Should Trucking Industry Move to Two Trailers at 33 Feet in Place of Twin 22s?

trucking rig with doubles trailersIn a recent study commissioned by the Americans For Modern Transportation, the use of twin 33 trailers would be both safe and fuel effective for the trucking industry. The study was conducted by Dr. Ronald Knipling, a traffic safety researcher with more than three decades of experience. But wait, would making double trailers truly be safe for drivers and the general public? After all, when you are talking about adding 11 feet to the length of a tractor trailer it raises all kinds of alarms. Doubles are already more dangerous to pull than singles, which is why we don’t see as many of these trailer types being hauled. So is there much weight behind the AMT’s notion of switching to twin 33s?

The Basics of 22s and 33s

Currently if you have a truck driver job pulling doubles, this means you are hauling two 28-foot trailers for a total length of 60 feet for the trailers and 73 feet 11 inches for your total rig. If the use of twin 33s were to be implemented, this would involve hauling two 33-foot trailers for a total trailer length of 70 feet. Your total rig would increase by a foot in length to almost 84 feet. This would allow drivers to haul more freight at an increased volume capacity of 18.6 percent, while the maximum weight would not increase. According to the study by Dr. Knipling this increased length would be safer than pulling the 22s. Furthermore, it would make a dramatic change to the economic and safety issues associated with hauling doubles, of which 33s are perceived to be the better option.

Economic Benefits of Doubles

Pulling doubles would save the trucking industry $2.6 billion in shipping costs, according to the study. This benefit would come from decreasing the amount of time it takes for freight haulers to deliver the goods. Fewer trucks on the road means less traffic and congestion, to the tune of 53.2 million hours saved thanks to twin 33s. Trucks would require less fuel accounting to 255 million gallons of diesel saved with the implementation of these doubles.

Safety Concerns With Longer Doubles

The move to twin 33s sounds like it would be more dangerous for truck drivers. You are pulling longer trailers that reduce your ability to see or control what’s going on in the back of you. When it comes to cross winds and traffic congestion, this could be a huge negative for haulers. However, the switch to 33s would make for a longer wheelbase, while not increasing the amount of weight in a truck. This is super important considering that truckers can only haul so much weight, and this includes the weight they are already carrying. Heavier trailers would mean that these truckers would have to haul less freight, which defeats the purpose of money making measures like twin 33s.

Furthermore the study shows that the actual turning radius would be improved for truck drivers pulling twin 33s in comparison to single 53-foot trailers. The twin 33s would have a tighter turning radius, which would make this trailer type safer to maneuver. So while trucking companies like Werner Enterprises, Barr-Nunn and Celadon Trucking may not utilize doubles now, if the standard length changed to twin 33s this could very well help to make trucking safer.

Who are Americans for Modern Transportation

The Americans for Modern Transportation is a coalition that was formed to improve trucking safety and efficiency. The coalition’s mission statement also includes: “We will advocate for policies that modernize the delivery of products and consumer goods to businesses and consumers across the country.” Several leading trucking companies are affiliated with establishing the AMT including FedEx, UPS, XPO Logistics, ULINE, Estes, and Sysco. Trucking associations affiliated with the coalition include the American Highway Users Alliance, National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council.

 

Weighing Both Sides of the Discussion: Should States Pass ELD Rule for Intrastate Trucking

truck on the road with texas flag on truck grillIn case you haven’t heard yet, the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will be going stateside soon. For starters, Texas is interested in establishing an ELD mandate on the local level. This will affect intrastate truck drivers hauling freight in Texas. While the federal ELD mandate does not apply to intrastate drivers, the federal regulatory rules state that what happens on the federal level must also happen on the state level.

Part of this is to provide uniformity for commercial drivers, trucking companies, and Department of Transportation inspectors. However, there is a limit to the amount of power federal regulators should have on the state level, according to many state legislators. Let’s break this down to determine the options that trucking companies and carriers of regional freight will have if states begin implementing the ELD rule.

Interstate versus Intrastate Laws

While the FMCSA requires all commercial truck drivers to use electronic logging devices, this mandate is only for interstate truckers. That includes those over the road truckers who cross state lines to deliver freight. It does not apply to regional trucking jobs held by truckers who stay within their home state. Those drivers are exempt from the ELD rule, sort of. See, the issue is that any federal rule that is passed by the FMCSA must also be applied to the state legislature in all affected states. More specifically federal regulations require states to comply with laws set on the national scale. Therefore, the ELD rule that is imposed on over the road truckers will have to be implemented on the state level.

The difference here is that most states already use the federal hours of service code for its intrastate truckers, as well as interstate truckers. Those states that have a unique hours of service code, which includes Texas, California, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska. For example, truck drivers in California can drive for up to 12 hours with 16 on-duty hours. In Alaska truck drivers can haul freight for up to 15 hours of behind the wheel time in a 20-hour stretch. And in Hawaii truck drivers don’t have to keep log books at all.

