• While discussion of fuel consumption has always been a topic of concern, the most prevalent issue that is currently swirling through the transportation industry is the FMCSA's recent adjustment to the hours-of-service regulation. Safety administrators are praising the policy change for its structured increase of off-duty time requirements. However, Fleet managers, drivers, and business owners alike are up in arms about the massive reduction of available working hours. In our last article on the topic, which summarized the full policy, we calculated that each individual driver is having 624 hours cut annually due to the change. To put that into greater perspective, if driving at an average pace of 60 MPH for 624 hours, 37440 miles will be traversed; equivalent to starting in Seattle, WA and circling the contiguous United States 4 times. If this reduction was spread across a fleet of drivers, the business would feel the repercussions. However, this is for each of the nearly 6 million Commercial Motor Vehicle drivers in the United States, so "it's only a matter of time before these impacts ripple throughout the nation's economy." (K. Burch)

    The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) recently released a 60-pg, thorough analysis of the "Operational and Economic Impacts of the New Hours-of-Service". Utilizing results from a 2300 driver survey and 40,000 commercial driver logbooks, the research established a few noteworthy operational and economic impacts from the HOS update.

    ~  Greater than 80% of motor carriers are in the midst of a quantifiable productivity loss since July.

    ~  Nearly half of the businesses surveyed have had to employ more drivers to deliver the same amount of inventory.

    ~  Even though the updated HOS policy reduced a driver's weekly hours from 82 to 70, 66% of the drivers are experienced greater levels of fatigue while just over 82% of commercial drivers have had their quality of life negatively affected.

    ~  Unchanged deadlines have required drivers to operate at more time periods of greater traffic a financial risk to fleets that we discussed last week.

    ~  Annualized loss of wages is around $2 billion due to the drop in hours

    The research also provided the key outcomes related to productivity which are as follows:

    ~  More Drivers are now Required to Move the Same Amount of Freight: To comply with the HOS rules carriers have shifted driver schedules. Many of these new schedules have resulted in a decrease in the number of weekly miles a driver can log. Due to the decrease in miles, carriers have a choice of turning down freight or making up the miles by incorporating additional drivers and/or equipment into their operations. These options are less efficient than operations prior to the new HOS rules, and are a central component of the productivity loss.

    ~  Driver Shortage and Turnover: Prior to the July 1st HOS rules, qualified drivers were scarce with an estimated shortage of 20,000 to 25,000 for-hire truckload drivers.7 As a result of the changes more drivers are required and the level of scarcity has increased. To attract drivers after the HOS change, some carriers have opted to increase pay8 and some may increase rates for shippers. Rate hikes are challenging, however, due to strong competition among industry participants. If rate increases do not fully compensate for driver pay increases then carriers raising pay will assume an additional financial burden.

    ~  Decreased Flexibility to Meet Customer Requirements: Meeting customer requirements is more difficult under the new HOS rules. In particular, drivers are limited to one restart per week and must take those restarts across two nighttime periods. Shippers, however, may require delivery at any point on a given day, and with little notice. The data show, particularly those data describing the variability in driver weekly work time, that flexibility has decreased. As a result, drivers are less able to accumulate hours for unanticipated shipper requests via the 34-hour restart. In many instances carriers must either turn down business or increase driver capacity.

    This valuable research will likely be presented in some form at the subcommittee hearing on Thursday, November, 21. Chairman of the Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce of the House Small Business Committee, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) stated that the hearing will "examine the economic and operational impact of the FMCSA new Hours of Service regulation on small businesses". Hanna went on to add that he "looks forward to learning from the witnesses how they are operating under this rule and examining how we can better balance the needs of our economy and the important goal of highway safety." These witnesses will represent both sides of the argument as Anne Ferro of the FMCSA is scheduled to be heard alongside carrier executives from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the American Trucking Association.

    It will be interesting to see the outcome of this hearing, so stay tuned to FleetCardsUSA.com for all your industry updates. 

