Drivers

A Trio of Trucking Resolutions

Three things I'd like to see in 2013

January 2013, TruckingInfo.com - Feature

by Deborah Lockridge, Editor in Chief - Also by this author

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Lose weight. Exercise more. Spend less. Quit smoking. Drink less. Get organized. Hug your kids.

Yes, it's that time of year again. Here are some 2013 New Year's resolutions I'd like to see.

For Congress: Fix Highway Funding

How many collapsing and functionally obsolete bridges does it take for Congress to do something about highway funding? How many independent commissions and studies does it take for elected officials on both sides of the aisle to have the political will to raise the fuel tax and take the first steps toward a miles-based user fee?

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The last highway bill had been expired for nearly three years before Congress was able to reach a compromise. The result, last summer's MAP-21 highway bill, only gets us to next year. Unless we want another three years of limbo, Congress better get crackin.'

There's simply no way around the fact that we need to raise more money. The federal fuel tax hasn't gone up since 1993. We'd need to be paying 39 cents per gallon of diesel instead of 24.4 cents just to make up for inflation.

Making matters worse, highway construction costs have risen more than inflation, and vehicles are generally using less fuel today, thanks to more fuel-efficient cars and trucks and hybrids and alternative fuels.

Because of the latter concern, some believe we need to move to a user fee based on vehicle miles traveled rather than number of gallons of fuel purchased. The DOT last year even proposed a VMT project, but it was shot down by the Obama administration.

For Carriers: Treat Drivers Right

The economy may not have recovered as robustly as we had hoped, but we're nevertheless seeing high turnover at truckload carriers.

 

The American Trucking Associations' most recent numbers show the annualized linehaul driver turnover rate at large truckload fleets at more than 100% for the second straight quarter. The churn at smaller truckload carriers rose to a five-year high.

At last fall's ATA management conference, Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst at ACT Research, said, "If you have 100% driver turnover, finding drivers is not the problem, retaining drivers is the problem."

The driver shortage is projected to get worse, not better. And although pay is a major concern, most drivers leave because they felt they weren't being treated right.

Take steps this year to make sure everyone in your organization who has any contact with drivers understands these are people, a vital part of the team – not an optional plug-and-play accessory for the truck.

For the FMCSA: Fix CSA

There's a whole litany of projects the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration needs to work on this year, but there are two major ones it should make a resolution to accomplish – the sooner the better. Both would make carriers a whole lot happier with the agency's Compliance, Safety, Accountability program.

1. Address the issue of crash accountability. 

Carriers are being dinged in the CSA's Safety Measurement System for crashes that are not their fault.

The FMCSA was ready to announce a long-planned solution last spring when the safety advocates intervened, raising questions about using just the police accident report and a carrier's statement to determine crash accountability. Granted, accident reports are not always consistent, but couldn't they have tried a pilot program to see if there really was a problem?

2. Put a safety fitness rulemaking on the table.

The safety fitness rulemaking will formally incorporate the CSA data and rating system into a standard for determining if a carrier is fit to operate.

Without it, the agency is essentially using CSA to regulate the motor carrier community without actually going through the proposal-and-comment process of writing regulations.

Administrator Anne Ferro has said the proposal will be out this summer. Let's hope this resolution doesn't fade away like the one to quit eating sweets evaporates the minute the neighborhood Girl Scout knocks on the door with a box of Thin Mints.

  

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