“We need to find ways to expand the pool of safe truck drivers, and ATRI’s preliminary research indicates that safe, younger drivers can be found, “said Joyce Brenny, Brenny Transportation, Inc. CEO.
ATRI, American Transportation Research Institute, released results of the Phase 1 Beta Test of its Younger Driver Assessment Tool exploring if an assessment tool to identify the safest 18-20 year old drivers is possible.
This is a critical step in expanding interstate CDL eligibility to younger drivers as the American Trucking Associations (ATA) have the driver shortage topping 100,000 by the year 2023 based on projected freight growth, industry retirements, and competition from other industries.
What is the trucking industry doing to attract younger drivers?
In hopes to increase the share of younger drivers in the industry, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed an under-21 commercial driver pilot program allowing young drivers aged 18, 19, and 20 to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce. Currently 18 to 20-year-olds are only allowed to operate intrastate commerce.
Additionally, the proposed infrastructure bill includes initiatives to grow the trucking workforce with an apprenticeship program for drivers younger than 21 to work in interstate commerce, addressing the growing truck driver shortage across the country.
However, one of the concerns with opening the labor pool to younger drivers is that young people are more likely to engage in higher risk driving behaviors.
How will the trucking industry measure young driver safety risk?
Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) indicate that individuals under 24 years of age represented 18.4 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2017 while representing just 11.8 percent of the licensed driving population that year.
The beta test findings for the Younger Driver Assessment Tool provided limited support for the idea that low risk commercial truck drivers can be identified based on behavioral indicators in their Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) and Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) safety records.
In general, and counter to expectations, cognitive functioning was not reliably associated with histories of violations or crashes in the group of 16 drivers used during initial testing.
In the small sample, the truck driving safety profiles of current truck drivers—as measured by motor vehicle records and pre-employment screening data—can be differentiated based on personality traits, physiological characteristics, and aspects of mental health.
With expanded statistical validation, this methodology may be successfully applied to the assessment and selection of new entrants into the industry’s workforce, including younger drivers.
Ultimately, the goal of the assessment tool would be to secure younger drivers with the cognitive and mental attributes of mature, experienced drivers, which based on data implies that they are more likely to be safe drivers.
ATRI’s Phase II assessment will focus on a larger sample of young drivers by recruiting individuals in the 18- to 25-year-old age range from commercial driving schools.
According to the American Trucking Association, drivers who practice fuel-efficient driving techniques use about 35% less fuel than those who do not.
Typically, fuel is the largest operating costs in a trucking company and the average truck today can consume more than 20,000 gallons of fuel a year, costing more than $70,000.
Multiply this by the number of vehicles in a fleet and you can grasp the importance of fuel efficiency for your employer.
Beyond using aerodynamic kits, saving fuel is not that difficult and slight modifications can help you achieve greater efficiency.
The secret of good fuel economy requires overcoming:
- Rolling resistance
- Air drag
- Gravitational pull, and
- Unintentional wastefulness
Below are proven techniques that drivers have used to improve fuel efficiency. Whatever kinds of loads you haul and wherever you normally travel, these fuel saving techniques will help you reduce the amount of fuel you burn.
Overcoming Air Drag
Air drag is the result of forces pushing back against the vehicle as it passes through the air and depends on speed, frontal area exposure, and external vehicle shape.
Air resistance is the most significant contributor to vehicle power requirements, especially over the speed of 50 mph.
Minimizing the height of the load will save fuel by reducing the air drag on the vehicle. Most tractor trailers have roof mounts that deflect airflow over the highest point at the front of the trailer load.
For approximately every three feet of frontal exposure of the trailer exposed to airflow, the fuel consumption will decrease by 0.1 mpg.
In addition to overhead deflectors, we see devices that seal the gap between the tractor and trailer, sealing the trailer underbody, and trailers adding a boat tail. These aerodynamic devices can reduce the horsepower required to move the truck by as much as 35 horsepower.
Fleets looking to streamline their vehicles will need to go through some trial and error to find a good fit. Once the aerodynamic devices have been installed, follow recommended upkeep and inspections on these devices.
