26 Things You Need to Know about Trucking
September’s the perfect time for looking back at what we’ve learned and at what sorts of tests we’ll be facing down the road.
(BTW, you’ll be marked on this.)
By Today’s Trucking Staff
1. American Trucking Associations (ATA).
Yes, it’s plural because the ATA is the combination of all the individual American states’ trucking organizations. The president and CEO is the formidable former Kansas Republican Governor Bill Graves. Raised in a trucking family, Graves is constantly challenging U.S. government encroachment on the trucking industry. The ATA, with a good sized Canadian contingent—is often your only voice when it comes to facing down the big government to the south.
Winter’s a-comin’ and biodiesel is not only legal but now it’s mandatory, so you’re warned to work closely with engine suppliers and fuel dealers to make sure the ill-thought-out obligatory biodiesel mandate doesn’t cost you any downtime. P.S. Ask about regional differences in supply and quality and low-temperature limitations. And good luck with that.
3. Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA).
It’s like the ATA only singular. And with three downs instead of four. Oops, wrong sport. The CTA’s president and CEO is David Bradley, who is also President of the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA). And although you might pick a few nits with what these organizations do, they are your best ally in your ongoing efforts to get trucking done as efficiently and profitably as possible. Who else is going to stand up for you?
Wikipedia’s first entry is about the rap-record label. The second is for diesel exhaust fluid, the urea-based additive required for SCR engines, which is what most new diesels are. The only on-road-diesel engines not requiring DEF are made by Navistar, which is waging a relentless battle to have DEF engines increasingly restricted. Watch for new rules about DEF warning systems; to wit, if you’re driving a post-2010 engine, you’ll be informed that you’re running short of the stuff light years before you’re in danger of running on empty. P.S. Even the suppliers admit that almost all DEF fluids are the same, as long as they’re not homebrew.
5. EOBRs. Electronic Onboard Recorders.
They’re here, though not completely. The U.S. has proposed a two-stage EOBR rule for trucks running in the States; Canadian transport officials are currently studying the issue which could lead to a similar made-in-Canada policy. Proponents like the CTA insist replacing paper logs with EOBRs will help level the competitive playing field and make roads safer with stricter hours-of-service oversight.
6. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Good and bad news here. The U.S. FMCSA is bent on hunting down even more out-of-compliance drivers and targeting negligent carriers with more vehemence than ever, but the organization is also examining ways to expand its sphere of influence, perhaps to put punitive limits on shippers who keep your trucks waiting. Sometimes, your big brother helps fight your battles.
7. Greenhouse gases.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) one major greenhouse gas contributing to the degradation of the air is carbon dioxide. So if we all hold our breaths (we inhale oxygen and we exhale CO2, right?) we’d be a lot better off. But the EPA isn’t going to hold its breath waiting for truckers to suck it up. Get ready to read lots more about greenhouse gases and get ready to answer questions about how environmentally benign your trucks and offices are. It’s been said that one of the better sources of fiction these days is the part of the RFQ that asks ‘How green is your fleet?”
8. HOS, a.k.a.; Hours of Service.
Big news here! The FMCSA has abandoned hours of service and said from now on each driver can say when he’s tired and when he’s good to go. Just kidding. That will never happen. And so, the current rules are still under review and last we heard, the new proposal will not be announced until October. Meantime, if you’re in need of shut eye, try googling FMCSA hours of service proposed rules and wade through the bureaucratese. You’ll be counting sheep in no time.
9. Interest rates.
Like divorced dads overcompensating with the kids, investors were strangely bullish after America’s near-melt-down and it looks as though the Bank of Canada will hold off on raising interest rates, for the time being, leastways. Maybe the ozone’s not falling, after all. The Canadian buck also declined, a move that can’t hurt our manufacturing—or your trucking—business. Meanwhile, your prime minister stepped up his efforts to establish freer trade with Honduras, which is probably a good place for you to sell your old iron.
In July, the transportation sector created the most jobs of any Canadian sector. Economy notwithstanding, good truck drivers are still in short supply. And every expert worth the title says the driver shortage is going to get worse. Especially because CSA is culling the bottom feeders. So you can expect carriers to up their lures and broaden their nets.
As in Road Knights. Quebec, Ontario and Alberta trucking associations all sponsor these elite driver squads; and every participant we’ve spoken to said joining the ranks is like no other experience they’ve ever had. Part of the mandate is reaching out to young people to attract them to the truck-driving industry. Several Today’s Trucking journalists have participated in the selection committees and have found in follow-up meetings with the drivers that the elite driver programs bring out the best in the individuals and it looks very good on their carrier sponsors, too.
Because of technology and the rise of intermodals, if you’re in trucking these days, you’re in logistics. So be ready to work more closely with the boats and trains. Also, you might want to get some inside-baseball stuff and learn how brokers work to earn their money; sometimes in strange and mysterious ways. Recently, Logistics consultants Nulogx issued a white paper on freight rates, stating that rates are headed up so logistics customers (shippers, usually) should sharpen pencils to avoid more increases. Freight movement can represent up to seven percent of their bottom line, Nulogx suggests. So get ready to do some pencil honing of your own, to offset the coming challenges.
