Now (unbelievably!!) in our first week of 2012, it’s time to take stock and review 2011. It was, as always, an eventful year for the trucking and produce industries. In particular, there have been many factors that have affected truck movement, availability, and capacity. Most notably, 2011 will probably go down in history as what many are calling the turning point in the regulation of the trucking industry. Below, some of the key issues that we highlighted in 2011:

  • The Economy – the US economy continued its slow growth, but unemployment remained high. There was however, enough economic growth to allow for more trucks to be put back on the road, and for carriers to raise freight rates.
  • Truck Supply and Demand – larger and smaller carrier companies remain cautious about adding capacity during a time of driver shortage and high operating costs. Fleets are also streamlining their operations, and getting rid of freight that is no longer profitable, which puts further strain on the truck supply and demand issue. Many of the regulatory issues mentioned above that are already in place have also constrained truck supply and demand: there are simply not enough trucks on the road that match the regulatory requirements, and this is especially witnessed in California.
  • CARB/Drayage – UWC has been monitoring this regulatory issue for a few years now. California continues to monitor the emissions from Transportation Refrigeration Units operating in that state, and from port drayage trucks. Starting in January 2012, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have even gone a step further and are banning entry to port terminals for trucks that are older than 2006.
  • CSA – Another regulatory issue that we have been closely monitoring for a couple of years. CSA means increased monitoring of individual drivers and carrier companies. The BASICs that are measured: Fatigued Driving (HOS), Vehicle Maintenance, Cargo-Related, Crash Indicator, Unsafe Driving, Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances. CSA continues to put further pressure on carrier companies to follow regulations as the penalties for non-compliance are severe, a problem that is intensified by a lack of qualified drivers under this new system.
  • SmartWay – The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency has been working on various initiatives to reduce climate changing emissions. Various regulations are coming down the pipeline, which require heavy duty tractors to become more fuel efficient and SmartWay certified or retrofitted with SmartWay verified technologies. Some examples include the use of aerodynamic tractors and trailers and low rolling resistance tires. Read more regarding the SmartWay program and compliance dates here.
  • Hours-of-Service (HOS) – Yet another regulatory change was introduced in 2011; the new rule for HOS was officially introduced on Dec. 22, 2011. The FMCSA opted to keep the 11 hours of driving time and the 14 hour on duty time. Team drivers will also be allowed to count time in the jump seat as off duty as long as it is the 2 hours before or immediately following an eight hour time period in the sleeper. Starting on June 30, 2012, rest breaks will be mandated for drivers during the workday, if the driver has been on duty for 8 consecutive hours. The new regulation also mandates that the 34 hour re-start provision must include 2 overnight periods of 1am to 5am in the restart. Check back soon for more information on this new regulation!
  • EOBR – A proposed regulatory rule that is almost unanimously agreed to be both significant and costly requires all trucking companies to install Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBR), and do away with paper log books. This rule is still undergoing further review by the FMCSA, after successful challenges brought forth by the OOIDA (Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association).
  • MX/US Cross-Border Agreement – Back in March 2011, the United States and Mexican governments began preliminary proceedings to once again allow Mexican trucks to cross the border and deliver freight anywhere in the US, under provisions set out by the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The first Mexican truck crossed the US border on October 21, 2011.
  • Broker Legislation – unfortunately, unscrupulous brokerage practices are not an uncommon occurrence in the produce trucking industries. Proposed legislation has been put forth to congress in order to increase the bond required to operate a brokerage from the current $10,000 to $100,000. This is a regulation that UWC fully supports. Back in October 2011, UWC increased our TIA bond to $100,000!! Read all about that here.
  • Weather – Weather issues are a given in the North American Transportation industry. Oftentimes, we are the mercy of mother nature. Flooding, Winter Storm conditions, black ice, and crop freezes, are just some of the ways in which weather affects product supply, availability, and delivery times. Preparation, careful monitoring and planning remain the only way to minimize damages caused by weather related issues.
  • Diesel Prices – an ever-present issue, fuel continues to become more expensive. The cost of diesel rose more than 18% from January to December. Improving global economic activity pushed up the cost of crude oil. There are many ways that carriers can help to reduce their operating costs by improving their fuel efficiencies. Read all about that topic here.
  • Social Media – the new way to connect! Across industries, social media continues to gain popularity; drivers can stay connected while out on the road by using a myriad of social networking sites. In addition, apps are being added daily to all major smart phone provider systems to make it easier to drivers to not only stay connected to family, work, and friends, but also to improve operating efficiencies. Stay tuned for more on this topic in the coming months! And remember to follow us on Twitter, and like us of Facebook!

Need more information on any of the topics covered here? Search our blog to find out more. So, what were your experiences from 2011?

Looking forward to what 2012 has to bring!!!!

References cited:
2011: A Year of Industry Expectations Met and Unmet. Daniel P. Bearth, Senior Features Writer. Transport Topics. Accessed on Dec 30, 2011.

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