Overcoming rolling resistance
As the second most significant contributor to vehicle power and fuel consumption, rolling resistance is the energy required to maximize the movement of tires on a roadway.
The factors that influence rolling resistance include:
- tire pressure,
- tire tread wear,
- vehicle speed, and
It has been demonstrated that checking tire pressure regularly and keeping an eye on tread wear can achieve up to 0.5 mpg as losing 10 pounds of tire pressure can lead to a 1% decline in fuel economy.
Speeds above 50 mph lead to more friction on the roads, higher tire temperatures, and reduced fuel economy. This leads to a decrease of 0.1 mpg for every mile per hour over 55 mph.
Overcoming gravitation pull
Overcoming or utilizing gravity to your advantage is most important during steep grades. When moving a loaded vehicle up a grade, the only variable you can influence is speed.
To improve fuel efficiency–in rolling terrain–use a light throttle and allow momentum to carry the vehicle over short grades.
In hilly and mountainous terrain, use the engine’s entire operating range before gearing down, where possible.
When cresting steep grades, use gravity to bring the vehicle back to the desired cruising speed.
Also, the type of cargo you haul and how heavy it is significantly affects fuel consumption. If the cargo is distributed correctly, the engine works less. So, do not overload any axles because for every 1,000 pound increase in vehicle weight, your fuel economy decreases by 0.5%.
You can improve fuel economy when you balance the load between your drives and trailer tandems with slightly more on your drive axles.
Overcoming unnecessary wastefulness
No matter how many years you have been driving, it is easy for drivers to develop inefficient driving habits, which includes:
- driving with excessive speeds
- excessive idling
- operating the vehicle in the wrong gear, and
- harsh acceleration or braking
It is the driver’s goal to arrive on time while incurring the least expense. Below are five ways to decrease wasteful driving habits.
Number one: Warming up the engine
The most underutilized fuel savings device on the truck is the engine. When your engine is not operating at peak efficiency, there will be fuel loss.
To optimize engine economy, you need to:
- conduct routine engine performance checks
- regularly check your engine’s fluid levels (motor oil, coolant, and lube oil levels)
- check to see if there are any fluid or grease leaking
- check for worn hoses, electrical lines, belts, and inspect the air compressor
Coolant and lube oil operating temperatures can contribute greatly to fuel efficiency. Low coolant temperatures indicate the engine is too cold for efficient combustion. Lube oil below ideal temperature is more viscous and harder to pump. Oil above ideal temperature is too thin to lubricate properly.
An engine that is starved for air or unable to expel exhaust will lack power and waste fuel. Excessive fuel line restrictions will also reduce your miles per gallon.
When it comes to idling, today’s engine oils do not need you to warm up and idle your engine. Idling does not maintain the correct engine temperature and will dump oil into the exhaust manifold and turbo charger where it gets wasted.
In fact, idling can be harder on the engine than shutting it off or starting it up and can cost $3,500 or more in fuel per year.
As soon as the engine is running smoothly, you can head out slowly at first as the higher RPMs, the more fuel you will use.
Line-haul trucks not equipped with auxiliary power units might idle about 20-40% of the time the engine is running. If your truck does not have idle-reduction equipment:
- Keep the heater or A/C off when not in your truck, then turn on the truck and do a pre-trip inspection so the cab is comfortable again
- Turn off the engine whenever possible as idling longer than 10 seconds uses more oil than turning the engine off and back on
- Use auxiliary heaters or fans in milder weather
Speed & Following Distance
Traffic conditions have a significant effect on fuel use. Every time you drop down a gear, fuel consumption increases. The more you brake, speed, or accelerate, the more fuel will be used.
When possible, using cruise control will help you optimize the amount of fuel needed for any given situation, thus improving fuel efficiency.
Be sure to allow at least 6 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you, when possible. This will help you reduce the amount of times you need to fluctuate your speed.
Topping off your fuel tank
Over filling your fuel tank can overwhelm the evaporative system and could cause leaks due to excessive pressure in the system.