So for these states there is the issue of translating the federal regulation of the ELDs to the state’s intrastate hours of service system. Since jurisdiction for intrastate freight is controlled by individual states, it is up to the states to either comply with the federal hours of service rule or to establish a new system that works with ELDs. This means these states have the opportunity to refuse to comply with the Electronic Logging Device mandate. Some states including California are already refuting the safety data that supports ELDs, and are less likely to approve the federal regulation on an intrastate level because of the loss of driving time for California truck drivers.

Making Hasty Decisions

Another consideration is whether states need to develop an ELD rule on the state level now or not. After all, the hope around the trucking industry is that the ELD mandate will be nixed as part of Trump’s deregulation move. If states jump the gun and go forward with state-level, intrastate-mandated ELDs, this could be disastrous in the instance that Trump were to reverse the ELD regulation. That would cause states like Texas that are pushing forward with the use of ELDs to backtrack, a costly move both politically and economically. Plus, trucking companies like National Strategic Transport, Purdy Brothers Trucking, and Shaffer Trucking will have to comply with state regulations, as well as FMCSA rules. So should states stay with the use of paper logs, or are electronic logs a sure thing? That is the question that state leaders will have to ask.

Overreaching Federal Bounds

The third concern is whether these ELDs are going to cross the boundaries of federal versus state law. Yes, the federal regulations require states to comply with federal level laws when it comes to commercial truck drivers. However, this does not mean that states have to do everything that the federal agency is doing. For example, if states were to come up with a different way of using ELDs that provides truck drivers with increased privacy, will these states be allowed to take this new path? Furthermore, for those states that believe in a lack of federal oversight and more power on the state level, the enforcement of ELDs for intrastate trucking could be a hot topic issue come election season.

Coming to a Conclusion

Finding a way to improve truck driver safety is paramount for everyone involved in the trucking industry. This includes those with power on the federal level, as well as state leaders. After all, if freight isn’t moving through states and across the country, then the nation is going to suffer great economic losses. Therefore, the discussion on how to implement electronic logging devices for all truckers including intrastate drivers needs to keep trucker safety in mind. The focus should be on the current studies and research backing interstate use of ELDs and whether this data is relatable on the intrastate level. There very well may need to be a new round of safety research provided on the state level among regional trucking jobs to determine if, and how, ELDs would benefit these truckers’ safety.

Truckers Hauling Hazmat Loads with TWIC Cards Get a Break

greenbelt truck hauling hazmat loadThe American Trucking Associations, the National Tank Truck Carriers, and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have all agreed on something. These trucking organizations want to improve the security clearance process for truck drivers hauling hazardous materials or freight into classified or high-security facilities. Brought before the

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee this legislation would make it easier for OTR truck drivers hauling hazmat or loads to sensitive areas. Check out why it is redundant for truck drivers to have to get a TWIC card when they are already approved as hazmat truck drivers.

Support for Truckers

For drivers for trucking companies like Loudon County, Marten Transport or Melton Truck Lines this new legislation will free up the ability for truckers to haul hazmat freight, as they already are, with fewer loops to jump through. OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer noted, “No group is more concerned with transportation security than the truckers moving the cargo. For too long, these hard working men and women have been frustrated with bureaucracy and costs of duplicative and redundant background checks. They deserve a better system….the Surface Transportation and Maritime Security Act is a significant step in the right direction.”

The trucking industry is seeing vast support on this issue. The bill will include:

  • A provision to develop a surface transportation advisory committee
  • An assessment of the TWIC program
  • An allowance for TWIC holders to get a hazmat endorsement without additional background checks

Getting Security Clearance

Currently the process for truck drivers hauling hazardous materials or loads into secure areas, involves the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program or TWIC. This program is part of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and is required of all truck drivers and workers who haul freight to maritime vessels and facilities in the US. The current requirements is to:

  • Have a background check completed to ensure you aren’t a security threat
  • Be a US citizen or immigrant of certain categories
  • Fill out an application
  • Schedule an appointment with the TSA to conduct your interview.
  • Pay up to $125.25 for the TWIC identification card, depending on whether you have a reduced rate or not; truck drivers with the hazmat endorsement on a CDL can be eligible for the reduced rate of $105.25
  • Receive your card in the mail or pick it up at the place where you applied for the card

It can take anywhere from 30 to 45 days to receive a response from the TSA that they are reviewing your information. If your fingerprints aren’t captured properly, it can take even longer, and as this is listed on the TSA website as an issue, it must be a common occurrence. Once you receive your TWIC card it is good for five years, after which you must reapply.

