U.S. regulator wonders if some Covid-19 waivers could become permanent

U.S. regulator wonders if some Covid-19 waivers could become permanent

TORONTO, Ont. – U.S. regulators have introduced a series of waivers in response to Covid-19, to ensure that freight continues to move south of the border. Now they’re looking at whether selected waivers could become a permanent fixture.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) acting administrator Jim Mullen admitted the state appetite for some discussed licensing changes is not as strong as expected. But the administration continues to look at things like the off-site reviews for safety ratings, he said on Tuesday during the Truckload Carriers Association’s virtual safety and security meeting.

FMCSA’s Jim Mullen (lower left) joined the Truckload Carriers Association’s Dave Heller (lower right) during an online presentation on a wide range of regulatory issues. (Screen capture: TCA)

Many recent U.S. regulatory waivers have focused on licensing issues – such as the timing required to offer proof of medical certification, letting states administer skills tests to out-of-state CDL applicants, and allowing CDL examiners to administer knowledge tests. Those with a learner’s permit can currently drive without a CDL holder in the front seat of the vehicle, as long as the CDL holder is still elsewhere in the cab.

Other
waivers have included things like certain drug and alcohol testing requirements
for furloughed truck drivers, and hours of service rules around specific
pandemic-related relief supplies.

The changes have
been part of the agency’s response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for
federal agencies to be responsive during the pandemic.

“Time sensitivity
was paramount,” Mullen said of the order.

“I think we have seen the best of government during this time.”

Hours of Service changes

A key
example of that came in the quicker-than-expected rollout of hours of service
changes, set to take hold on Sept. 29.

Dave
Heller, the Truckload Carrier Association’s vice-president of government
affairs, admitted that the industry was surprised to see the change so quickly.

“We’re in
the midst of this pandemic, and all of a sudden we have hours of service upon
us,” he said, noting that about two years were trimmed from the traditional
regulatory review process. “This might have been record speed to get a rule
out.”

Central to
the updated rules is the way a 30-minute break can include anything other than
a driving task rather than a full break from work. It simply has to be logged
as on-duty-not-driving.

“We’re in the midst of this pandemic, and all of a sudden we have hours of service upon us … This might have been record speed.”

– Dave Heller, TCA

Other changes have included a modified sleeper berth exemption to allow drivers to split 10-hour off-duty time into 8/2 or 7/3 splits, with neither period counting against the driver’s 14-hour driving window. Adverse driving conditions exceptions are to be extended by two hours. And the short-haul exemption will increase from 12 to 14 hours, with its mileage limits extending from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

“Just
getting a break from that task alone provided benefits,” Mullen said. “That
time off task is beneficial on the safety side.”

“The vast
majority of the industry has responded very favorably to the 30-minute change,”
he added.

Heller agreed
the approach to the 30-minute break could prove to be an effective way to deal
with detention time.

There is
other work to do, of course. A document of answers to frequently asked questions
is being prepared, and there’s plans for more outreach.

Taking questions
from viewers of the TCA session, for example, Mullen explained how short moves that
last a few minutes in a truck yard could be marked as personal conveyance
depending on the reasoning. Moving the truck back into the shade would count as
that. Repositioning a trailer for unloading wouldn’t fall into that category.

“There’s
more to come on that,” he said. “There will be some more guidance on the
personal conveyance.”

And the agency continues to move forward with the Sept. 29 rollout despite language in the Invest in America Act, an infrastructure bill, which has proposed a delay.

“We’re obviously proceeding as if there will be no delay because that’s our task in hand,” Mullen said.

Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse

The recent
regulatory changes have hardly ended there. A new Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse,
established as a repository for drug testing files on truck drivers, has recorded
24,000 individual positive tests since being launched.

“They’re
not able to circumvent the system,” Mullen said of the records that are now
available to all employers. “That obviously was the intent.”

Admittedly,
the rollout wasn’t perfect. “We had some IT issues the first 48 hours or so,”
he said, noting that most of those issues were addressed within a week or so. “A
lot of that stuff, guys, came down to people couldn’t remember their passwords.”
Still, he added, “It shouldn’t be that hard.”

“It didn’t
go as we wanted, but I think we now have the folks and resources to make sure
those things are corrected.”

“We do like
where the clearinghouse is right now,” Heller said, referring to trucking as a
zero-tolerance industry. “We have the ability to see what kind of drivers we’re
bringing on.”

Now, the
agency is considering the use of limited queries for pre-employment of drivers.
And there’s already been an exemption introduced for the motion picture industry.

Broker Transparency

Still,
Mullen said there are limits to what can be done to address friction around
broker relationships.

The Owner-Operator
Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has been demanding an electronic copy
of a transaction record within 48 hours of a service being completed, and
prohibiting brokers from including provisions that require carriers to waive
rights to access transaction records.

