What regulations are affecting truckers?
By: Phil Sneed
Government regulation is a contentious issue in any field, but the debate about oversight in the trucking industry can become particularly heated. Regulatory changes affect shipping prices for companies across the nation, but the leaders of these organizations might be unaware of what regulations have occurred and how those changes affect their daily expenses.
To fully understand how regulation in the trucking industry touches every part of the shipping channel, business owners should observe the legal changes that affect the cost of doing business every day. The tangled web of regulations makes it impossible to succinctly examine the situation, but a quick glance at some of the most pressing considerations and changes affecting drivers today should provide companies that regularly utilize shipping with a better grasp of how regulation impacts their bottom lines.
A dangerous job, but safety is a priority
Trucking is undeniably riskier than working in an office, but the industry has seen consistent safety improvements during the past several years. The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Transportation on the safety of the industry was released last summer. In the years between 2002 and 2012, the number of trucks involved in fatal crashes declined 17 percent, while the number of large trucks in injury crashes fell 18 percent.
"Fatal crashes decreased 17%."
These drops demonstrate the effectiveness of efforts by industry insiders to self-regulate and improve safety for all. Despite these encouraging statistics, government regulators have instituted new rules that alter how drivers can manage their time. These rules have the potential to create more safety concerns, increase delays and boost shipping costs.
The impact of hours of service
For decades, lawmakers have regulated the amount of time drivers can spend on the road during a shift. In the time cited by the DOT study, drivers were limited to working a set number of hours, but were not required to take breaks during that period. New rules instituted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2013 force drivers to rest for 30 minutes every 8 hours and continue to enforce other rules about time spent on and off duty.
These regulations are designed to fight fatigue and improve safety, but they may not be wholly effective. In fact, pushing breaks on drivers could lead to more safety issues. While the driver shortage receives substantial coverage in the national media, the lack of adequate truck parking is causing serious issues as well. Because drivers are forced to take more breaks than ever, they need to pull their rigs over and stop more often. Sadly, they don't have anywhere to safely park. The Wall Street Journal noted this puts drivers in danger and leads to truckers parking in empty lots and on highway entrance ramps.
Drivers were improving safety without these burdensome regulations, and now they are forced to risk their safety because of them. That issue aside, these rules take control away from drivers and create longer shipping times for companies that need to transport goods.
The next chapter
The march toward greater regulation will undoubtedly continue for some time, and the next battleground is focused on speed limiters for trucks on the highways, according to Fleet Owner. The news source reported on the debate surrounding electronic limiters that would prevent trucks from accelerating beyond 65 miles per hour. While that seems like an effective way to protect drivers from speeding-related crashes, it also introduces its own problems. Some trade groups noted the potential for increased accidents based on mismatched speeds between trucks and smaller vehicles that lack a limiter.
Regulation will continue to be part of the industry, and companies that rely on shipping should remain informed about the shifting landscape of rules that govern the transportation they rely on.