With the government shutdown on one coast, the stranglehold of emissions regulations on the other, and a look at trucking efforts to thwart drug smugglers, trucking's been in the general media this past week:

WSJ on Trucking and the Shutdown

Over at the "Business Intelligence" blog from the Wall Street Journal, they asked WSJ reporters for a look at various industries will feel the impact of Washington closing up shop.

When it comes to trucking, they said, the uncertainty caused by the wrangling in Washington is definitely having an effect:

For the third straight fall the industrial sector is dialing back in response to a federal stalemate over the budget or the debt ceiling. Last year, manufacturers were on pins and needles over the looming federal fiscal cliff caused by automatic reductions in federal spending without a budget deal. The year before that, the extended debate over raising the federal debt limit brought industrial activity and the rest of the U.S. economy to nearly a standstill.

This year a stalemate over the budget and the debt ceiling threaten to run the U.S. economy aground.

“Normally, government is incrementally positive for economic growth, but it’s been a fairly substantial drag on growth” lately, said Kenny Vieth, president of ACT, which forecasts demand for heavy duty commercial trucks (which is not going up).

Read more at "Business and the Shutdown: Industrials Will Not Keep on Trucking."

'More freight, but fewer trucks to move it?'

Trucking and the economy also made CNBC. In an article that actually links back to our own coverage of American Trucking Associations' Bob Costello, CNBC points out that trucking statistics are one gauge of the health of the economy. It notes that while tonnage is up, truckers have not made it a priority to add new equipment to fleets.

Obviously a lack of trucks could pose a problem for a recovering economy. if goods aren't moving to where people can buy them, well, they don't get bought.

Until, of course, economics kicks in—like higher wages for drivers and higher rates for trucks.

"I'm not suggesting fruits and veggies will rot," Costello said in an email response to questions. "But when the crunch happens, the pendulum will move towards carriers. As rates then go up, it will be a little easier to increase capacity."

Read more at CNBC.

'California Truckers Say They're Choking on State's Emission Rules'

In this article in Forbes, Californiat truck operators take their case to the national press about the expense and difficulty of compliance with rules issued by the state’s Air Resources Board.

In at least one case, industry charges, a diesel soot filter mandated by CARB caused a major fire in Washington state, leading to the destruction of nearly 4,000 acres of forest and grassland.

Forbes explains to its readers that CARB is phasing in a requirement that all trucks over 26,000 pounds GVW made between 2000 and 2004 be fitted with diesel particulate filters, with fines for non-compliance ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 a day.

A spokesman for the California Trucking Association tells Forbes that DPFs don’t integrate well with older vehicle models, have been known to shut down engines and result in increased downtime.

However, a CARB spokesman responded that the DPF suspected of causing the fire was immediately pulled from the program, and that in cases where a filter causes engine shutdown, it's almost always because truckers aren't folowing the recommended maintenance procedures.

What CARB really wants is for truckers to scrap their older models and buy newer, cleaner-burning vehicles. In the meantime, operators are faced with a cost of $15,000 or more for each filter installed on an existing unit. Many older trucks aren’t worth more than that. CTA estimates industry’s total cost of compliance at $1 billion a year.

Read the full article on the Forbes website.

Trucking Companies Try To Prevent Contraband Cargo

Further south, public radio's "Here and Now" program took a look at how trucking companies and enforcement officials work to try to keep drugs from being smuggled across the border from Mexico into the U.S.

JILL REPLOGLE: This is the control room of a cross-border trucking company. Dispatchers spend their days talking over the radio with drivers and poring over computer screens constantly monitoring the whereabouts and activities of their 150 trucks.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We got it on the map. Every time the driver is moving, is standing by, stopping (unintelligible), stuff like that, we - exactly we know where the truck is at.

REPLOGLE: This is the director of operations for the company based in Otay Mesa, south of San Diego, smack up against the U.S.-Mexico border fence. The company also have offices and a truck yard on the Mexico side of the border. The company president asked that we not identify the firm or its employees out of security concerns.

The company is meticulous about security measures. All of its trucks are equipped with GPS monitors. Exact routes for the trucks are established from a warehouse in Mexico to the customer in the U.S., and software tells dispatchers if a truck goes off that route or stops for more than two minutes. The trucking firm even hires private investigators to follow trucks at random to make sure they're not involved in anything illicit.

Read (or listen) to the entire story from Here and Now.


Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

Editor in Chief

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

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Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

View Bio