Since fuel expands when it is hot, the only way for the fuel to escape is through the breaker vent.
So, prevent topping off your fuel to increase fuel efficiency.
As you might have seen from the Mythbusters television show or UPS delivery statistics, avoiding left-hand turns conserves fuel, saves time, and avoids collisions.
UPS showed they could save over three million gallons of fuel with this technique.
When mapping out your last-miles off the highway, looks for ways to reduce left-hand turns.
Create a Driver Scorecard from ELD data
ELDs gather millions of data points that include dates, time, longitude, latitude, engine power status, odometer, engine faults, critical events data, harsh braking, hard turning, hard acceleration, HOS violations, idling, speeding, and more.
Many ELD providers, including our partner Pedigree Technologies, have created driver and safety scorecards that are easy to set-up, manage, and pull reports.
For example, Pedigree driver and safety scorecards include stats, such as:
- # of HOS violations
- Idling > 20min
- Idling %
- Hard Braking event
- Speeding > 5mph
- Fuel Efficiency
- Heavy Acceleration event
These scorecards are point-based starting at 100 points and any selected stat can remove a certain amount of points based on the severity of the stat you are including in the scorecard. They can be customized further by adding a timeframe duration of the stat or distance traveled.
For example, a driver can lose 15 points for every time a hard-braking event happens every 100 miles.
Scorecard reporting can be customized by timeframe (the previous 7 days or month), selected vehicle or vehicle types (semi/long-haul trucks, medium-sized trucks, construction vehicles, etc), and more.
The Pedigree ELD reporting tool also shows if the driver has performed better or worse over the previous week or month.
Does your ELD provider offer similar reporting tools? If not, learn more about Pedigree Technologies.
DOT Compliance Programs (PSM)
At CNS, our DOT Compliance Programs focus on Proactive Safety Management (PSM), a mindset that will ensure your fleet’s safety and compliance is always in order and ahead of the FMCSA.
Our PSM Motor Carrier Program includes:
- ELD management
- Driver Qualification File Management
- New driver on-boarding
- Driver safety meetings
- CSA score management
- Policies and handbooks
- Vehicle maintenance
- and more
Fall brings the insects life stage to adults and egg masses are present. After storing up the summer warmth and energy, they are beginning to swarm.
This invasive plant hopper species, the Spotted Lanternfly, has found its way to the US and rapidly spread throughout southeast Pennsylvania with the potential to infest agricultural crops and create a lot of issues for residents.
Spotted Lanternflies can potentially hitch a ride on products and vehicles, thus moving into a new area and spreading the infestation.
Businesses who ship products in and out of quarantined zones in Pennsylvania are required to have a Spotted Lanternfly Permit.
These permits demonstrate that the business know of this invasive pest and best practices to prohibit its spread.
Spotted Lanternfly Permitting renewals and requirements
Since April 2019, the Spotted Lanternfly Permit style has changed. Currently, only one paper permit is issued to each company. Each company can now make as many copies as needed to issue to their drivers.
Permits are free, but online training is required to obtain them. Managers and/or supervisors who demonstrate working knowledge and understanding of this insect and the quarantine requirements may obtain a permit.
In July, a renewal notice and replacement paper permit (blue and white trifold) were sent to all permit holders as a replacement for the old orange tags.
- How do I renew?
- If you have a blue and white paper permit, no further action is needed. If you have not received a paper permit, email email@example.com.
- When does my permit expire?
- Permits do not have an expiration date.
- Do I have to retake the permit course and exam?
- No additional training is required at this time.
If you have not received your permit or gone through the required training, CNS is trained on the Spotted Lanternfly Permit requirements from the PA Department of Agriculture.
We offer training for your drivers to identify and help contain and eventually stop the spread of this insect.
The CNS course is a 35-45 min training. Please note a supervisor from your company will still be required to take the permitting course from the Penn State Extension Website.
Spotted Lanternfly Permitting CourseIf you have not received your permit or gone through the required training, CNS is trained on the Spotted Lanternfly Permit requirements.
