Taking a Stand on HOS

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March 1, 2011

Today, Dan Gilmore, the illustrious editor at Supply Chain Digest, said in an e-mail message to me, "I am having a hard time figuring where you really stand on this issue."

“Issue?” I replied. “Is there really an issue?”

The damn rule is not perfect, and it will remain imperfect. The FMCSA has no choice but to bring the rule up for change because the safety advocates and the Teamsters have convinced the White House that they will not go away. In order to move on to the really important issues—like the horrible commercial drivers who should be removed from the road, and putting in a safety measure that will help shut down bad carriers (and there are so many of those)—the FMCSA needed a really good administrator, one who knows the industry. To get Anne Ferro, a political deal had to be cut, and part of the deal was that the case would not go back to the US Courts, but the FMCSA would issue new rules.

Now the industry does not like the rules. Burning down the government for passing more rules is not the answer, because a part of “We the People” keeps going to court with lawsuits, and the courts keep vacating the rules.

Where do I stand? The rules as they stand now, with the revisions, work ok—but some of the rules do not work, and not much can be done to make them work without allowing for large loopholes in the rules. The drivers want their split berth back to extend the clock. They ain’t getting that. The advocates et al. (including the Teamsters) want driving hours restricted to eight hours and working hours to 10 hours. That is not happening either.

So what we have here is a failure to mediate.

My humble suggestion is to do nothing to the HOS rules for five years and let the CSA and the Electric On Board Recorders (EOBR) measures happen. It will take time for these changes to produce results and to filter out the bad actors. Then do something.

Is that clear enough? No?

OK. If I were able to wave a magic wand:

  1. No more legal actions on the rule. Let the current rule stand for the next five years.
  2. Roll out CSA 2010 as quickly as possible, warts and all. It is not a "war on trucking," it is a war on unsafe truckers—as it should be.
  3. Roll out EOBR. Fast n' now. Make it mandatory for all CMV.
  4. Let Steps #2 and #3 filter out the rule-breakers and the troublemakers. Let the chlorine of CSA and EOBR pour into the gene pool.
  5. Allow the marketplace to adjust, and—shippers will hate this line—let the rates rise. Allow the laws of supply and demand to work in the market. Let the carriers increase rates to become more financially stable and allow drivers to earn a little bit more to make up for losses in productivity. Capacity is going to tighten, and with that tightening, the fleets are not going to grow as fast, so carriers will gain some pricing power.
  6. Carriers:  grow a spine and charge shippers for power/driver detention. If the shipper is constantly late, factor that into the rate and charge them for their poor practices. If you lose the shipper, so be it—because you are losing money by making the move happen for the shipper. Tightened capacity will be the carrier's friend.
  7. As the market adjusts, we will see some sanity return to the truckload market, where most of the issues sit. Bad actors will be filtered out; they will retire or find that carriers will not hire them. Bad actor carriers will likewise be filtered out—or they will recycle and pop up like whack-a-moles to be chased by the FMCSA. More drivers and carriers will behave, for big brother is watching—and watching better. New carriers are going to find credit hard to get, and we will see some consolidation. These are all good things for driving sanity into the market.
  8. Then, after five years, look at the data and see if truck accident rates go down.

I’m betting they will.

Now, is that clear enough?

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