The carrier registration process for the 2018 fiscal year has been indefinitely delayed, according to a notice posted to the Unified Carrier Registration board’s website Friday.
The governing UCR Board of Directors has recommended that all states delay the enforcement period of 2018 registration compliance until 90 days after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration publishes a final rule setting the 2018 registration period and an updated registration fee structure.
Registration is supposed to begin each year on Oct. 1, but a Federal Register notice issued by FMCSA last month announced that the annual registration period had been delayed until Nov. 1. The same notice announced that fees for the 2018 fiscal year would be reduced from 2017’s fee structure.
However, FMCSA’s failure to complete the formal rulemaking process regarding 2018 registration and fees has prompted a further delay in the registration period. “We regret this inconvenience and appreciate your patience,” reads the announcement from the UCR Board of Directors.
“Until further notice, please do not accept any carrier fees for the 2018 registration year,” the UCR Board told state administrators in an Oct. 27 letter. “If received prior to the final rulemaking, please return to the entity that paid the fee.”
A lawsuit filed in late September claimed the UCR Board of Directors violated federal open meetings acts by failing to notify the public of a Sept. 14 meeting, at which the UCR Board determined the 2018 fee structure and the delayed Nov. 1 registration start period.
A court agreed with the plaintiffs in the case and required the UCR Board to post to its website the minutes from the Sept. 14 meeting. However, the court said it lacked the authority to rescind the decisions made by the Board at the meeting
Shippers fear “double-digit,” by percentage, rate increases loom in the coming months as trucking capacity continues to tighten and spot market freight activity — and rates — continue to gain ground. Spot market rates have soared in recent months, and the contract market could be next, says FTR analyst and Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Starks.
“Spot market rates are a leading indicator. And, although there is a lag, contract markets are starting to follow suit. Shippers are now taking notice and are getting worried about dealing with double-digit rate increases as we head towards bid season,” he says.
These notes come from FTR’s monthly Trucking Conditions Index report. The most recent TCI is from August, which shows modestly positive conditions for carriers. August’s reading isn’t “wholly reflective of the current environment for truckers,” FTR notes, because it doesn’t include the supply chain disruptions caused in September by hurricanes Harvey or Irma, nor does it fully reflect the ballooning spot market.
“The truck market is currently in the middle of a significant change in conditions,” Starks says. “While the recent weather events made it feel like it happened all at once, spot markets have actually been moving in this direction for the past year. Load activity was rising, truck availability was falling, and rates were already up 20 percent year over year before the storms hit.”
Loadboard DAT Solutions last week reported strong spot market gains in September from August and record-setting year-over-year growth.
Available loads on DAT’s loadboard were 74 percent higher than the same month last year, DAT reported.
The dry van segment in particular saw major gains, with freight activity climbing 15 percent from August and up 80 percent from September 2016. Rates, meanwhile, gained 19 cents a mile from August and were up 35 cents from last September, DAT reported. The load-to-truck ratio hit 6.6 to 1 — the highest average in 8 years.
Reefer demand grew 4 percent from August and 70 percent from last September, pushing rates up 15 cents from August. DAT says harvest season in the pacific northwest and upper midwest, as well as late harvests in California, drove the segment’s surge.
The number of flatbed loads grew 3 percent from August. Though flatbed freight activity typically declines in September, recovery and rebuilding efforts in storm-stricken areas helped boost the segment this year, DAT says. Rates in the segment climbed 8 cents in September.
DAT says it expects the elevated spot market activity to continue at least until February.
President Donald Trump plans to nominate Raymond P. Martinez to run the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, according to an update posted to the White House’s website. Martinez is the current chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
For Martinez to become the official head of FMCSA, he must be confirmed by the Senate.
Martinez has served as head of New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission under Gov. Chris Christie since 2010. Prior, he was commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Martinez has also held positions as the Assistant General Counsel for the Long Island Power Authority and as Deputy U.S. Chief of Protocol and Diplomatic Affairs for the U.S. State Department, according to his bio on New Jersey’s website.
Mobile technology has revolutionized truck driving, making drivers more connected than ever before and changing how they work, relax and interact. The five ways it’s happened include:
Connection – Though trucking still comes down to a driver and a truck, the job is a lot less lonely than it used to be, thanks to the smartphone. No other piece of mobile technology has done more for truckers. It offers instant connections with friends, family and work; it’s also a safety device and source of entertainment.
“I don’t have to look for a pay phone on a street corner in the rain or cold, blowing wind. Now, I sit in my truck and make my phone calls,” said Gary Wiggins, a Texas-based owner-operator.
While smart phones keep drivers in touch with family and friends, they’re also business tools.
“I use my phone to call agents about loads. Then I have the agent email the pickup info and delivery info. Then I print that info out on my printer in the truck. After I deliver a load, I call the agent on my cell phone to let them know their load has been delivered. Then I scan the paperwork and BOL and email that to the company that I’m leased to to get paid. I get paid online, I pay my bills online,” Wiggins said.