Fall Prevention Steps to Prevent Spotted Lanternfly Spread
With Spring comes the return of the Spotted Lanternfly season. Fall brings the insects life stage to adults and egg masses are present. After storing up the summer warmth and energy, they are beginning to swarm. In areas of heavy populations, thousands of the invasive insect will gather in mass on trees, houses and other tall structures, to launch themselves into the wind and glide, looking for food and a safe place to lay their eggs.
If you observe SLF in Pennsylvania, report these swarms via the Public Reporting Tool.
Fleets should inspect vehicles, trailers and items stored outdoor before movement within or from the quarantine, as well as inspect goods prior to transport or sale.
Most importantly, make any efforts to destroy the Spotted Lanternflies to help reduce populations. Spotted Lanternflies can be controlled with a combination of physical removal of life stages and host trees, and pesticide applications. Use Penn State Extension’s management resources to safely manage the insects on your property or at your business.
More efforts to reduce the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly
This year, the PDA Compliance and Enforcement Team is offering compliance assistance to help companies become spotted lanternfly compliant and get permitted.
The PDA has partnered with the PA State Police as part of “Operation Spotted Lanternfly” to do roadside inspections. After the State Police do their DOT inspections, the PDA team will interview the driver, inspect their permits and related logs, and do a vehicle inspection.
Roadside inspections have proven to be effective, and the PDA Compliance and Enforcement Team expects to increase the number of inspections this coming Spotted Lanternfly season.
Know the quarantine zones
To stop the movement and spread of spotted lanternflies, quarantines are in effect. A quarantine means certain articles cannot be moved out of the area. Industries located or operating inside the quarantine zone will need a Spotted Lanternfly Permit.
Currently the following counties are under quarantine in Pennsylvania:
There are also quarantine counties or zones in the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia.
Quarantine counties have restricted movement of certain articles. The PA Department of Agriculture lists these prohibited items:
- any living stage of the Spotted Lanternfly—Lycorma delicatula—including egg masses, nymphs, and adults
- brush, debris, bark, or yard waste
- landscaping, remodeling or construction waste
- logs, stumps, or any tree parts
- firewood of any species
- grapevines for decorative purposes or as nursery stock
- nursery stock
- crated materials
- outdoor household articles such as: recreational vehicles, lawn tractors and mowers, mower decks, grills, grill and furniture covers, tarps, mobile homes, tile, stone, deck boards, mobile fire pits, any associated equipment and trucks or vehicles not stored indoors
The three areas that most violations come from are lights, tires, and brakes
Teaching a driver how to do a pre-trip and post-trip inspection is as important as teaching them how to drive the truck.
Some of the easiest things to catch during a driver inspection are also the most common violations written up on a roadside inspection.
Proper pre and post-trip inspections should take at least 30 minutes to perform thoroughly and will reduce vehicle maintenance and violation costs.
This guide was developed based on what DOT inspectors look for at roadside and what maintenance often look for before releasing a vehicle. We will focus on the major sections and important details a driver should inspect, including the:
- Front of the vehicle
- Wheels and axles
- Lights, tires, leaks, and brakes
- Side of the truck and trailer
Front of the vehicle
Drivers should look for any intersecting cracks or large rock chips on the windshield, especially in the driver’s line of sight.
Honking the horn, whether that is the air horn or steering wheel city-horn, and turning on the windshield wiper is a simple step to make sure they are working properly.
Then, turn on all lights, which include the three marker lights at the top of the cab, clearance lights, and headlights. Test your high-beams, turn signals, and four-way flashers.
Open the hood and look for any obvious defects.
An easy part for DOT inspectors to check is the pitman arm and steering linkage. If there is any amount of play or looseness where the two gears of the pitman arm meet, it is considered an out-of-service violation and drivers will have to park until it is fixed. Sometimes, if rust is appearing here, it is a good indication that it is not tight.
Finally, check the suspension components. If it looks like your vehicle is leaning to one side, it is a good indicator that there is something wrong with the suspension components.
