Editor's Journal

Glancing back, moving ahead

Unresolved issues shouldn’t outweigh potential for a prosperous 2012

As we approach the end of 2011 and prepare for the year ahead, it’s time to clean out my cluttered notebook.

Randy Grider is editor of Truckers News. He is the son of a career trucker and holds a CDL. Write him at [email protected].

First, the hours-of-service final rule was left hanging at press time. Despite a target date to publish the final rule by Oct. 28, as part of a settlement between the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Teamsters, Public Citizen and other groups, it was postponed.

FMCSA is considering whether to reduce the daily driving limit from 11 hours to 10 hours and to limit the 34-hour restart provision by requiring it include two periods from midnight to 6 a.m. and limiting its use to once per week

The next action was supposed to come by Nov. 28 when the two sides were to file status updates with the court.

Considering the White House Office of Management and Budget just got the proposed rule Nov. 2 and its reviews can sometimes take up to 90 days, it seems we may not have a resolution by the time you read this. With the growing opposition to changing the hours rule, even an expedited publication of the rule in the Federal Register won’t be the end of the issue.

We support keeping the current rule, but no matter what FMCSA decides, it will only pave the way for the next round of litigation.

The only question is who will be the plaintiff.

And electronic onboard recorders haven’t gone away despite a court ruling earlier this year that vacated the required use of EOBRs for the worst HOS violators. In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit threw out the proposed rule citing the potential that the devices could be used to harass drivers.

With the growing opposition to changing the hours rule, even an expedited publication of the rule in the Federal Register won’t be the end of the issue.

While FMCSA isn’t appealing the ruling and has deleted from its 2012 schedule a proposed rulemaking to mandate EOBRs for all trucks, one of the agency’s subcommittees was busy in late October working on technical specifications for electronic recorders. While the court ruling may have sent FMCSA back to the drawing board to reconsider regulatory wording, its continuing to work on the tech aspects means it hasn’t given up on electronically monitoring hours compliance.

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In another matter, the Obama administration added fire to decades-old controversy when it reopened the U.S. border to Mexican trucks in October. The cross-border trucking program is eerily similar to the one former President George W. Bush implemented during his tenure only to be shuttered by Congress during the first months of the Obama regime. In fact, Transportes Olympic was the first Mexican carrier approved to haul beyond the 25-mile commercial zone, in both cross-border programs.

The most noticeable differences this time around are that Mexican carriers will be sporting electronic recorders courtesy of American taxpayers, and Mexico has withdrawn about $2.4 billion in retaliatory tariffs placed on U.S. exports when the Obama administration killed the almost identical previous cross-border program. With so much passion on both sides of the issue, the border war is far from over.

Another big issue is one we have explored in this month’s cover story (p. 16). Clean-air regulations in California (specifically those imposed by the state’s powerful Air Resources Board, which is this country’s de facto environmental regulatory agency) have for years impacted trucking nationwide. Many states end up copying and implementing many California regs. CARB deadlines are looming in 2012 and for years to come. Many will impact you as a long-haul driver whether you live in the Golden State or elsewhere.

These are just a few of the issues left unresolved as we close 2011. Overhanging all of this is the economy, which continues to be a wild card going into 2012. On the positive side, operator pay is beginning to increase as carriers struggle to find quality drivers. Good driving records will be the punch card to even better compensation in the future.

The next 12 months offer both apprehension and promise. We hope the upside far surpasses the downside. Stay tuned!

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