US Xpress’s Fuller agreed.

“In the past, we used to think about miles and productivity based on miles,” he said. “We’re going to have to really think about time – the driver’s time and the utilization of that equipment – and factor in a cost to a customer that is tying that truck up.”

Greatwide’s Suggs agreed fleets will have to strive towards better equipment utilization and that could mean a heavier reliance on intermodal or finding creative ways to eliminate empty miles.

“We won’t be able to afford to have the truck sitting in the rest area with the driver in the sleeper for 10-12 hours,” he said.

A reduction in legal working hours for truckers will also impact the average length of haul, Kretsinger noted.

“Between CSA 2010 and EOBRs and probably hours-of-service changes, the definition of a one-day haul is going to change,” he said. American Central Transport’s average length of haul is 600 miles and all its pricing and driver pay rates are based on the assumption that delivery can be completed in one day.

“I think people really need to keep an eye on that and work with it as this thing progresses,” he warned.

 

 

 


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9 Comments » for US fleets fear HoS reduction, driver shortage
  1. Al Goodhall says:

    “Kretsinger said when his fleet deployed electronic on-board recorders, it was surprised to learn just how much of its drivers’ on-duty hours were not spent productively.”

    “We’re going to have to really think about time – the driver’s time and the utilization of that equipment – and factor in a cost to a customer that is tying that truck up.” – Max Fuller

    “Losing two hours of driving time per day would effectively reduce truck productivity by 18-19%, Hodges pointed out.” – Truck productivity? Those trucks don’t move by themselves Mr ATA Chairman.

    Drivers have been eating these inefficiencies within the system for decades. Interesting that these executives are so far removed from the front line that they are now only recognizing the problem because it will be showing up on the bottom lines of their P&L statements and not hidden in the front pockets of drivers and their families. Sorry to be so cynical but this is standard MO for big companies and frankly I think it sucks. Cry me a river fellas.

  2. meslippery says:

    Al I agree with you in most case,s the driver was expected to eat
    the delay.
    In my case I worked by the hour for that reason.
    I would say wake me up when you have me loaded, so a 4hr nap and away
    I go with paper log showing 1hr load.
    Job got done, I had a rest and did not loose money. (Just home time).
    But all this great new technolagy that carriers bought into are coming
    back to haunt them.

  3. Titan_bob says:

    What usually happens in the USA drifts north to us Canadians..I think the haulage industry may indeed be forced into more single day trips and less long haul much the way UPS or FEDex does it…Drivers will demand to be paid by the hour instead of the old school by the mile, drivers will not want to go into the US because their mileage will drastically drop if HOS drops as well..This is a bigger problem facing North America than I think most have thought about, rates will have to go up to compensate for less miles a day and in the end the consumer pays more to make up for freight rates. Finally its a drivers market out there and they deserve to be paid for the WORK they do…Keep the rubber side down guys…

  4. Al Goodhall says:

    I looks like the whole issue of fair compensation for the time we invest – translated as pay by the hour instead of the mile – is not going to go away.

    That’s a good thing.

  5. ups driver (2stroke) says:

    Our company has taken the 11 hour rule and ran with it .In my region alone they have cut the workforce by 50%.The best thing they can do is put those recording devices in that way they can look at other ways to save money like idle time and fuel loss and keeping those unsafe speeders off the hwy.
    The lower time will be welcome to put our drivers back on the road and keep the road safe for everyone to get back to their families safe.

  6. supertrucker102 says:

    i agree with the above statement. these company execs. are noe just realizing how much down time is involved with the shippers and receivers. i suppose they only noticed now because its gonna cost them now. and by the way those who say the csa is gonna be a great thing are probly the ones who never drove but can make those decisions that affect the drivers and their careers. i hope this bites all of you in the butt. and then well see how important us drivers really are. thank you for reading

  7. Sunny says:

    Hi Guys! CSA is doing their job but the problem is about those companies who push their drivers to run beyond hos. If some one refuse the another one accepts. There should be a check on those companies also.

  8. Sunny says:

    Hi Guys! CSA is doing their job but the problem is about those companies who push their drivers to run beyond hos. If some one refuse the another one accepts. There should be a check on those companies also.

  9. ups driver (2stroke) says:

    Hey guys everyone acts like this 10 hour rule is going to devestate everyone.Guess what Bush and his eleven hour junk in 2004 pushed corperate greed and unsafe driver greed.We have guys that commmute anywhere from an hour to hour and a half to work ,then they drive another 11 every day.If you dont think they are a danger think again and hope none of your family is on the interstate when they are on the road.And lets be honest all companys have a plan for the ten hour rule,its the same plan companys had for years before the greed set in a couple of years ago.

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