Vehicle Maintenance: Free EstimateContact us with any questions. Our specialists are here to help you maximize your vehicle maintenance.
Wheels and axles
For wheels, check for cracks and loose or missing lug-nuts or wheel fasteners, and look for leaking hub grease.
It is an out-of-service violation for lug-nuts when:
- 10-lug wheels: 3 are missing anywhere or 2 adjacent to each other, or
- 8-lug wheels: 2 are missing anywhere
The steer axle is at the front of the power unit and has specific criteria that is different than other axles.
For example, to be in compliance, your required tire tread depth of a steer axle is higher compared to other axles, which are 4/32” depth and, 2/32” depth, respectively.
After the steer axle, we will move back to the drive axles. The first set of drive axles are either a single axle or group of axles that provide power to help move the truck down the road.
Trailer axles are at the back of the trailer. Some of these axles have sliding or tandem axles to help distribute the weight, to stay within regulations of maximum weight for a tandem axle.
If you are adjusting weight by sliding the tandem axles, you want to slide the axles toward the over-weight location. For example, if you are overweight at the rear of the trailer, then sliding the tandem axles further to the rear will help distribute the weight to the forward drive axles.
Tandem axles have notches on each axle. Each notch moves about 250 to 300 pounds to the other group of axles. Drivers may show up at a weigh station and find that they are more overweight then they were before, and that is because they are sliding the axles the wrong direction.
Lights, tires, leaks, and brakes
The three areas that most violations come from are lights, tires, and brakes. For example, low tread depth, damaged sidewalls, and inoperable light are easily visible and usually do not wear out on one trip.
It is important to check for flat or underinflated tires, fluids leaking, that all required lights are working properly, measure brake pushrod travel distance, brake pad thickness, and check brake can, hoses, and rotor surfaces.
It is an out-of-service violation for tires if:
- Underinflated tires are 50% or less of the sidewall rating
- There is a noticeable leak heard or felt in a tire
- The sidewall is cut, worn, or damaged
- There is a visual bump or bulge on any part of the tire, and
- If there is exposed belt or cord material
Leaks can come from the fuel tank, so make sure that it is securely mounted, and the fuel cap is the proper cap and is tight. Sometimes the cap is missing after fueling the truck because the driver forgot to put it back on. Be sure to check reefer trailers and auxiliary power unit tanks as well.
Side of the truck and trailer
Make sure that the air and electric lines are not lying on the deck area. The lines will rub while driving and eventually wear a hole in the lines, causing an air leak and the brake system to not work properly or even failing.
For 5th wheel assembly, make sure all components are secure, there are no cracks or damaged parts, and bolt tightness. Also, check for any rust driplines by the bolts. Rust will eventually cause bolts to be loose.
On the trailer, check for any damage on the trailer, trailer lights are working, any cargo securement devices are properly placed and tightened, and that there is a spare tire and tire chains secured properly.
Vehicle maintenance costs can be a huge line item for fleet companies and at times, hard to keep under control. Routine maintenance of your vehicles is a necessity to ensure that your biggest assets always stay on the road.
An experienced and knowledgeable vehicle maintenance partner can make all the difference.
CNS can effectively manage your vehicle maintenance to meet your specific driving demands. We effortlessly handle an unlimited number of preventive maintenance schedules for all the vehicles in your fleet.
Serving your customers is your business; maintaining your fleet should be ours. Depend on CNS to keep your vehicles on the road and benefit from our expertise and gain a partnership that is dedicated to your success.
Reducing driver turnover = Improved safety and reduced violation costs
Trucking has had a high driver turnover rate for decades and continues to climb above 90% for larger carriers and around 73% for smaller carriers.
Much of the driver turnover problem is caused by a large percentage of drivers leaving within the first 90 days of on-boarding with a new company.
While a complete hiring program includes a strong driver qualification process seeking stable drivers, meeting driver needs, healthy company culture, competitive driver pay, and more, carriers may solve a big part of the driver retention puzzle by focusing on a successful driver training program.
This includes covering important orientation and safety training quickly and, in many cases, across multiple locations to make sure all drivers are being adequately prepared.