Problems with TWIC Program

The main issue here is the timeframe for getting a TWIC card. Let’s say you are a hazmat endorsed truck driver getting ready to take a load for a new client that requires you to deliver to a highly sensitive site. You must have the TWIC clearance to get the job. Unfortunately you aren’t already certified so you are forced to wait for over a month to get approved and a TWIC card. By then the customer is long gone. The time frame is only the first issue though.

As a truck driver you already go through a stringent background check and ongoing inspections at the federal level. If you have gotten your hazmat endorsement for your CDL, then you already did a background check and fingerprints. In other words you have already met the requirements by the TSA for the TWIC card, but under the guise of a separate federal agency. Why should you be subject to having to reapply for the security clearance when your CDL endorsement proves you are good to go? Commercial truck drivers are dealing with duplicate background checks that prevent them from doing their job, which is detrimental to the economy.

 

What is the Safest Truck Driving Job?

truck route signThe priority of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is to make highways safer for both truck drivers and motorists. This is why the FMCSA requires truck drivers to get commercial driver’s license, record their hours of service in a log book, and get inspected by the Department of Transportation. It’s also why truckers have to get DOT physical exams, to ensure they are healthy enough to handle truck driving jobs. Along with all of this regulatory stuff that the FMCSA does, the organization compiles tons of data at the same time. In a recent report the data suggests that certain haul types are more likely to be involved in crashes than others. Find out if your truck driving haul type is causing you to live on the dangerous side.

Big Data and Trucker Safety

The data presented in the report titled “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2014” covers all of the fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2012 to 2014. Also known as big data, this information is key to understanding truck driver safety in a relatively fast fashion. The report breaks down the data very simply according to cargo body type and number and percentage of fatal crashes.

  • The haul type that was involved in the most crashes in that three-year period is van or enclosed box trailers.

From 2012 to 2014 that number has decreased from 1,649 to 1,585, making box van trucks involved in 42 percent of crashes in 2014. That sounds like a lot, but it is critical to put this data into context. Dry van truck loads are the most common in the US. More importantly, those numbers are declining, while the number of truck drivers hauling dry van loads is increasing.

Hazards of Hazardous Materials

On the other hand if you are hauling hazardous materials you would think that your chances of getting involved in a crash or trucking fatality would increase. However, according to the data:

  • Only 3 percent of trucking accidents that were fatal involved a hazardous materials load.
  • The percentage is even smaller for those involved in nonfatal crashes, for which only 2 percent were identified by a hazardous materials placard.
  • For those hauling hazardous materials, flammable liquids like oil and fuel are the most dangerous. Forty-nine percent of the 3 percent of fatal crashes involving hazardous materials were associated with flammable materials.

If you break this down, only 1 percent of truck crash fatalities are resulting from hauling flammable liquids. That’s not bad at all considering how dangerous this haul type is, and that goes to show how good truck drivers are at doing their job.

Pulling Singles or Doubles

For the majority of truck drivers in the US for companies like Hunt Transportation, National Strategic Transport, and Purdy Brothers Trucking, it’s all about pulling singles, single trailers that is. However, double trailers are becoming more commonplace in the trucking industry in the US in order to get goods delivered on time. Among those drivers hauling singles versus doubles, you would think that pulling doubles is more dangerous. And you would be mistaken.

  • It turns out that single semi-trailers were involved in 63 percent of fatal crashes in 2013.
  • As for those truckers pulling doubles, these only accounted for 2 percent of truck accident deaths.
  • Some truckers in the US are pulling triples, and the data shows only 0.1 percent of these were involved in a fatal crash.

Again, as with the dry van trailers, the big difference in numbers is due to the sheer volume of singles on the roads. You are far more likely to see a single trailer being pulled than any doubles and definitely triples. What is more important here is that we keep a check on the number of trucking crash deaths that occur in the next few years. Why? As fleets are maxed out and freight demand continues to climb, we can anticipate seeing more carriers and truck drivers hauling doubles and triples. Yet the concern is whether or not this type of haul is safe overall. When you have two trailers being pulled it creates a whole new dynamic for the driver as well. Newbies and rookie drivers simply aren’t cut out for the experience needed to haul these advanced convoys. At the same time, when you can haul twice as much product in half the time, the market beckons for you to pull doubles and triples.

The Bottom Line

As a truck driver use this information to help you be confident in choosing your next trucking job. Understand that truck driving safety begins and ends with you as a driver. Rather than worry about getting into a truck crash, know that the data suggests that no one haul type is more dangerous than the other. It all boils down to the number of truck drivers and hauling types on the road.