Navigation – Truckers do still get lost on occasion, but it’s rarer than it used to be, thanks to GPS technology. Satellite navigation, backed by apps that provide up-to-date maps, weather conditions and road construction, makes it easier for drivers to arrive safely and on time.
Entertainment – Laptops, tablets and smartphones put a world of entertainment at the disposal of drivers. They can binge on Netflix in their sleepers, listen to audiobooks and music or play Xbox as well as they could in their living rooms. That makes nights on the road a lot more bearable.
Accountability – Drivers like to say that they could never be cooped up in an office; ironically, their whereabouts are probably more closely tracked than that of many office workers. GPS devices on trucks and e-logs tell employers exactly where drivers are and, in many cases, how they’re driving. Dash cams record video of driving behavior while engine telematics track speed and acceleration, all of it information employers can use to monitor drivers.
Drawbacks — Though there is no doubt that mobile technology has made trucking easier, safer and more profitable, some drivers feel something has been lost along the way.
“Electronics is a double-edged sword,” said William Kolias, an owner-operator in New Hampshire and driving instructor. While electronics has removed a lot of the inefficiency from the industry, it has pushed the human element – the driver – to the limit, he said.
Technology and trucking will remain linked and drivers will continue to adapt mobile technology to make their jobs easier and to remain competitive.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Politicians in Washington agree on the dire need to modernize the ports, railroads and highways in the United States, but the “how do we pay for it” question sparks a debate between Democrats and Republicans.
At the Intermodal Association of North American exposition here, stakeholders discussed two funding ideas that are already the buzz on Capitol Hill: taxes and public-private partnerships.
“Our funding stream for infrastructure, especially freight movement, needs tremendous help. What we’ve relied upon primarily, the gas tax, is a nonsustainable funding stream. It will decrease as we go forward with better efficiency and less reliance on gas,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Ports Caucus, told members of the expo late last month. “Right now, [lawmakers] are laying out the parameters. But we haven’t dealt with the 800-pound gorilla of how we’re going to pay for all of this with sustainable funding streams.”
The federal tax on diesel is 24.4 cents a gallon. For gasoline, it’s 18.4 cents per gallon.
In June, Lowenthal introduced House Resolution 3001 — The National Multimodal and Sustainable Freight Infrastructure Act — that would institute a new 1% ground transportation tax on freight transportation on railroads or in Class 7 and Class 8 trucks. Lowenthal believes the funding stream would be more stable than the gas tax.
“We already have it on air transportation, but we don’t have that kind of thing on surface transportation. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates it would raise a minimum of $8 billion annually,” he said.
On public-private partnerships, or P3s, there was a skepticism that the idea should be used as frequently as President Donald Trump would prefer.
“I don’t think there should be this blatant, overall, ‘let’s do P3s for the sake of doing P3s’ mentality. In certain contexts, it might not be the most efficient way to deliver a project,” said Shant Boyajian, attorney in the infrastructure group of Washington, D.C., law firm Nossaman. “Every public agency should think when doing a project what’s the most efficient way to actually deliver it and maximize the value of money.”
Lowenthal added that while public-private partnerships make sense in some cases for urban infrastructure projects, they don’t make sense in the rural areas.
When revamping the nation’s infrastructure Jones Lang LaSalle economist Walter Kemmsies noted that the design should focus on a transportation network designed for imports and exports. He argued that when the national highway system was originally built, it was prioritized towards importing based on economic conditions after World War II.
“The problem is we’ve succeeded. We have a growing global middle class, but our industries do not get access to those markets,” he said. “If we’re to rebuild our infrastructure to support our exports, that’s where the employment and wage growth comes from. Does the U.S. produce what the global consumers are buying? Yes. But are we supplying the global customer? Increasingly, no. The world market is where we’ll get our best return on investment.”
A coalition of major carriers has petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to immediately allow hair sample tests to satisfy federal rules requiring trucking companies to drug test truck drivers pre-employment. Currently, the agency only recognizes urine sample tests.
The Trucking Alliance, a carrier advocacy group that includes fleets like Maverick Transportation, Knight Transportation, J.B. Hunt and Dupre Logistics, submitted the petition.
The FAST Act highway bill passed last year opens the door for the agency to recognize hair tests in lieu of urine samples, but not until the Department of Health and Human Services creates guidelines for hair sample testing. The FAST Act requires HHS to finalize guidelines within a year of the law’s enactment, which would be Dec. 5, 2016 of this year.
The guidelines have not yet been finalized, however, and the Alliance says HHS likely will request more time to do so, further delaying carriers’ ability to test driver via hair sample, the Alliance argues.
