The trucking industry is changing rapidly. In the last year, we’ve seen ELDs become mandatory, capacity tighten, and rates on the Truckstop.com Load Board hit all-time highs. It’s an exciting time to be in the business, with many experts predicting further changes that are expected to lead to more money in the pockets of owner-operators.
For this report, Jeremy Feucht, Regulatory Affairs Analyst at Truckstop.com, gives us his predictions for the upcoming year, to help you prepare your business for what’s to come.
FMCSA Hours of Service Changes
In March 2018, at the Mid-America Trucking Show, Ray Martinez of the FMCSA participated in a Listening Session, where the primary discussion topics centered around electronic logging devices (ELDs) and hours of service (HOS).
“We may have latitude to look at hours of service,” Martinez noted. “If I can narrow it down on paper to some reasonable changes, [then there is a chance of change],” he said.1 Later in the session, he also said: “Let’s talk about hours of service because that is something I might have the ability to change.”
Although Ray Martinez is relatively new to the FMCSA, we’ve been hearing of the potential for changes to HOS regulations for a long time now. However, many industry leaders believe more data will need to be gathered and reviewed before changes are proposed.
“Whether it’s a change to the ever confusing split sleeper provision or an allowance for long detention stays, any fixes won’t occur until at least the end of 2018 after the ELD mandate exposes the multitudes of industry inefficiencies.” Jeremy Feucht, Truckstop.com2
Brokers Responsibility for Detentions Will Increase
Excessive detention times have been a problem for a long time. With the ELD Mandate now in place, there’s nowhere for shippers and receivers to hide their delay of drivers at the dock – it’s all provable via data.
Industry experts are predicting that brokers will be pushed into paying for detention time, if they want to keep owner-operators in their fleet. The brokers are then expected to pass those fees on to the shippers who do not comply with the unwritten two-hour limit.
Driver Coercion and Harassment Lawsuits
We’ve all heard of shippers putting pressure on drivers to fudge their logs. In fact, between 2009 to 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that 253 “whistleblower” complaints of coercion submitted by commercial vehicle drivers had merit.3
In 2015, Federal regulators issued a ruling that gives FMCSA enforcement power over shippers and brokers who coerce drivers to violate laws, including HOS limits. Since then, drivers have been encouraged to file complaints when they are being pressured. This includes drivers sitting in detention and being asked to move their vehicle, without sufficient hours left to find parking.
In the upcoming year, industry experts expect that lawsuits, targeting shippers and receivers, will begin to emerge. “My bet? A receiver is caught up in the mandate coercion/harassment policy and is sued before mid-year.” Jeremy Fuecht
Autonomous Trucking Regulations
With the shortage of truckers hovering around 50,0005 and some experts predicting that number will rise before it falls, it makes sense that economic forces are pushing the trucking industry hard towards driverless rigs. Autonomous trucks are already transporting for Frigidaire and Budweiser, and countless other projects are in the works.
However, as of 2017, only half of the united states had even begun to draft regulations for automated vehicles within their borders, according to the Center for Automotive Research.4
With increasing public concern due to public road tests, many experts agree that the DOT and Congress will be forced to create federal regulations surrounding autonomous trucking. Pair this up with lingering concerns over the death of a driver in a Tesla whose system didn’t recognize the semi in front of him last year, and you have a perfect storm for politicians to act.
Blockchain Enters the Industry
From alternative fuels to the ELD, someone’s always increasing industry efficiency. Blockchain, the main Bitcoin tracking method, is inherently resistant to modification of data and records detailed permanent timestamps of all data changes. For those reasons, it’s likely desirable to executives in Security, Compliance, and IT departments of transportation companies.
By the end of the year, expect at least one major shipper to begin using Blockchain technology for data integrity. We predict that blockchain will eventually be used to track the shipment of goods from start to finish efficiently.
Strong Spot Rates
From 2013 to 2017, the median salary of a U.S. truckload driver increased by 15%, according to the American Trucking Associations, while average wages for all private workers only rose 10% in the same period.6
According to Jeremy Fuecht of Truckstop.com, spot market rates should support this industry trend and remain high through 2018, thanks to the introduction of ELDs and drivers being forced to abide more closely to hours of service regulations. Expect some driver attrition due to ELDs, which could result in fewer available drivers.
New Drivers Entering the Industry
Older drivers are leaving the industry, rates are healthy, and the FMCSA has been pushing to entice military service members to enter trucking via it’s FAST Act military pilot program.
Also, in March 2018, Uber launched an incentive program, designed to lure both new and existing drivers to it’s Uber Freight app, which provides discounts on fuel, tires, maintenance and equipment.
The combination of all these conditions means the next 12 months could be the year with the greatest influx of new drivers. In fact, in February 2018, trucking companies hired new workers at the fastest pace in nearly three years.7
- Brian Straight, Freightwaves.com, 2018
- Jeremy Fuecht, Truckstop.com, 2018
- Eric Miller, Transport Topics, 2015
- Trucks.com, 2018
- American Trucking Associations, 2017
- Bloomberg, 2018
- Wall Street Journal, 2018