 

What to Look For When Buying a Certified ELD

Trucker Inside Trucking CabIf you are like the thousands of other truck drivers around the nation worried about the ELD situation, you want some answers. You want the facts, from the feds, about what to do when it comes to buying an electronic logging device. Whether you are driving for Shaffer Trucking, Werner Enterprises, Barr-Nunn or some other top paying trucking company, you have to be ELD compliant by the end of the year. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to buy your electronic logging device, while remaining compliant with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

What to Avoid in ELDs

A big misconception among truck drivers and some trucking company owners shopping for electronic logging devices is that they can get a tablet, or just an app, and they’ll be good to go. Unfortunately this is not correct. Yes, you can get a tablet or an app to use with your ELD. In fact these gadgets and programs are handy for using ELDs. However, in order to be compliant for the FMCSA ELD rule:

  • The electronic logging device must be attached to the tractor’s engine.
  • It must be a certified device according to the requirements by the FMCSA.

If you are using an app you have found on iTunes or Google Play, and that is all, for your ELD compliance, it’s not going to be enough. When December rolls around you will end up getting inspected by the DOT and your e-logs will not be legit. Don’t let this happen to you.

When choosing your electronic logging device here is what you want to look for:

  • A device that includes a tracking system that must be hardwired to your truck engine.
  • An ELD that will record your hours of service log
  • A unit that can connect wirelessly or via Bluetooth to the internet in order to transmit your ELD records to the FMCSA

These three points are paramount, and without each you will not be compliant. Now when it comes to purchasing an ELD system, you’ll need the following:

  • A unit that will attach to your truck’s diagnostic port for direct communication with your truck’s engine
  • A handheld device, such as a tablet, that allows you to access the data gathered by the ELD; this can also be your smartphone via an app

The two devices work together to monitor and record your hours of service and other driving data. You will need to use both to be compliant.

Choosing Compliant ELDs

Now about that certified device part. How does an electronic logging device become certified by the FMCSA? As of March 2017, the FMCSA is not certified devices on its own accord. Instead companies selling ELDs that want to get certified must self-certify their devices. This means that these companies are expected to use the list of self-certification criteria and deem their device qualified. As you can imagine, there will be some ELD providers that attempt to self-certify devices that are not up to par. As a result, here at the onset of this new federal mandate, you want to take the time to check out the ELD you are purchasing.

List of Compliant Devices

The FMCSA has a regularly updated list of devices that are compliant. The current devices that are self-certified for truck drivers to use for the ELD mandate as of December 2017 include:

  • Load Logistics TMS by Support Resources,Inc.
  • Gorilla Safety ELD by Gorilla Fleet Safety, LLC
  • FleetUP by FleetUp
  • DriverLog by Wireless Links
  • Hutch ELD by Hutch Business Group Inc
  • TSO INCABIN PLUS by TSO MOBILE by Tracking Solutions Corp
  • e-Track Certified by ATS Fleet Management Solutions
  • KeepTruckin ELD by KeepTruckin, Inc
  • Geowiz Truck Tracker Edition by GeoSpace Labs
  • at.eDash by Assured Tracking Inc
  • MW-ELD-J9C by Mobile Warrior LLC
  • Hours of Service by VisTracks, Inc
  • driveTIME by Cartasite
  • E-Log Plus by E-Log Plus
  • DSi eLogs by Dispatching Solutions Inc
  • Titan Logbook ELD by Certified Tracking Solutions
  • Fleetwatcher E-Logs by Earthwave Technologies
  • ELD Fleet by Global Tracking Communications, Inc
  • TheTMS ELD Product Solution by THETMS Inc
  • M2MIM ELD by M2M In Motion
  • EDGE MDT by iGlobal LLC
  • EROAD ELD by EROAD
  • Saucon Prox ELD by Saucon Technologies, Inc
  • SIMPLEELOG by Simple Elog Inc
  • SIMPLETRUCKELD by SimpleTruckELD Inc
  • GEO83A by HCSS
  • ELD001 by Locus GPS
  • GEO001 by Geosavi Inc

As noted on the FMCSA list, each of these companies is only self-certified that these devices are compliant. It doesn’t mean that the FMCSA is approving these devices. Therefore you are responsible for making sure your ELD is compliant—even if you choose one of these devices from this list. Otherwise you are held accountable per the FMCSA for not having an ELD that meets federal requirements.

Self-Certified ELDs Criteria

In order to make sure you are getting a certified device the FMCSA has an extensive list of criteria your ELD must meet. These points require that your ELD must include:

  • Separate accounts for all users of the ELD, i.e. multiple drivers in a truck or trucking dispatchers accessing your information
  • Features an integral synchronization that connects to the engine in order to track and record engine status, movement, speed, etc.
  • Records your data automatically when operating the truck, as well as at 60 minute intervals
  • Records driver ID, your location, date, time, mileage, and your engine hours
  • Must capture your location within a one-mile radius; however, when the truck is being used for personal use it should only capture up to a 10-mile radius for trucker safety and protection
  • Uses UTC time (coordinated universal time)
  • Keeps hours of service data and driver log records for the current 24 hours, along with the previous consecutive seven day period
  • Requires you to certify your driving records after 24 hour periods
  • Doesn’t allow you or anyone else to tamper with the device or records
  • Requires you to review and approve any changes in your driving records whether or not you made them
  • Lets you print your ELD records as needed via a printed log or using a electronic file, i.e. email
  • Features either a USB2.0 or Bluetooth, or a wireless internet connection, so that you can submit your hours of service logs electronically
  • Must have a volume control feature if the device makes any audible remarks
  • Must include a daily header, along with the current driving duty status changes, and a daily log record similar to the paper log record currently used by truck drivers

In addition, when you purchase your electronic logging device it must come with a user’s manual. The device must also include instructions on how to handle record keeping in the event of a technical failure, as well as how to send your ELDs to the FMCSA and DOT.