Final highway bill: CSA revamp in, younger truckers and carrier ‘hiring standards’ out
The FAST Act highway bill brings with it a bevy of big and small regulatory changes for the trucking industry. Here’s what did and didn’t …
“On this issue, the private sector is already far ahead of the public sector in utilizing the latest methods to detect drug users,” said Lane Kidd, managing director of the Trucking Alliance. “While we wait on HHS and FMCSA, we can possibly save lives with this exemption by keeping many hard drug users out of our trucks and off our highways.”
Some carriers like J.B. Hunt already test drivers via hair sample, but such carriers must still spend the money to test drivers via urine sample too, a practice that could be ended if the agency accepted drug screening via hair analysis, the Alliance members argue.
The US shipping community received a reprieve Monday from worst-case potential disruption caused by an electronic logging mandate for truck drivers that takes effect Dec. 18. An association representing state law enforcement agencies said it would postpone putting drivers out-of-service for not complying with the mandate until April 1, 2018.
“Beginning April 1, 2018, inspectors will start placing commercial motor vehicle drivers out of service if their vehicle is not equipped with the required device,” the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) said in a statement. The April 1 “effective date” for applying electronic logging device (ELD) out-of-service criteria will give truckers and shippers time to adjust to the rule with “minimal disruption to the delivery of goods.”
Starting Dec. 18, “roadside enforcement personnel will begin documenting violations on roadside inspection reports and, at the jurisdiction’s discretion, will issue citations to commercial motor vehicle drivers operating vehicles without a compliant ELD,” CVSA said in a statement. But carriers in effect will have an additional three-and-a-half months to install ELDs.
The CVSA’s action alleviates fears that thousands of truckers could be placed out of service for not having ELDs starting Dec. 18, stranding freight a week before Christmas. That holiday logistical nightmare would likely have spiked spot market rates as trucks were dispatched to rescue stranded cargo and drivers. Concern about capacity shortages is already rising.
The Aug. 28 announcement clarifies how events are likely to unfold as the mandate takes effect and gives motor carriers struggling to prepare for the requirement, which effects approximately 3 million drivers, more breathing room. “Phased-in” enforcement of the mandate also may blunt attempts to delay implementation of the rule on Capitol Hill.
“The December deadline for this important safety regulation was established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration [FMCSA] in 2015 following a decade of regulatory inquiry, study, litigation, and ultimately a congressional mandate,” CVSA executive director Collin B. Mooney said in a letter to FMCSA Deputy Administrator Daphne Jefferson.
He expressed “strong opposition” to any delay in the mandate. “Despite what opponents of the mandate may argue, the enforcement community is ready to begin enforcement of the requirement on Dec. 18,” Mooney said.
In short, truckers may receive a citation (and associated fine) if they do not have ELDs installed and operating Dec. 18, but they will not be ordered off the road and out-of-service. Information on companies and drivers that receive citations could be used by regulators to identify and investigate carriers suspected of not complying with the mandate.
Starting April 1, however, truck drivers that do not have ELDs will not drive away from a roadside inspection. They will be placed out-of-service by the state regulatory officials, roadside inspectors, and police officers represented by the CVSA, using its North American Out of Service Criteria. Someone else will have to pick up the freight being hauled by that out-of-service driver.
The electronic logging mandate is expected to have a far-reaching effect on US businesses and domestic and international supply chains, starting with a potential spike in port drayage costs. Truckload carriers and owner-operators may feel the brunt of the impact, but the advent of the ELD era could affect supply chain strategies that extend well beyond trucking procurement.
As Dec. 18 draws closer, many smaller trucking companies reportedly are far from ready to switch from paper logbooks to ELDs. A variety of groups, led by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, are seeking either an outright delay of the regulation or exemptions for specific types of trucking operations, such as drivers of rental trucks.
Companies that have not yet placed orders for ELDs may face shortages of the devices as the Dec. 18 deadline approaches. “The vendors don’t have barges sitting off the coast loaded with thousands of these devices,” John Seidl, a transportation consultant with Integrated Risk Solutions and former roadside inspector, said during an Aug. 3 JOC.com webcast.
Logistics executives, including C.H. Robinson Worldwide CEO John Wiehoff, have expressed concern that implementation of the ELD mandate in December could get “very messy.” The CVSA decision to phase in enforcement should alleviate the threat of an immediate pre-Christmas capacity snap and make a more gradual tightening of capacity over the next year more likely.
“CVSA member jurisdictions have used this phased-in approach in the past when implementing a significant change in regulatory requirements,” Mooney said in his letter. He said the CVSA board and FMCSA agreed the two-phase enforcement strategy would be the best approach and would “promote a smoother transition to the new ELD requirement.”
However, truckers, fleet operators, brokers, and shippers should not delay compliance plans. Those that do not take advantage of the “wiggle room” the phased-in approach affords may find themselves in a tight spot April 1.