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  • As colder weather approaches the farmlands spread across the bread-basket of America, Farmers begin the routine of harvesting and drying grains to prep for distribution. This process is a simplified chain of order that begins with the planting season, and ends in the grain elevators. Unfortunately, there have been three events this year which have disrupted the supply chain and are now a cause for concern throughout the Midwest.

    There was a delayed start to the planting season, which pushed back harvest from the get-go, while heavy rains in September and October have increased the moisture in the corn harvest by as much as 7% (source: INFORUM). This increase in harvest moisture is the generation of most worry.

    A propane shortage has swept through the region with many crops' harvests occurring at the same time. Being the primary medium for drying crops in preparation for storage and distribution, this shortage has put many farmers between a rock and a hard place; store moist grain over the winter in hopes that it won't spoil, or leave crops in the field with fingers crossed that the weather won't shift to winter cold to early and freeze the grains.

    Major propane distributor, Kinder Morgan Company, has stated that they are reaching out nationwide for truckers to assist in distribution to minimize the impacts of this drought.  With a three-fold increase of propane through its Cochin Pipeline, Kinder called upon the state governing bodies of Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana and other Midwest states to relax the recently stringent hours-of-service regulation for truckers. The propane is available, but because of the high demand throughout the region, in addition to the new hours-of-service policy enacted in July, it is proving difficult to get the propane from the pipeline to the grain elevators.

    Hopefully this issue will clear up so that we all have plenty of cornbread and stuffing this Thanksgiving!

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  • Many mountain ranges throughout the country are already capped with snow; resorts in Colorado and Vermont are already open for the snowsports season.  With the heart of winter right around the corner, is your fleet ready to transition from the summer heat to the coldest months ahead? Fleet managers should use the following AAA Winter Care Checklist to prepare all vehicles for the winter months:

    Winter Care Checklist

    Battery and Charging System – Have the battery and charging system tested by a trained technician. A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather.

    Battery Cables and Terminals – Check the condition of the battery cables and terminals. Make sure all connections are secure and remove any corrosion from the terminals and posts.

    Drive Belts – Inspect belts for cracks or fraying as these issues will compound from the cold contracting the material. If your fleet has utilized multi-rib belts, replace them every 60,000 miles because they will not display obvious signs of wear.

    Engine Hoses – Observe all hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps, as well as squeezing various points along each hose to check for any that are brittle or excessively spongy feeling.

    Tire Type and Tread – In areas with heavy winter weather, changing to snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires will work well in light to moderate snow conditions, providing they have adequate tread depth. If any tire has less than 3/32-inches of tread, it should be replaced. Uneven wear on the tires can indicate alignment, suspension or wheel balance problems that should be addressed to prevent further damage to the tires.

    Tire Pressure – Due to the cold, it is necessary to check tire inflation more frequently in the winter. Generally tire pressure will drop 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit.  For proper tire pressure, refer to the vehicle owner’s manual or this can be typically found on the inside of the driver side door. 

    Air Filter – If light can be seen through the filter, when held up to a 60-watt bulb, it is still in working order. If the light is blocked from shining through, though, make sure to install a replacement.

    Coolant Levels – Check the coolant level when the engine is cold. If the coolant level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. Check the protection level with a test kit that can be purchased from any auto parts store.

    Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, emergency flashers, turn signals, brake lights and back-up lights. Replace any dead bulbs.

    Wiper Blades – Blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace blades that leave streaks or miss spots. In areas with consistently snowy conditions, there are winter wiper blades available which have a rubber boot wrapping the frame to prevent ice buildup.

    Washer Fluid – For the winter months, fill the washer fluid reservoir with a solution of cleaning agent and antifreeze to enhance function during freezing days.

    Brakes – Ensure that brakes are manually inspected and that fleet drivers note when there is any issues present with braking.

    Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids – Verify that all fluids are at or above minimum safe operational levels.