As you can guess, if you use a free app on your tablet to track your hours using an ELD program, you will not be compliant. The ELD must have all of the above features as required by the FMCSA. Once you have an ELD that meets these requirements you are all set to be compliant come December 2017. That is, unless the current administration scraps the whole ELD ruling, which is what a lot of truckers are hoping will happen first.

Related Article

Frequently Asked Questions about the ELD Mandate

USA Truck Recognized as Most Valuable Employer for Military

USA Truck big rig on highwayUSA Truck is up for a major award. The Most Valuable Employers for Military may be awarded to USA Truck this May. The organization RecruitMilitary is awarding employers that do more than give military truckers a chance for civilian work. These are the companies going a step above what is needed to help veterans apply for truck driving jobs when they return home. In recognition of this honorable achievement, USA Truck will be listed among the top trucking companies for military job seekers looking for civilian trucking jobs. Find out what else it means to be an MVE for Military.

Military Truck Driving Company

When you drive a truck in the US military you receive skills, training, and behind the wheel experience that is resume worthy. Unfortunately you don’t also receive a commercial driver license (CDL) when you are in the military. As a result, when you come back home from active duty and search for civilian jobs for truckers, you soon learn you need to start all over. This is a major burden for military truckers, which is where and trucking companies dedicated to those in service, like USA Truck, come onto the scene.

USA Truck Nomination

As a nationwide trucking company USA Truck leads the way for customized truckload, intermodal and dedicated trucking jobs. This company also provides third party logistics solutions as a full-service freight management company. When it comes to supporting those in the US military,USA Truck is doing its part by hiring military truck drivers whenever possible. In fact, James D. Reed, USA Truck president and CEO, said, “Nearly 30 percent of our driver team members are US military veterans. Clearly, we put a premium on hiring veterans, and we’re honored to have our efforts recognized by such a prestigious organization.”

In line with these efforts, USA Truck was nominated for the MVE award for 2017. The winners of the ninth annual award will be revealed in the RecruitMilitary “Search and Employ” magazine publication in the May issue. USA Truck was nominated for the award for the company’s job driver recruitment, trucker retention, and truck driver training services for military truckers. If selected as the winner for the 2017 Most Valuable Employers for Military, USA Truck will be featured among the best employers for military job seekers. When those truck drivers from the military search for trucking jobs for military vets, they will see USA Truck as a top contender.

Meet RecruitMilitary

RecruitMilitary is a recruiting company focused on the military in the US. It is subsidized by Bradley-Morris, which allows RecruitMilitary to help more than a million individuals searching for jobs. RecruitMilitary provides a wealth of opportunities at job fairs, an online job board, and a publication for the US military that offers valuable info for job seekers.

According to RecruitMilitary president Peter Gudmundsson, “Hiring veterans just makes good business sense. It is evident that companies across the country see the value that veteran talent brings to the table by this year’s list of MVEs. I congratulate each of the finalists on their veteran hiring strategies and for their selection.”

If you have a trucking company that you feel should be nominated as an MVE for 2018, now is your chance. RecruitMilitary will open nominations for the Most Valuable Employers for Military application on Veteran’s Day. The awards are presented annually in the May/June issue of the RecruitMilitary publication in observance of Armed Forces Day.

 

Helpful Tips for Truck Drivers Using Electronic Logging Devices

ELD on dash of truck at a truck stopAs trucking companies and truck drivers are ramping up their electronic logging use, we are starting to get insider tips from truckers across the nation. Truck drivers who are using e-logging devices, but not yet submitting e-logs to the FMCSA, are reporting less strenuous DOT inspections. However, there are also issues with installing devices and editing log records that need to be dealt with before the ELD mandate goes into effect. If truckers and companies nationwide go into fail mode by the end of December, this could have a devastating impact on the industry and economy as a whole. To ensure you achieve a seamless transition into the e-logging experience, use these helpful trucker tips.