Governments on both sides of the 49th parallel are now telling truckers what kind of mileage they’re going to have to achieve. You can expect more fleets to offer economic-driving bonuses. American carrier C.R. England is giving its fuel-efficient-est drivers a chance to win a Harley Davidson. But the best fuel-saving advice we’ve heard is, if you want a driver to buy into your company’s bonus program, tell his spouse about it. That’ll make’em sign on.
14. Natural gas.
No longer just a pipe dream. Several big fleets—Vedder on the left coast and Robert in Montreal—are investing in gas-powered Petes powered by Westport Innovation’s 15-liter engines. And if you turn to page 61, you’ll see Volvo’s first natural gas day cab. Now if we can only figure out a way to back them up to your house and tap into your furnace line…
You’re reading this here first. According to Today’s Trucking’s resident diesel-price wise man Bob Tebbutt of Peregrine Financial, even with governments cutting spending, world oil reserves will not be growing enough to meet market needs. Three guesses what that means. When America’s credit rating got smacked down in August, diesel fell but Tebbutt thinks it’ll be going higher towards winter. By this time next year a combination of increased demand and the seasonal price rise will push diesel prices to new highs. Says Tebbutt: “I would expect to see crude at $120 per barrel, wholesale diesel price at $4 per gallon, gasoline at $5 per gallon and natural gas at $7 per MM BTU’s sometime in the next year.” Buy accordingly.
Finally, the service centers on the 401 between Windsor and Montreal and 400 north are opening. Complete with Canadian Tire convenience stores. But there’s still a desperate shortage of good places for truckers to park in both Canada and the U.S. Tell your MP.
As in lineups, to cross into Detroit from Windsor at the busiest border crossing on the continent. The Detroit magnate who owns the Ambassador Bridge is buying TV time in Canada trying to persuade Canucks that the proposed Windsor-Essex Parkway, the $1-billion-plus, below-grade truck route that would link Highway 401 to the new bridge in the Brighton Beach area, is a waste of taxpayer’s money. Meantime, the Ambassador bridge is barreling ahead with its own scheme for a new bridge, which still lacks all sorts of approvals.
Year after year, the number of out-of-service orders issued during annual roadside blitzes continues to decrease. The 2011 numbers were the lowest ever. Tell your non-trucker friends about this, okay?
19. Social media.
Hiring new drivers? Google them on Facebook. Want to brag about something your staff does? Put it on your company’s Facebook page. Feel like covering your own tracks? Google Internet erasing services. They’re rivaling the tattoo-removal business.
Report after report shows that drivers and indeed staff are confounded by the new CSA rules. There are forest-loads of materials out there that’ll set them straight; and at least one study recently released by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) proves that lack of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Almost two thirds of drivers are worried about their jobs because of mysterious CSA rules; and it’s up to you to reassure them otherwise.
These are the people who take chassis and build on them so they become working trucks. The voice of the upfitters is the Canadian Transportation Equipment Association (CTEA) which is sort of like MENSA for mechanics. CTEA members are the brains behind things like hoists, hydraulics, specialty trailers, and add-on axles and they’re very persnickety about ensuring Joe the shade-tree welder can’t cobble together a highway trailer.
Canada’s largest port. It keeps breaking growth records and shows no signs of slowing, especially as trade routes change and North America cozies up even closer to Asia. (Traffic at Vanport increased by a whopping 16 percent last year, over 2009.)
23. World; as in Truck World.
The same company that publishes this magazine (Newcom Business Media) produces the Truck World shows and the 2012 version is skedded for April 19 to the 21, at the International Centre in Toronto. Outside the pages of this magazine, there is no place like Truck World for learning about what’s new, what’s coming; and who’s bringing it.
24. Railway crossings.
Operation Lifesaver is a railway-initiated venture determined to put a dent in the so-far undented number of truck-train collisions. Most collisions, they say, are the result of truck drivers not pulling far enough ahead after they cross the tracks, before they stop. Do you know where the tail ends of your trailers are?
25. Yellow Roadway Corp (YRC).
The company’s logo is miner’s-canary yellow. Because as YRC goes, it seems, so goes North American trucking. Just this summer, after a major corporate restructuring, YRC announced the appointment of former Dynamex Inc., James Welch to steer it through the tough times ahead. Yellow also means proceed with caution.
By the time your kid is a truck driver, sleep-apnea testing and treatment will probably be industry-accepted practices. Treatment comes mainly in the form of CPAP machines, which are effective but uncomfortable. Indeed researchers are showing that quite a few sleep-apnea patients are cheating and not using the things so they’re coming up with ways to track truant and sleep-deprived drivers. Enter sleep apnea fighter Dr. Les Priemer, a Toronto-based doctor specializing in alternative sleep-apnea therapy. It’s less invasive and easier for drivers to take on the road. Check here.