Before we look at what a successful driver training program looks like…
Why is reducing driver turnover so important?
Reducing high driver turnover improves fleet safety and violation costs
A data firm, Vigillo, recently completed an analysis of driver turnover as they monitored FMCSA violations and crashes for nearly 2,000 trucking fleets in the United States.
Their analysis found that a group of fleets with high driver turnover had 1,177 total crashes. The low driver turnover group had just 303 total crashes.
“There is a pretty strong correlation between the safety culture that exists at a motor carrier, which can be measured in CSA, and turnover rates,” said Vigillo CEO Steve Bryan.
Their data revealed that fleets with high driver turnover had:
- 189% more driver out-of-service rate
- 300% more vehicle out-of-service rate
- 181% more hours-of-service violations
- 224% more crash indicators
- 640% more hazmat violations, and
- 182% more controlled substance violations
According to FMCSA annual violation data, fleets regulated by the DOT have paid over $27 million annually in fines, which breaks down to an average of $5,074 per case for violations. With HAZMAT, this average nearly doubles.
Many of these violations will also place the truck out-of-service until the issues are fixed. Being placed out-of-service for 10 hours while a maintenance shop is fixing the truck can cost a fleet around $900 more.
This is why it is so important for fleets to reduce high driver turnover.
But how? A successful driver training program is a critical starting point.
Driver Training: Free EstimateContact us with any questions. Our specialists are here to help you maximize your driver training.
What is included in a Successful Driving Training Program?
On-the-job training and orientation
On-the-job driver training
Some fleets, such as Crete Carriers and Shaffer Trucking, require several weeks on-the-job training with senior driver evaluators.
New drivers are evaluated carefully on their ability to maintain control of the tractor, shifting gears properly, backing the trailer correctly, paperwork preparation, and interaction with customers.
On-the-job training is intended to provide drivers with an accurate picture of the life that professional drivers lead.
Orientation is standard across all companies, but fleets with lower driver turnover are using it to reveal their company culture and help drivers smoothly transition into the new company.
A company handbook should be issued and covered during orientation along with more information on basic paperwork preparation, company safety policies, rules for logbook preparation, and handling hazardous materials.
Orientation should have an emphasis on communication, company expectations and the role of a truck driver. Drivers need to know they have somewhere to turn for help, including Safety Managers, HR staff, or even co-workers..
This is also the opportunity to pass out company swag, such as hats, insulated coffee mugs, shirts, and more.
Near-term customized video training
Each driver comes with their own experiences, skills, and flaws. A strong driver qualification process, on-the-job training, and driver orientation can highlight areas where a new driver can improve.
For example, if driver trainers notice a habit of hard acceleration or hard braking, they should make sure a video training schedule includes driving fundamentals and defensive driving topics.
Similarly, if there is a pattern of logbook errors, include logbook training and hours of service rules into their video training schedule.
All custom schedules should be accompanied by common new driver training, such as reviewing common maintenance and pre-trip inspection training, what to expect during a roadside inspection and how to treat inspectors, highlight drug testing processes and marijuana regulations, seasonal safe driving tips, cargo securement training, etc.
Customized training should also be measurable using quiz assessments to track driver performance. If their assessment score is low, then the training needs to be retaken.
Focusing on new technology
The idea that trucking is as simple as, “get in a truck and drive,” is such an old idea. Trucking is a sophisticated job that drivers are doing, and technology has made it even more complex.
Today, new technology and equipment analyzes and optimizes nearly every facet of fleet efficiency. This includes electronic logging devices, dashcams, and fleet management software that driver must be trained to use.
According to a recent KeepTruckin survey, only 21% of drivers are happy with the quality of their ELD solution, and 73% of drivers experience one or more ELD issue per week.
This is why driver training and new driver onboarding is so crucial. In the first few months of their employment, a driver may feel frustrated with your ELD solution and quit.
Fleets need to make sure that drivers thoroughly understand the ELD they are using and new drivers should have their first several logs audited to ensure they are following company policy and Federal guidelines.
