Whether they love them or hate them, most people will admit that trucking regulations have kept America’s highways safer. However, many truck drivers will argue against intrusive trucking laws, citing compliance issues and increased truck driver shortages. Proposed training requirements, Hours-of-Service(HOS) regulations, and the new electronic logging device (ELD) mandate have all come under fire for their impact on trucking industry.
Proposed Federal Truck Training Requirements
In March of 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed entry-level driver training requirements. The agency believes that the suggested changes will improve highway safety through better training. The changes would apply to those seeking an initial commercial driver’s license (CDL), an upgrade or reinstatement, or a hazmat endorsement.
These individuals would be subject to the following requirements:
- Instruction from a FMCSA Training Provider Registry trainer with expertise appropriate to the license or endorsement desired.
- A minimum of 30 hours of behind the wheel training, with at least 10 hours on a driving range.
- At least 10 hours of driving on a public road or 10 (50-minute minimum) trips on a public road, with a TPR-registered trainer.
Impact to Driver Shortages
There is little doubt that these improvements would increase the skills of new drivers. However, the FMCSA admits the new training regulations would cost the trucking industry as much as $5.6 billion over the next 10 years.
However, that is not the only cost. Experts say that more veteran drivers are retiring, and the influx of new drivers cannot keep up with the aging workforce. Furthermore, few driving instructors have the necessary expertise required to teach under the new training regulations.
Add in the fact that driving schools currently produce just 125,000 trucking candidates per year and you have a potential logjam on your hands. Since an instructor’s presence is necessary for the 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training, each of those 125,000 driver candidates would require individual instruction. Finding a balance that produces safer drivers at an acceptable rate could be challenging.
Hours-of-Service Truck Driving Laws
In July of 2013, new HOS regulations went into effect that cut drivers’ workweeks from 82 hours to 70 hours. It also imposed a 10-hour driving limit, a 14-hour on-duty limit, and increased mandated rest periods. Fortunately, a provision that required two early-morning home terminal rest periods each week was suspended in December 2014.
While federal trucking regulations are strict, hours-of-service requirements highlight the underlying driver shortage issue. Fewer drivers plus shortened operating hours may equal increased costs, which must be eventually passed to carriers and consumers.
It is also evident that these trucking regulations help truck drivers and other motorists stay safe. Chronic fatigue is associated with high crash rates and several health issues. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates over 1,500 deaths and 71,000 injuries occur annually because of driving while drowsy.
ELD Truck Laws
Since the trucking industry got its start in 1938, truck drivers have used pen and paper logbooks to record their operating hours. While many modern fleets have switched to electronic logging devices, the three million drivers who do not yet use them must switch by December 2017. The new trucking law also gives current ELD users an additional two years to upgrade to devices compliant with regulation specs.
The new law also reduces paperwork. Since HOS supporting document regulations are changing, most carriers will not be required to keep fuel receipts or shipping documents on hand.
Though younger, tech-savvy drivers may be comfortable with ELDs, many veteran drivers object to them. There is less wiggle room available than with paper log books, and some express concern that companies may track and pressure drivers to continue operating despite unsafe conditions.
Anticipating these issues, lawmakers provided clauses that allow drivers to report trucking companies that coerce or harass them using ELD data. However, the issue is not that simple. Pressure may be subtle and insinuating, and drivers may be reluctant to risk losing work to report a violation.
Effects of Trucking Laws and Regulations
Truck driving regulations have both advantages and disadvantages. Coping with potential and actual changes may require creative thinking. What is most needed is an influx of young drivers interested in building their careers on the road.