    Emergency Road Kit – In case any unforeseen breakdowns or impassable natural disasters occur, it is important to carry an emergency kit that is equipped for winter weather. The kit should include:

    • Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
    • Snow shovel
    • Flashlight with extra batteries
    • Window washer solvent
    • Ice scraper with brush
    • Cloth or roll of paper towels
    • Jumper cables
    • Warning devices (flares or triangles)
    • Drinking water
    • Non-perishable snacks (energy or granola bars)
    • Extra warm clothes and blankets
    • First-aid kit
    • Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
    • Mobile phone and car charger with numbers for fleet dispatch, family and roadside assistance

    In addition to the above the checklist, if there are vehicles in your fleet that are not regularly in use, be sure to swap out the fuel as the chemical make up of summer fuel is different from winter fuel.

    Protecting your fleet for the winter ahead will not increase the longevity of fleet vehicles but will also act as general maintenance to improve fuel efficiency.



  • In late December, 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published its new hours-of-service rule. While this policy was formed nearly two years ago, compliance was split between two deadlines: the effective date of February 27, 2012 which applied to all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and, more recently, July 1 of this year which dictates policy only for property-carrying CMVs.

    Earlier this week, in Florida, the American Transportation Research Institute revealed the top ten issues that are facing the North American trucking industry as the new year approaches. With the full extent of the new hours-of-service policy having started July, 2013, and the ripples this has been sending through the industry, it is no surprise that this concern tops the list followed, respectively, by: the FMCSA Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, driver shortage, the economy, and the recent electronic logging mandate.

    The reasoning behind the mounted concern of this new policy is due to provisions that place limits on 34-hour restarts and rest breaks. In the prior policy, there was no ruling on 34-hour restarts. However, as of summer 2013, there must be two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. and can only be utilized once in a 168 hour period; i.e. 7 days. This new ruling effectively reduces possible driving hours in a week from an average of 82 down to a maximum of 70. While safety advocates are lauding this new rule for the possibility of safer roadways, fleet managers and operators are worried about the annual reduction of 624 hours per driver (for the sake of comparison, there are 730 hours on average, per month). A decrease in available hours means that fleets will have to offset the impact by either increasing payload size or hiring more drivers. Unfortunately, both of these options are costly; heavier payload will result in higher fuel costs, and on-boarding new drivers will create an additional salary, add the expenses of on-boarding, and additionally increase fleet fuel consumption. In addition to this, the new hours-of-service policy stipulates that a driver rest for at least 30 minutes every 8 hours of driving.

    Even though this hours-of-service policy was fully effective July 1, 2013, legal proceedings began months prior and have reached federal appeals court to nix several provisions, including the aforementioned 34-hour restart restriction, and 30-minute break requirements. A summary of the hours-of-service rules for both property- and passenger-carrying drivers are as follows:

    Property-Carrying Drivers:

    11-Hour Driving Limit

    Fleet drivers are allowed a maximum 11 hours behind the wheel only after 10 consecutive hours off duty.

    14-Hour Limit

    The 11 hours of driving must be completed in a 14 hour window.

    Rest Breaks

    A 30 minute rest must be taken after 8 consecutive hours of driving.

     60/70-Hour Limit

    A maximum 60/70 hours of driving in a 7/8 day period. Upon reaching the limit, drivers are required to take at least 34 hours off duty. These 34 hours must include the 28 hours from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. the following day and can only be used once every 168 hours.

    Passenger-Carrying Drivers:

    10-Hour Driving Limit

    Drivers have a maximum of 10 hours of driving after 8 consecutive off duty hours.

     15-Hour Limit

    This is the same as the Property-Carrying Drivers' 14-Hour Limit, but with an additional hour.

     60/70-Hour Limit

    Fleet Operators can only drive for 60/70 hours in a consecutive 7/8 day period.

    Sleeper Berth Provision

    Drivers operating vehicles with an equipped sleeper berth may accumulate 8 consecutive hours in the berth to satisfy the off duty hours requirement or can split into two periods of rest provided that neither period is less than two hours and that driving time surrounding each period does not exceed both the 10-hour driving limit and 15-Hour Limit rules.

    Read the full hours-of-service policy to become familiar with how regulations have changed for the transportation industry.