Understand Its Operations

Before you go out onto the open road with your new electronic logging device, know how to operate it. This involves more than just powering the unit on. You need to feel comfortable operating this logging system. After all, it is going to follow you throughout your career. Furthermore, any mistakes you make with your e-logs, and you can make mistakes, will need to be corrected, which sounds like a steep learning curve for any user. There are several ways you can learn the e-log ropes:

  • Get a manual from your e-log vendor and read it cover to cover.
  • Check out the vendor’s site to see if your e-logging device has any operational videos posted for your particular unit. Go onto YouTube and look there, as well.
  • Watch videos of other truck drivers using electronic logging systems to get a basic idea of what to do.

However, the best thing you can do is use the device yourself. Play around with it and check out all of its functions. Try actions and see what happens. This will help you feel at ease when depending on the unit for monitoring your hours of service records for the FMCSA.

Getting a Device Installed

Once you have an e-log device, you have to get it installed, or understand how to do this professionally. This is because your device must have a tracking system that is to be affixed to your truck’s engine for compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Most e-log device vendors offer a video course or handbook to help you with installation yourself. Some will also provide service calls to have e-logging devices installed. However, this is typically a bonus or perk used to attract customers with larger fleets, such as US Xpress, USA Truck and Crete Carrier Corporation.

If you are an independent truck driver who is shopping for a device to electronically log your miles, then you’ll want to learn how to install the unit. This way you can have a better handle of how the system functions, which is instrumental if you have to troubleshoot for problems on down the road. Furthermore, don’t wait until the last minute to get an e-logging device for your truck. If you do, not only will you likely pay a premium price point, but it takes some effort to get the system hooked up properly.

Learn How to Edit

Yes, unfortunately, you will make mistakes when you first start to use your electronic logging device. No, you won’t lose your CDL on the account of it because thankfully you have the ability to edit your logs. However, you have to understand how to do this before you get on the road. Making edits over the road is inconvenient and it requires you understanding how to operate your device; see Point 1. At the same time, you can’t make an edit when you are in on duty driving mode. All edits require you to log in to the administrators account on your portal. You can’t do this while driving down the highway, and you shouldn’t do this. Make sure that when you do edit your log:

  • For the logging mistake go to the “Notes” area of the logging program. Here you should always give as much detail as needed to explain why you made the edit.
  • Your edits must be approved by you, the driver.

You’ve probably already noticed that this means if you are an independent driver you have the ability to keep records, as well as edit them. This is true. Even so you are responsible for maintaining clean e-logs. Also, even if you are allowed to edit your e-logs you still can’t falsify the records like you can with paper logs. Editing your e-log records only changes the record; it does not make the old record disappear. Therefore, you want to manage your electronic logging system as well as possible so to avoid edits.

Learn How to Deal with Inspectors

The CVSA (Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance) is the safety advocacy group that is responsible for DOT inspections. Electronic logging devices will be tracking hours of service requirements, as well as DOT inspections. Learn how to interact with DOT inspectors now that you have an e-log device, and find out what you can expect.

Right now DOT inspectors are turning a kind eye to truck drivers who are using e-logs. Most report that their inspectors were relaxed after seeing the tracking device attached to the truck’s engine. This could be a combination of a few things. Electronic logging devices are being touted for its public highway safety benefits. Therefore, inspectors are expecting e-logs to do the job without fail. It’s the golden day of e-logs in that regard. However, the other issue could be that inspectors are depending on e-logging devices to do their job. This could have a negative impact in the future.

Another possibility is that inspectors are not comfortable dealing with e-log devices and records. This is unlike given the time that inspectors have had to understand how electronic logging works. However, consider how the CVSA recently released changes to the way inspections operate. In the newest inspection handbook, e-logging devices are just now finding their way to the discussion board for inspectors. Therefore, we could be experiencing a lack of e-log training on behalf of DOT inspectors, which could cause quite the problem.

The bottom line is DOT inspectors are more trusting of truckers who are presenting e-log records during inspections. So you could benefit from more lax inspections at this time. However, in the future as electronic logging devices become more mainstream, we shall see if inspectors will continue to be relaxed with inspections. It could come down to not having DOT inspectors for roadside inspections hardly at all unless deemed necessary by the e-log reports. That would be the greatest day ever for most truck drivers.

 

Setting the New Truck Driver Training Requirements

Training in front of truck cab

Anyone who intends on becoming a truck driver in the next couple of years will have to go through a different process. Today you get your commercial driver license (CDL) after passing a physical exam by a certified medical examiner, along with the written and skills tests at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Once the law passes for new truck driver requirements, all new commercial drivers will have to add a step to the process. They will be required to complete, successfully, truck driver training courses for both skills and knowledge as a trucker.

As we all know, right now regulations are in a blockade as Trump and his administration works to deregulate the government. However, when this regulatory change is over, here is what you can expect to see with the new truck driver training requirements.