Company managers should be able to use their ELD reports to highlight negative driver habits and customize driver training programs to correct issues before they become an expensive problem.
What else can be done to reduce driver turnover?
Going beyond driver training to reduce high driver turnover
A successful driver training program is complicated.
It includes clear communication from:
- driver orientation
- driver qualification file management
- ELD reports and management
- on-the-job training
- customized driver training, and
- driver training that includes a video platform, in-person training, and regular safety meetings
Managing everything on your own is overwhelming and missing any little detail can lead to audits, fines, and high driver turnover and having someone handle your driver training can be helpful, but may not be enough.
What if there was a complete and affordable DOT Compliance Program to handle all the tedious and difficult office paperwork?
DOT Compliance Programs (PSM)
At CNS, our DOT Compliance Programs focus on Proactive Safety Management (PSM),a mindset that will ensure your fleet’s safety and compliance is always in order and ahead of the FMCSA.
Our PSM Motor Carrier Program includes:
- ELD management
- Driver Qualification File Management
- New driver on-boarding
- Driver safety meetings
- CSA score management
- Policies and handbooks
- Vehicle maintenance
- and more
Trucking and the Coronavirus
With the world focused on the fear of illness and global spread of this year’s coronavirus (COVID-19), trucking companies brace for a secondary threat as well, as the freight market slows.
Prior factors affect the trucking industry
Businesses had already stuffed their warehouses with imported goods at the end of 2019, trying to get ahead of the tariffs placed against China. Then, as concerns over the virus itself grew, this slowed import shipping. Trucking companies with work in and around ports have felt the impact already.
Current factors add burden
Currently, several factors are impacting the trucking industry and putting the brakes on freight. First, the national shift for many businesses to encourage their employees to work from home. Secondly, consumers have drastically reduced their daily activities, without choice in most states.
Each state has implemented some sort of guideline to follow, each on a different level, but with the same end goal, to create social distancing. Most states are closing schools, preventing operation of non-essential businesses and even preventing gatherings of 50, 25 and even 10 people.
With a number of major events being cancelled, such as the Mid-America Trucking Show and sporting events (eg. NCAA tournament), the trucking industry has taken a big hit as well, since the need for truckers to carry the necessary supplies to these events has vanished.
Transportation market follows industry market
Garrett Bowers, President of Bowers Trucking in Oklahoma commented to Transport Topics news outlet: “If industry is stifled, transportation will follow.”
Trucking companies can expect to find themselves pinched tightly between all these factors. And, of course, layered on top of these concerns is the well-being of their drivers as they send them out across the nation, where they could be more susceptible to contracting the Coronavirus.
Many companies are now conducting pre-shift screenings and temperature checks to further protect their employees.
Some companies, mostly those immediately affected near the ports, have begun reducing capacity and laying off independent owner-operators in response to the downturn.
But across the country, companies feel the hit of this pandemic. Fleets have been absorbing a cost burden from being unable to return empty containers, as well as administrative costs.
Hoping for a rebound
There is definitely potential for a rebound in the trucking industry once shipping from China and other countries resumes normal pace. However, this potential rebound will have a delay that can impact many companies.
Companies should anticipate and plan not only for reduced rates and capacity, but also for difficulties at the loading docks. If shippers must reduce their own workforce due to coronavirus-related illnesses or quarantines, loads may not be ready when truckers arrive.
Companies should prepare for a double-headed approach to address both the current slow-down and the eventual recovery when shipments begin to surge to make up for delays.
Trucking Startups, Hiring Drivers and CDL Training
No matter what your current situation is in the trucking industry, we have a service that would be valuable to you, like CDL training, starting your own trucking business or hiring new, qualified drivers.
If you have been laid off, this might be a good time to start training to get your CDL. There will be a need for more drivers as businesses and events resume normal operation in the coming months.
If you are already a driver in the trucking industry, this may be the perfect time for you to start your own trucking company. Securing loads will not be an issue once the economy bounces back.
