FIXING flaws in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) hours-of-service rules remains a critical objective for the American Trucking Associations. Most recently, ATA officials focused their attention on the new hours of service restart rule.

Phil Byrd Sr, ATA chairman and president of Bulldog Hiway Express in Charleston, South Carolina, provided an ATA update during the National Tank Truck Carriers 66th Annual Conference April 27-29 in Las Vegas, Nevada. He said ATA is addressing the restart issue in the Transportation Appropriations process and is seeking a stay of the new restart rule until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has time to analyze FMCSA’s Restart Field Study and cost-benefit analysis that accompanied these changes.

“ATA’s professional staff is well aware of the restrictive nature of the new restart provisions and understands the negative productivity impact of these changes,” Byrd said. “Hours of service is a problem for many of us in this industry.

“We would argue this new regulation is not only burdensome to our industry, it impacts productivity, driver wages, and safety. It puts our trucks and drivers on the highway at times when there is the most congestion. I also think it will impact our driver turnover. As drivers become more frustrated, they’ll find other outlets to make a living. ATA is asking you to write a letter to your Senator or Congressman, saying we have to get Congressional action.”

Addressing sleeper berth rules, Byrd said ATA has joined the Minnesota Trucking Association in developing a comprehensive pilot program application. The goal is to allow a small number of solo and team drivers to operate, in a pilot program, with more flexible sleeper berth rules to develop safety and operational data that can be studied. The long-term goal is to achieve much greater flexibility in the sleeper berth rules than what drivers currently have.

“When we don’t have the flexibility to pull into a safe haven and take a break that can count, it hurts our drivers and our businesses,” he said. “Because drivers get penalized, they drive through those periods of time.”

Byrd said ATA is working on three problems with the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program:

•  All scores must measure safety performance; some currently do not do so.

•  All truck-involved crashes are included.

•  The public can be misled by inaccurate scores.

“ATA continues to work with FMCSA and other stakeholders to improve CSA,” he said. “We support the ‘objectives’ of CSA, but the devil is in the details, and that’s where the problem lies.

“We’re working diligently on perfecting the CSA regulation. CSA’s got to be changed, and we’re working hard on it.

“Congress should also closely monitor FMCSA’s progress in adopting DOT Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office recommendations for program improvement.”

Byrd said Redundant Security Threat Assessments are another top policy/regulatory issue.

“Many of you go into sensitive, secured areas,” he said. “This industry needs a single biometric card that will be recognized in sensitive, secured areas. We need this.

“I go in and out of seaports routinely and I’m sure, after making this comment in public, I will get stopped. But my card has been expired since June 2012. I’ve never been stopped. Not once. The program needs some work.”

Byrd said highway reauthorization is one of the top 2014 legislative priorities, with the Highway Trust Fund scheduled to run out of money in August.

“We have to correct the problem,” he said. “After our leadership meeting months ago, we commissioned a committee of high-ranking executives of ATA to study this problem as to how we can recommend to Congress a funding mechanism to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund.

“ATA is committed to act in a more responsibly quick way in reaching what we see as a problem. We’re going to establish a timeline. The days of things going on forever in the halls of ATA are over. We support a fuel tax increase with indexing. We oppose tolling of interstates. A dedicated highway freight program and increases in truck productivity have to play a factor.

“Reauthorization of the surface transportation programs is a top legislative priority. Finding a short-term fix to the Highway Trust Fund hole by the end of August is the highest priority, while at the same time it’s also critical to get Congress to authorize a long-term, sustainable funding source.”

He said ATA is pushing for a new freight program aimed at fixing the top highway bottlenecks on the primary freight network. Tax reform also is a priority, “to the extent there is political will to tackle it.”

Byrd said a gap started in 2012 between the number of truck drivers demanded and the number supplied. By 2021, there could be a shortfall of 239,000 drivers.

The average number of new drivers needed annually over the next 10 years is 96,178. That’s due to retirements (37%), industry growth (36%), non-voluntary departures (16%), and voluntary non-retirement departures (11%).

Regulatory factors that will impact driver supply:

•  Electronic logging devices. “Some drivers are simply technology-averse and will refuse to use ELDs. We’ve found in our business that assuming you ran a compliant HOS operation, you will in fact gain productivity. The devices are so precise that they are actually able to bring productivity to our drivers.”

•  Hours of Service. “Reduced productivity per driver will increase demand.”

•  Sleep apnea screening and treatment. “Obese drivers may refuse to be tested or to endure CPAP therapy.”

•  CSA. “Greater scrutiny of safety metrics will make more drivers unemployable.”

•  Medical registry. “Tighter controls on medical qualifications will weed out unqualified drivers, further shortening supply.”

•  Background checks. “Redundant and costly criminal history records checks are a ‘hassle factor’ for drivers.”

“We collectively, as ATA and NTTC and every other trucking organization, have to come together and demand that our shippers respect our drivers, that our businesses respect our drivers,” he said. “If we want to encourage people to come into this industry, that’s Step One.”

How can you help with getting the industry’s voice heard? There are a number of ATA programs and initiatives.

The Call on Washington in 2013 involved 28 states, 357 Hill visits, 436 trucking executives, 75 events at ATA’s Capitol Hill Office, 12 terminal visits, and $520,000 raised for the Truck PAC.

“We worked with members and state trucking associations to set up such events,” Byrd said. “At times we combined them with a fundraiser so the host was able to hand off a Truck PAC check on ATA’s behalf.

“Invite your policy makers to visit your facility or do a ride-along. We hosted 12 terminal visits with members of Congress. We have to bring our elected officials to our facilities so they can see the technology and sophistication of our operations.”

He introduced LEAD ATA, ATA’s new comprehensive leadership program—a one-year program created to engage the trucking industry’s best and brightest and prepare them to become the leaders of tomorrow.

“Participants will gain unparalleled real-world experiences and in-depth industry insight,” he said. “Upon completion of the program, graduates will have gained a vast network of industry peers, enhanced leadership, and management skills, and a thorough understanding of the ATA and the industry it represents. By offering a tailored experience to each individual, LEAD ATA will provide graduates with all the tools necessary to lead the trucking industry into the future.”

He also talked about Trucking Moves America Forward, whose mission is to establish a long-term industry-wide movement to create a positive image for the industry, to ensure that policymakers and the public understand the importance of the trucking industry to the nation’s economy, and to build the political and grassroots support necessary to strengthen and grow the industry in the future. (www.truckingmovesamerica.com)

He said it was launched at the end of March at the Mid-America Trucking Show, with ATA, NTTC, and many other groups joining together to change the way the trucking industry is viewed across America.

“The movement is designed to educate our policy makers, the general public and the news media about how essential, safe and sustainable trucking is,” he said. “We all know public opinion changes public policy, and we hope through this new industry-wide movement that the trucking industry is not only respected more, but we will see better laws and regulations as a result, as well as better reporting in the news media.

“In addition, our goal is to develop pride and respect within our own workforce: our drivers, dispatchers, technicians, even some CEOs. Our goal is to raise $1 million a year going forward, and we are over the half-million dollar mark in actual dollars and will be over the $1 million mark when you include in-kind contributions. A big thanks to NTTC for donating $5K a year for the next five years.”   ♦

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