For its part, FMCSA is investigating about 10 specific allegations in which the rules were not followed, Mullen said.

“But the
regulation says what it says.”

Published at Wed, 24 Jun 2020 11:55:04 +0000

Volvo streamlines Galfab roll-off body installations

Volvo streamlines Galfab roll-off body installations

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Volvo Trucks has partnered with Galfab and
Fontaine Modification to streamline the installation of roll-off bodies.

Installations will occur at Fontaine’s facility near Volvo’s
Dublin, Va., truck plant. Previously, Volvo truck chassis had to be shipped to Galfab’s
Indiana facility, where the roll-off body would be installed before delivery to
the customer.

(Photo: Volvo Trucks)

Volvo says the new arrangement reduces logistics fees and delivery
times.

“This new practice gives
customers and dealers the option to order a Volvo truck with a Galfab roll-off
body, which removes complexity from the body installation and delivery process,” said Andy Hanson, product
marketing manager, Volvo Trucks North America. “Not only does this save a
significant amount of time and money for our customers and dealers, but
Fontaine assures a high-quality installation and integration with our chassis.”

Published at Wed, 24 Jun 2020 15:14:16 +0000

Average roadside repair costs up 30% year over year

Average roadside repair costs up 30% year over year

ARLINGTON, Va. – The average cost per roadside repair is up 30% year over year, but five systems account for almost 70% of the work – identifying where many fleets might want to focus their attention.

The findings emerge in data collected under a benchmarking program that involves a collaboration between FleeNet America and the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC). Results from the first quarter this year were unveiled during a virtual TMC presentation hosted on Wednesday.

Miles between breakdowns vary by industry segment. (Screen capture: TMC)

About 140 Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards (VMRS) systems are tracked overall.

The average
roadside repair recorded by participating fleets cost $491 in the first quarter
of 2020, up from $378 in the first quarter of 2019.

Several
factors play a role in the increases, says Jim Buell, executive vice-president
of sales and marketing at FleetNet America.

Prices are
pushed higher by a technician shortage that is particularly prevalent when it
comes to the uncomfortable settings outside of shops, Buell said.

Equipment has
also become more complex, he added. Tire inflation systems, for example, need to
be removed before damaged tires can be accessed.

“I don’t
see this trend going away and I certainly don’t see it reversing,” Buell said
of the rising costs.

Tires continue to be the most frequently repaired systems. (Screen capture: TMC)

While there
was an average of 33,637 miles between breakdowns, the experience differed
widely depending on applications. Truckload dry van fleets, which have
participated in the service since it was launched in 2017, averaged 14,991
miles between breakdowns. Tank fleets saw an average of 21,591 miles, and LTL
fleets saw 55,407 miles.

Best-in-class
fleets also performed significantly better than the average participants. The
best truckload dry van fleet averaged 59,905 miles between breakdowns, with the
best LTL operation recording 61,856 miles, and the top tank fleet recording
26,033 miles.

“If one truckload
carrier can run 60,000 miles between an unscheduled breakdown, why can’t
everyone else running similar types of equipment, similar types of routes?” Buell
asked, referring to the importance of benchmarking. Even the 11% difference
seen between the best and average LTL fleet could deliver meaningful savings to
the bottom line.

Fleets averaged 33,637 between breakdowns in Q1, but LTL fared best. (Screen capture: TMC)

Tires were clearly
the most common repair, averaging 104,956 miles between repairs, followed by
brakes at 230,432 miles, lighting at 323,788 miles, power plants at 619,812
miles, and exhaust systems at 711,304 miles.

But there
are differences between applications, Buell said, noting that truckload
operations struggle more than their peers when it comes to lighting repairs.

In truckload
operations, the average miles between repairs included lighting (60,277 miles),
tires (76,883 miles), brakes (83,761 miles), exhaust systems (297,674 miles),
and power plants (299,208 miles). “Some of the lighting issues has to do with
foul weather, slush and snow penetrating the connectors,” he added, referring
to the need to check connectors during fall preventive maintenance work.

In the
less-than-truckload (LTL) segment, tires averaged 195,087 miles between
breakdowns, followed by brakes (323,806), power plants (646,345), and lighting
(842,557). The average cost per repair for the segment overall was $542.

For tanks,
the most frequent issues included tires at an average of 26,291 miles between
breakdowns, brakes (246,847 miles), cargo handling equipment such as valves (519,905
miles), exhaust systems (540,220), and lighting (640,882 miles).

Applications
with sleepers can face more exhaust system repairs when auxiliary power units
are unable to maintain comfortable temperatures inside the truck, requiring more
engine run time, he said.

