A panel of three fleet executives discussed Thursday morning the changing outlook of the trucking industry during the Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference in Dallas.
CSA regulations, electronic on-board recorders, hours of service and driver recruitment have garnered attention from fleets recently. Russell Stubbs, president and CEO of FFE Transportation Services; Robert Low, president and founder of Prime Inc.; and Don Orr, president and CEO of Central Freight Lines, discussed the impact of these issues on truck drivers and the trucking industry.
Low says the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance Safety Accountability program will ultimately have a positive impact by increasing safety on the nation’s highways.
“I think the shipper now being involved and that liability exposure is a huge issue. It is going to actually help the good carriers that can deal with it and hurt the ones, and maybe get rid of the ones … that can’t,” Low says.
Orr says that the “end result is going to be a safer vehicle on the highway with a better driver. I think the immediate impact is going affect the older, more experienced driver.”
The reduction of allowed hours of service from 11 to 10 has caused a decrease in productivity, Stubbs says.
“Our drivers’ hours … it’s their commodity,” he says. “You take one of those hours away, that’s just another hour that the driver doesn’t get paid. We don’t get paid for our asset. Someone has to pay for it.”
Driver response to reduced hours of service and EOBR tracking at his company has been dramatic, Low says.
“They put up with some bad things out there.” Low says that since drivers are already away from home for a few weeks at a time, missing birthday parties and graduations, that they would rather be working – even working 100 hours a week for 60 hours’ pay – than be limited by the new regulations.
“You’d think they ought to be happy. But, in reality, they were willing to do it,” Low says.
To prevent a driver shortage such as the one in 2006, Stubbs says FFE Transportation Services has opened its own driving school, is hiring people with cleaner scores and is working to improve the quality of the job and pay while promoting brand recognition.
Affected tractors are equipped with an automated Eaton UltraShift Plus or Eaton Advantage Transmission with right hand stalk shifter. In the affected trucks, the display on the instrument panel can indicate “N” when the shifter is set into “D” or “R,” causing the truck not to move.