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On the Road Again – The Future of Trucking

If you bought it—a truck brought it. Over three million Americans bring goods the “last mile,” transporting products from our nation’s ports, manufacturing facilities, warehouses, and distribution centers to the doors of consumers, retailers, and end-users. Common carrier trucking companies generate close to $100 billion dollars per year and make up 12% of all registered vehicles.

From gas stations to grocery stores, refineries to refrigerators, the daily delivery of a massive volume of goods depends on fleets of over 1.7 million heavy truck (capacity greater than 26,001 lbs GVW), 1 million light/delivery truck drivers, and another half a million sales and operating forces.

Truck drivers face a multitude of difficulties, both personal and professional. The average trucker drives 60 hours a week, and spends 3-4 weeks on the road before returning home for a day or two. Driving a truck is a physically demanding occupation, and truckers have strict regulations regarding their hours worked, hours off-duty, and maintenance of documentation. Adding to long hours and physical stresses of sitting alert in a stationary position, truckers are far more likely to suffer work-related injuries, accidents and deaths while on the job.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010, CSA 2010, is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce commercial motor vehicle (CMV)-related crashes, injuries and fatalities. It introduces a new enforcement and compliance model that allows FMCSA and its State partners to contact a larger number of carriers earlier in order to address safety problems before crashes occur.

CSA 2010’s major objectives are not necessarily intended to target specific companies or drivers, but are aimed improving the safety record and responsiveness of the entire industry. Martin Holmes from Holmes Trucking in Jackson, MS noted that “in the past the penalty for an accident or a major incident on the road was directed to the carrier. Now, CSA 2010 is shifting that penalty to the driver. This will have the effect of taking some of the drivers off of the road that may need to be.

CSA 2010’s effects on rates and services are hard to quantify, however there is general agreement that rates will rise, and companies—especially smaller ones—will have to adjust their services in order to stay competitive. David Kennedy of Canal Cartage suggested that regional rates, for smaller carriers could rise to allow organizations to attract, train, and retain drivers that consistently met the standards required for CSA 2010. This means that the costs of moving freight between Dallas—San Antonio—Houston could see a sharp adjustment.

The rise in cost of regional movement could easily result in the expansion and establishment of drop-and-pick distribution centers that would push trucking companies into either moving as long-haul truckers or as “last –mile” service providers. The cost adjustments could also see decreased waiting time subsidies, a drastic decrease or even elimination of drayage allowances, and the increase of open-market auctions for movement orders.

by Patrick Seeba, GHPB

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