Spring is beckoning drivers of all kinds to hit the open road. The shortage in professional truck drivers, however, is expected to continue, keeping capacity tight to well into the year and beyond, according to trucking industry prognosticators. Motor carrier companies will continue to beat the bushes for operators who are experienced and safety-conscious.
In other news of the road during the past month:
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) order mandating the use of electronic logging devices, which goes into effect in December, may make the driver shortage worse, some fleet operators worry. Concerns are that some experienced drivers may see it as an intrusion into their work, causing them to quit. There is a two-year compliance window, however, which could ease the drivers into the new system.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule on Safety Fitness Determination, which was proposed in January, will contain a fixed measure that will be published and that will let carriers know directly what their safety target is. An official of the organization said in early April that the rule will set a bar, telling inspectors and carriers which carrier is fit to operate. This will replace the three-tiered federal system that, since 1982, has been using satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory rating.
Despite the squeeze in capacity, spot truckload volume was 11 percent higher during the week of April 2 and up by more than 40 percent in March versus February, according to surveys by the network of load boards of DAT Solutions. The numbers are a result of heightened freight movement prompted by the end of the first quarter. This increase was recorded despite the 5.5 percent shrinkage of truck capacity during the same time frame, meaning ever higher load-to-truck ratios.
In a surprising move, a number of major companies, in an effort to show their environmental bona fides, have written to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to ask that they speed up and tighten the latest round of GHG/MPG standards that have been proposed for commercial trucks. The 11 companies, which include Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia outfitters, represent 500 million freight miles driven each year. They are lobbying the government to cut the fuel consumption of heavy trucks by 40 percent by 2025, rather that the proposed 36 percent cut by 2027. They claim the stricter standards will result in savings of 21 cents per mile in 2040, or $25 billion in annual savings in addition to lowering carbon emissions that are influencing climate changes.