NASHVILLE. A trio of trucking industry leaders dove into the issues most impacting truck fleets and truck brokerage firms to present a comprehensive watch list during a panel presented here this week at the 18th annual McLeod Software Users’ Conference.
According to Doug Clark, president & CEO of Greatwide Freight Brokerage (formerly Cargo-Master) and 2008 chairman of the Transportation Intermediaries Assn., the Truck Act, initiatives to put more responsibility for food safety and security on carriers, and the continuing problem of high-cost litigation against fleets were three issues “on his radar screen.” He called the Truck Act “nothing more than re-regulation of the trucking industry and increasing regulation is not helping us at all.”
Ray Haight, executive director of MacKinnon Transport, Inc. and 2008-2009 chairman of the Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA) said it was also key to watch out for the new safety-related regulations that the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) expects to release by year-end, including a follow-up to the Interim Final rule on Hours of Service and a new rule requiring carriers with a “pattern of non-compliance” on hours of service to install electronic onboard data recorders (EOBRs). He noted that he did not expect the entry-level driver training initiative to move forward.
Ron Tartt, gm-- private fleet for Bridgestone Firestone North America Tire, LLC and 2008 chairman of the National Private Truck Council (NPTC), said that fuel remains the number-one concern from his perspective, in spite of very recent drops in the price of crude. He pointed out tthat, although the economy is down, it is not down for all companies. “The economy is a concern, too,” he said. “From my viewpoint, however, while it is certainly down, not all companies are down. Some are even up, such as companies in the food or petroleum business. The [general] economy will come back, too, it is just going to be a while.”
Tartt said something else to keep an eye on are initiatives to increase truck size and weight to improve productivity. NPTC supports increasing truck weight limits to 97,000-lbs GVW for six-axle vehicles; allowing 33-ft double trailers using current bridge formulas; and adding trucks-only lanes where appropriate, he advised. NPTC is currently involved in a study to identify the potential impacts of increasing truck size and weight limits.
Haight noted that the size and weight proposal remains controversial, even within the trucking industry. “TCA is not in favor of increasing the weight limit to 97,000-lbs. GVW,” he said. “We believe it is just too big a jump from where we are now. I am more in favor of going to a five-axle, 89,000-lb. limit like we have in Canada,” he said. “You can’t get in the way of productivity.”
The Employee Free Choice Act, which would change the procedures required to unionize a business and which has already passed the House, is also on Tartt’s radar screen along with the need to attract more new people to the trucking industry. “Drivers coming into the industry today have better pay and better training opportunities than they had in the past,” he observed. “If we don’t find a way to bring new people into the industry, however, we are going to have a big problem we just won’t know what to do with.”
The opening presentations kicked off a conference featuring learning and networking opportunities in dozens of breakout sessions covering topics such as getting more out of mobile communications, practical fuel savings ideas, analyzing your profitability, creating a crisis management plan and managing the difficult employee, plus plenty of sessions offering McLeod software-specific training.
Conference attendees got an advanced look at some of the new features of Version 9.1 of McLeod’s software system, which is scheduled to be available in October. McLeod also took advantage of the conference to debut the company’s new Business Intelligence Framework with Reporting, Data Warehousing and Business Analytics capabilities.
Major conference sponsors included PeopleNet, Qualcomm, ALK, J. J. Keller, Corcentric, DriverTech and Manhattan Associates.