The Cost of Changing Transportation Industry Regulations
To paraphrase the Bible: the left hand knows not what the right hand is doing. Unfortunately, this axiom appears to be true with the different government agencies that regulate the trucking industry. These include: the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Labor (DOL), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), to name a few.
Each department brings necessary checks and balances to freight operations, but the multiplicity of governing bodies and their sometimes overlapping requests can make for time-consuming processes and procedures.
Ongoing, thorough compliance is essential. At any given moment, without prior notice, an official from any one of these governing bodies might arrive at a terminal to audit operations, or pull a truck over for a roadside inspection. A carrier must be prepared at all times, knowing that different governing bodies emphasize different criteria in their inspection.
What do regulators look for at terminals?
FMCSA agents are authorized to examine and test vehicles at any time. Operators must oblige. Their purpose is to ascertain whether companies are adhering to routing regulations, safety procedures, and noise emission regulations.
They assess whether safety checks are being carried out, that the tractor trailer is in the correct weight class, that Hazmat driving certificates are up-to-date and that trucks are maintaining the correct parking rules.
DOT inspectors may legally pull over any truck and carry out impromptu inspections anytime to ensure that the driver and his truck are observing DOT guidelines.
They will generally inspect paperwork such as DOT numbers, registrations, and vehicle identification. DOT has five levels of inspection ranging from a thorough and comprehensive Level One, which takes a full hour to complete to a Level Five which is a vehicle-only inspection.
Serious violations must be corrected before a driver can return to the road.
ARG trucks are regulated by the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) whose main objective is to protect people against the risks of a hazardous material spill or serious accident.
The goal of HMTA is to ensure that Hazmat rules are more predictable, regulated and consistent. Previously, Hazmat regulations differed depending on state or federal law. Now, revised provisions encourage uniformity between state and local highway routing regulations, and to develop standards so federal permits can be issued to hazardous material carriers.
Productivity Woes Impact the Cost of Doing Business
Hours of service are of specific consideration. New e-log systems are very efficient at tracking the time spent on the road. The system maintains its hours of service countdown even when the driver is not actually driving his route, but instead is finding a parking space, getting on and off highways, or sitting in traffic. This lost time can be anywhere from 30-45 minutes and the financial impact on the driver, and consequently on the company, is huge. Less time driving means lower productivity.
According to the new hours of service rules, truckers can only drive for fixed periods of time. These new rules mainly affect long-haul drivers who get paid by the mile. It also means that companies like Wadhams may have to add more trucks and drivers to deliver the same amount of freight that was previously moved with fewer employees.
The Cost Of Changing Regulations
Federal rules and regulations have increased over the years along with stricter enforcement of procedures as random checks for truck drivers. These checks end up costing the business time and money. The FMCSA estimates the cost of the new regulations to be half a billion dollars for the industry. That’s a lot by any standard.
Such costs lower profit margins, and affect carrier rates. It remains to be seen whether this burden will be absorbed solely by the transportation companies, or whether it will eventually impact the price of goods.