If you are a trucking company, you will most likely need to be hiring qualified drivers in the near future, and you will need to get good, qualified drivers very quickly, as well as manage all of the files for those drivers.
On February 7, 2022, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will place new CDL requirements on entry-level driver training (ELDT).
Individuals wanting to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), upgrade their current license from a Class B to a Class A CDL or receive driver training for a passenger, school bus or hazmat endorsement. Requirements are also changing for instructors offering CDL training.
Is it difficult to get a CDL license?
As of February 7, 2022, entry-level CDL trainees will have much stricter requirements for obtaining their CDL. For anyone planning to become a truck driver, you can attend a CDL school and get your CDL license before changes go into effect in 2020.
The new rules require an entry-level driver to complete a prescribed program of theory and behind-the-wheel instruction provided by a school or other entity listed on FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry (TPR) before taking the CDL test.
What are the new requirements to obtain a CDL license?
- CDL school requirements: The minimum standards and requirements for CDL schools will be set at a federal level, as opposed to being set by each state.
- Department of Transportation (DOT) management: CDL schools must record and report hours behind the wheel (no federal minimum) to DOT.
- Schools must register and self-certify: Schools can self-certify instructors. Individual instructors may have to register with the DOT depending on the state.
- CDL driving instructor requirements: Driving instructors are required to have a minimum of 2 years driving experience, a clean motor vehicle record and a medical certification for classroom, on the road and private range instruction
- Increase in curriculum mandates:
- DOT requires 31 theory course topics instead of the original four knowledge topics, which will be accompanied by 19 mandated behind-the-wheel (BTW) skills, that will be tested with vehicle inspection skills at the state department of motor vehicles.
- The new Training Provider Registry (TPR) will require CDL schools to apply to join, starting February 7, 2022.
In 2015, the American Trucking Association estimated that 890,000 new commercial truck drivers would be needed by 2025 to meet the rising freight demands. Currently, based on data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Baby Boomers” (ages 45-65) compose 49.4% of the drivers on the road, while “Millennials” (ages 21-34) make up less than 16%.
Why the shortage? What is inhibiting Millennials from pursuing a career on the road?
Several reasons are speculated by transportation industry professionals:
– An increase in load rates is needed to keep pace with the cost of living, or restructuring of way drivers are compensated. For Example, changing pay structures to hourly wages rather than a rate per mile.
– CDL holders must be 21 year of age or older for interstate travel. The increasing trend of post-high school young adults taking a “gap year” or two years before pursuing college or secondary education has allowed the transportation industry an opportunity that is squandered by federal regulation on interstate travel.
– Young drivers (under age 25) are costly to insure for trucking companies, and not desirable candidates for employment because of the financial burden they present.
– Millennials do not view life on the road as attractive, exciting, or glamorous. Long haul opportunities are viewed as isolating and restrictive. Many are also unfamiliar with the complex regulations imposed by the FMCSA, and inexperienced with balancing communication between job requirements, company dispatchers, safety managers, and customers.
How can trucking companies better accommodate the needs of Millennials in the workplace, or on the road? Aside from the suggestion of pay increase or restructure, the impression of the isolated trucker must be addressed and reformed.
Like any industry, training is vital to a secure and enjoyable career. Although drivers are given adequate training on physically driving and maneuvering a truck, filling out a log book or operating e-log system, and communicating with a dispatcher.
A suggestion by our own president and CEO at Compliance Navigation Specialists is simply- “Mentorship”. At CNS, our consultants can guide you through the complex federal regulations and set you up for success in the trucking industry as an owner operator. However, the solitude of the road can be daunting. Having someone to talk to can make a big difference in your success.
“Mentorship programs at larger carriers, Swift for example, have proven effective at forging a relationship between an inexperienced driver and a veteran driver. In addition to knowledge gained by the inexperienced driver with a new CDL, it furthers the sense of community within the trucking industry.”
“A growing presence of young or inexperienced drivers, as well as driver’s spouses or families on social media proves that a sense of community is desired. It is time that companies follow suit to fulfill the benefit of inter-generational mentorships.”