No matter
how well a best-in-class fleet performs, Buell stressed they also benefit from
benchmarking. It’s because no operation is the best at everything.

Participants in the benchmarking program are asked to share all unscheduled roadside repairs, assure accurate coding, and provide International Fuel Tax Agreement mileage.

Published at Wed, 24 Jun 2020 18:54:31 +0000

Shannon to head Volvo, Mack Financial Services’ North American operations

Shannon to head Volvo, Mack Financial Services’ North American operations

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Patrick Shannon has been named president of
Volvo Financial Services and Mack Financial Services, North American region.

He will take over the role July 1, Volvo and Mack announced, and will oversee financial services for the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Shannon brings more than 30 years of experience in business operations and financial services to the position, the majority of which were with Volvo Group.

Patrick Shannon (Photo: Volvo Group)

“Shannon will be responsible for developing and
maintaining relationships with Volvo Trucks’ customers and dealers, our Volvo
Group business areas and partners in the region,” said
Marcio Pedroso, president, Volvo Financial Services. “With his experience in
working for the Volvo Group brand, and his long history at VFS, I am
confident he will continue VFS’ successful growth and the strong support of our
Volvo Trucks’ dealers and customers in these key markets.”

Published at Mon, 22 Jun 2020 19:48:49 +0000

CTEA joins manufacturers in call for Covid-19 recovery help

CTEA joins manufacturers in call for Covid-19 recovery help

OTTAWA, Ont. – A coalition of Canadian manufacturing groups, including the Canadian Transportation Equipment Association (CTEA), is looking for regulatory help as they respond to the economic fallout of Covid-19.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” they say in a letter to
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, highlighting outstanding issues like access to
assistance programs like the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy, and the Canadian
Commercial Rent Assistance programs.

The group also highlighted an “onslaught” of new environmental
regulations and potential requirements for employee sick day benefits among
concerns.

“We urge you to consider the tremendous burden this puts on
businesses and their limited capacity to adapt to any new rules that do not
directly improve the efficiency and competitiveness of their business,” they write
in the letter dated June 19.

The manufacturers are calling for measures including a Regulatory
Bill of Rights, a national manufacturing strategy, and help to ensure
businesses are not unduly burdened during precarious economic times.

There are calls to refine and expand support programs, extend tax deferral and duty programs, and consumer spending initiatives. They also ask for more government procurement and a “Made in Canada” campaign.

The focus, the manufacturers say, must look to reduce the
cost of doing business, improving regional value chains, and leveraging natural
assets.

Other signatories on the letter include 22 national manufacturing associations, representing industries including health and consumer products, the petroleum industry, automotive, tooling and machining, and more. CTEA members include trailer and specialty vehicle manufacturers.

The issues are expected to be highlighted next week when the
manufacturers host a virtual lobby day to meet with MPs.

Published at Tue, 23 Jun 2020 12:02:00 +0000

Trucking could recover from Covid-19 quicker than other sectors: ATA economist

Trucking could recover from Covid-19 quicker than other sectors: ATA economist

ARLINGTON,
Va. – For-hire truck tonnage continued to contract south of the border in May, but
the American Trucking Associations’ chief economist believes trucking will still
recover from Covid-19 more quickly than other industries.

(Source: American Trucking Associations)

“While tonnage fell in May, even though other economic
indicators like retail sales and housing starts rose, I’m not overly
concerned,” said Bob Costello, noting the ATA’s seasonally adjusted For-Hire
Truck Tonnage Index was down 1% after contracting 10.3% in April. The April figure
was revised upward after the initial report of a 12.2% decline.

“First, while down over 10% sequentially in April, truck tonnage
did not fall as much as other economic indicators that month. This means that
any rebound is tougher since tonnage didn’t fall substantially to begin with.
Second, there are indications that freight continues to improve as more and
more states and localities lift lockdown restrictions,” he said.

The May figure still represents the largest year-over-year
decline since 2009, during the Great Recession, but the index is not falling as
much as during that economic downturn.

“While the overall economy will likely take more than a year to recover, assuming the pandemic doesn’t spike again, the trucking industry could recover back to pre-Covid levels before many other industries because it hasn’t fallen as much,” Costello said. “As retail sales improve and housing starts recover, that will help trucking. The risk for trucking is that the virus surges again and places start to shut back down again.” 

Compared with May 2019, the seasonally adjusted index contracted 9.6%. In April 2009, the index was off 14% from a year earlier. The latest drop was preceded by a 9.4% year-over-year drop in April. Year-to-date, compared with the same period in 2019, tonnage is down 2.6%.

Removing the seasonal adjustments, and looking at the tonnage
alone, May’s index was 2.8% above the April level.

The For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index is dominated by contract
freight rather than spot market freight.

Published at Tue, 23 Jun 2020 16:57:09 +0000