Minimum Hour Requirement

Initially there was the 30-hour minimum requirement that was expected for this new driver training. However, since the truck driver training regulation has been put on hold, so has the minimum requirements. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is now saying it won’t indicate a minimum number of hours required for training for truckers. The organization states that ruling doesn’t make fiscal sense and it is difficult to determine the magic number of hours of training needed to be a safe driver.

So for truck drivers who hope to drive for companies like Poly Trucking, Ronnie Dowdy, and SLT in the future, it might be a good idea to go ahead and secure your CDL now. As the FMCSA determines how many other regulations and stipulations to change and amend in the next decade, the process of getting a CDL could become a nightmare.

Trump and Deregulations

The reason for the new truck driver training is to ensure new truckers are skilled and experienced behind the wheel of a big rig. Truck driving is a dangerous job. It is dangerous for both the truck drivers and those people in passenger cars passing them on the highways. This is why the FMCSA was established, to ensure safety on public highways. Therefore, when the FMCSA passes regulation on to become a law it is expected to be done with the safety of the general public in mind.

Take the new truck driver training requirement. This is a regulation designed to improve skills and training with new truckers, and when effective the training can be quite effective. By this understanding, we can easily see the benefit of training new truck drivers. However, there is one big roadblock toward new truck driver training. These training programs cost upward into the thousands of dollars, from $4,000 to $8,000 or more. This money has to be paid out of pocket because there is not a system for trucker training; it is all coordinated by independent businesses and schools.

Eight thousands dollars is a lot of money for a blue collar worker who is trying to get a job as a truck driver. You can bank on this being a roadblock between requiring truck driver training and expecting rookie drivers to be able to pay for this out of pocket. Yes, truckers need to have some formalized training before they get behind the wheel of a big rig and pull 80,000 pounds down the highway. However, there should be some sort of financial aid or grant system set up to cover the cost of new trucker training in order for this to be a feasible plan.

Yet removing the regulation requiring truck driver training isn’t likely at this stage. As the FMCSA has most recently revealed its final ruling for the trucker training requirements, we can expect for this regulation to slip through the cracks into a final law.

How do you feel about the new truck driver training requirement?
* Photo credit: Truck Stock Images

Should Rest Areas be Privatized to Pay for Trucker Parking

Finding a place to park at 6 pm on a Tuesday is a nightmare situation for any trucker west of West Virginia. three big rig trucks parkedIt’s just chaos at truck stops and rest areas as big rigs roll in and drivers hope to park for the night. Truck parking comes at a huge price, one that’s too costly for truck stops to cover. The search for funding for trucker parking may have come to a halt thanks to a consideration to privatize rest areas. But is this a good idea, and what will rest areas look like after they have been commercialized?

Commercial Rest Areas

Rest areas are state-owned facilities. They range from full-scale welcome centers with gift shops to remote rest areas that are glorified port-a-potties. As a trucker you can always park at a rest area, which is vital to the safety of truck drivers. The problem is, when states are faced with budget deficits, rest areas are often at the top of the chopping block. Just last week the State of Connecticut announced it would be closing seven rest areas, which will include the long-running Danbury Welcome Center. As rest areas are shut down it leaves fewer places for truck drivers to park while over the road.

Commercialization of rest areas would allow these facilities to become for-profit establishments. When truck drivers for companies like Heartland Express, Loudon County Trucking and Marten Transport stop by they are able to rest, fuel up and purchase food. This money would be put back into paying for upgrade and upkeep up rest areas. This would also be used to pay for truck driver parking. Trucker parking lots endure a lot of weight and abuse day after day. To keep these parking lots in safe shape, so that they aren’t destroying trucks and tires, costs a lot of money. This is where commercialization is expected to save the day. But will it?

Rest area commercialization is not a new concept by any means. In order to accomplish this task, the federal government would have to overturn the law prohibiting commercialization at rest areas. This would allow state governments to have more control over economic matters. For example, rest areas could then sell food and diesel, or they could outsource the rest area to a truck stop brand with the same intentions. Yes, this would make rest areas more on par with truck stops, and you’d have to ask what the difference would be between the two. However, there is another bigger roadblock standing in the way of commercializing rest areas.

Roadblocks to Commercialization

If we allow for commercializing rest areas this will make it easier for truck drivers, and travelers alike, to access facilities for gas, food, and resting. You won’t have to wait until you reach the next exit to pull over, as you can stop at the rest area along your route. This is where the biggest issue is. When fewer people are getting off at exits to get fuel and food, they are not utilizing the other businesses there in the right-of-way.

Local economies would suffer by the rate of over $55 billion a year for stores at exits in the wake of rest area commercialization, according to the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing. This could cause detriment to local economies across the US, and be especially devastating to those small town economies that depend on truck driving fleets stopping in for fuel and food.

As it stands, commercializing rest areas will not increase the amount of money spent at highway access stores. Instead it will simply transfer the sale of goods from one point of transaction to another. Local mom and pop stores, regional businesses, and the big truck stop brands will be adversely affected if rest areas go commercial.

