3 Major Regulations Trucking Companies Face in 2017

The trucking industry is facing a serious onslaught of new regulations just as a business-friendly president takes office later this month. What will that mean? There are both positive and negative trends on the horizon.

Among the positive are President-elect Donald Trump’s state predilection for cutting burdensome regulations and a goal to implement a trillion-dollar infrastructure program, which will be a huge stimulus for moving supplies, equipment and materials around the country on heavy-duty rigs. Another positive is the continued growth of the online retail revolution, which is sending goods all over the country by truck and other forms of transportation.

The negatives? Fuel prices could be going up as OPEC nations reach agreements and countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran agree to curtail oil flows. The industry is also facing a huge driver shortage, which is projected to only get worse in 2017 as drivers age out into retirement and new rules discourage hiring and training.

Here are 3 major regulations looming for the industry this year. Each has the potential to seriously add costs to fleet managers’ bottom lines. Taken together, they represent a triple threat that will need to be addressed every step of the way in 2017.

          1. Greenhouse Gas Rules

In August, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued new greenhouse gas standards that will force manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions from a wide range of commercial trucks, buses and cargo vans in three phases.

“Phase 2 includes technology-advancing, performance-based standards that will phase in over the long-term, with initial standards for most vehicles and engines commencing in model year 2021, increasing in stringency in model year 2024, and culminating in model year 2027 standards,” according to the EPA memo.

The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration effort is also designed to improve overall fuel economy that could lead to a hefty burden on the trucking industry. Trucking companies can expect an increase in the cost of tractors and trailers, as manufacturers work to meet new standards.

The EPA, however, claims that companies can recoup the extra expense with fuels savings within two years. Additionally, fuel-saving benefits could ultimately be passed to consumers through reduced transportation cost. Trucking companies need to make plans to track fuel savings to ensure they are recovering their costs and capitalizing on the benefits for operations.

          2. Electronic Logging Devices

Another looming set of regulations concern the implementation of Electronic Logging Devices. The ELD mandate will transform the way truck drivers maintain driving logs through automation. The mandate is not effective until December 2017, but companies should be getting ready for this right now. If your company has already implemented an ELD system, make sure it complies with the regulations or you’re looking at lost time and wasted dollars.

The big cost here is the ELD equipment. But a potentially larger cost is training your drivers and fleet managers on this technology while ensuring it doesn’t disrupt your business flow. Proposed hours-of-service rules, limiting drivers to 73-hour 7-day work weeks, can easily be tracked through ELDs and works in tandem with the ELD mandate. The accountability of drive time that is tracked through an ELD system will leave trucking companies with only one option — compliance by their drivers and fleet managers.

          3. Entry Level Driver Training Rules

Finally, there’s the Entry-Level Driver Training Rule. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA) has proposed an increase in training for truck drivers at the very time that companies cannot find enough qualified applicants.

Implementation and compliance of the proposed FMCSA rule could cost up to $5.6 billion over the course of a ten-year period, including expenses such as tuition and compliance audits, experts say. In-house training programs could be required, which would leave many companies scrambling for resources to comply.

Several groups recently have petitioned the FCMSA to reconsider provisions of the new requirements, which the agency issued on Dec. 7. The final rule does not include a requirement for 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training for new drivers. Earlier last year, FCMSA had proposed a minimum of 10 hours of training on a “driving range” as well as an unspecified amount of time driving on a public road. The final rule also requires no behind-the-wheel standard for student drivers. Instead, it points them to a skills tests administered by state licensing agencies.

Critics say that the determination of whether a student driver has the skill set required to operate safely on public roadways is “entirely in the hands of the instructor.”

The petition to reconsider was filed by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Truck Safety Coalition and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways on Dec. 21.

“The performance standard in the Final Rule does not ensure that CDL applicants who can pass the state CDL skills test will spend any time actually operating a CMV on public roads with an experienced instructor encountering safety critical situations,” the petition states. “This type of real-world training and experience that CDL candidates need, and that several bodies of experts have determined should be required, in order to enhance the ability of CDL applicants to operate a truck-trailer combination vehicle safely and to avoid crashes. Instead, the Final Rule does nothing more than ensure that future CDL candidates will acquire only the most rudimentary skill set needed to pass the most basic of maneuvering tests, as has always been the case, while depriving both future CDL applicants, and the traveling public of, developing better trained, more skilled novice CMV drivers.”

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, told HDT TruckingInfo.com that “it’s absurd that the required amount of hours behind the wheel training is zero. Hairdressers and barbers have a minimum. Pilots have a minimum. It’s totally insulting to professional truckers that have dedicated their lives to driving safely and sharing the highways with others.”