Commercialization a Long Haul

The fact is that yes, rest areas could be commercialized to pay for truck driver parking onsite. However, wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper and easier to give truck stops some sort of credit or benefits for improving or increasing their truck stop parking lots? After all, truck stops are set up for commercial purposes, and they have already established a system for building and maintaining trucker parking. This sounds like another deal similar to toll roads to pay for infrastructure parking. Rather than making rest areas private, we should focus on improving the existing trucking parking we already have on the ground.

 

Are CSA Scores the Next to Go With Deregulation Under the Trump Administration

Semi trucks at truck stop parkingRemoving regulations from the federal government is one of the most pressing topics of the new Presidential administration. Everyone is crossing fingers that the trucking industry will see some deregulation this round. One of the biggest areas of regulation that involves trucking is the CSA Score. As it turns out, the Compliance, Safety, Accountability scorecard that regulates every move of truck drivers and trucking companies may be one of the first areas to be cut, or at least postponed until it is heavily amended.

Secretary Chao to Quash Regulation

In a move to deregulate the federal government, Department of Secretary Chao may be looking to rescind CSA scorecards next. We have seen several regulations in trucking on the chopping block in the past couple of weeks. From the speed limiter mandate to new truck driver training, several regulations have already been removed. Will CSA scores be the next on the list? Many in the trucking industry would hope so.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), Transportation and Logistics Council, and National Private Truck Council, along with the American Trucking Associations, all came out in a show of solidarity against CSA scores. The organizations joined 65 associations, trucking companies, and state agencies to be represented as one in a letter to Chao in February. The signees underscored the statement, “We urge you to rescind this ill-advised and harmful rule making immediately. We do not believe it makes sense to build a new safety fitness determination system upon a flawed system…this proposal is built on a flawed foundation.”

Groups have been against the CSA scoring system for years stating the methodology used for the scoring suffers from being sufficient for application. More importantly, the US Government Accountability Office has determined that the data used by the CSA system uses unreliable predictors for the likelihood of whether a truck driver will get into an accident, which is the purpose of the data system known as BASICs. If the CSA data isn’t doing its job, then the system needs to be overhauled or tossed out altogether.

The CSA of Today

Currently the CSA represents the clearinghouse for big data among the trucking industry. Everything that is accounted for during a Department of Transportation inspection is documented with a CSA score. This score is noted for public viewing, and every truck driver, owner operator, and trucking company has a score. When you apply for a truck driving job with companies, like Butler Transport, CRST Malone and E.L. Hollingsworth, your score is one of the first items that is noted by the trucking employer. If you own a trucking fleet and you are shopping around for truck driving insurance, the insurance companies offering you quotes are using your CSA score for their reference.

A CSA scorecard represents every single aspect of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability system via the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Each time you receive an inspection by the FMCSA or Department of Transportation, every data point of that inspection is recorded as your CSA score. One little error or mistake can follow you for years on your scorecard. The problem with this is that sometimes these errors are not that major or they were easily resolved. Yet this background information is not available to anyone who is viewing your CSA score. All they see is a list of categories, such as unsafe driving and driver fitness, and percentages.

Insurance companies end up charging carriers and owner operators according to the risk they note by the CSA score. The lower a score, the higher the insurance coverage costs. That’s why having the scoring system correct is so important. Another entity that depends on the CSA scorecard to operate business is the customers of trucking companies. These shipping customers will refer to a company’s CSA score before deciding to do business with the carrier.

More importantly, a CSA score can cause smaller companies to miss out on more opportunities. The smaller fleets have fewer drivers to calculate in their CSA average score. As a result, a smaller trucking company can actually lose business if it’s CSA score drops. Worse yet, if the CSA score is dinged in error, which is a possibility, it takes weeks to get anything examined and changed via the FMCSA.

On top of these issues with the CSA scorecard is the public accessibility. Allowing absolutely anyone to access the CSA scores as long as they have the driver’s DOT number or company name seems a violation of privacy. Considering how important the CSA scores are for drivers and carriers, it seems like there would be some degree of privacy here. Last year the FMCSA did make some changes to data access, blocking a couple of safety categories from general public view.

The CSA scorecard clearly needs to be reexamined, amended, and according to some, dropped altogether. At the very least, there should be some privacy given to truck drivers and trucking companies regarding access to their business and personal data. It looks like the FMCSA is moving in the right direction in that aspect.

CSA for Truckers

At the present time truck drivers must continue to have their data gathered under the CSA system. However, with the new administration there is hope that a new safety regulatory monitoring program will be initiated. Until that time regularly monitor your CSA score to ensure it is showing the right data. It could mean the difference between landing that next great paying trucking job and losing out to the competition because your CSA score wasn’t up to snuff.