Economy, HOS cloud trucking outlook

Economy, HOS cloud trucking outlook

The worry list is a long one for truck fleets, according to the most recent survey by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). The economy and potential changes to the Hours of Service (HOS) rules are in the top two spots respectively on the “top ten” list this year

The worry list is a long one for truck fleets, according to the most recent survey by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). The economy and potential changes to the Hours of Service (HOS) rules are in the top two spots respectively on the “top ten” list this year. The rest of the gloomy line-up, in order, includes: the driver shortage, CSA, fuel issues, congestion, transportation funding, tort reform, onboard truck technology and proposed changes to truck size and weight limits.

The state of the nation’s economy was also number one on the list of concerns in 2010 and 2009. In 2011, about 31% of those who responded to the survey ranked the economy as their biggest concern. As bad as that may look, 51% gave it the top ranking in 2009, so things are looking up, albeit gradually. ATRI lays the blame on the high degree of uncertainty that persists, especially concerning factors like the stagnant job market, the European debt crisis and freight levels.

The number-two worry, HOS, was actually ranked as the number-one concern by 16.2% of the survey respondents and number two by 17.3% ---enough to move it up from the number four position in 2010. According to ATRI, “the proposed [HOS] changes are deemed significant and problematic by the industry, which explains the increased level of concern in this year’s survey.”

The report also identifies strategies fleets favor to address each of their top ten concerns. When it comes to dealing with the nation’s economic woes, respondents favored (in rank order):

  • Encouraging economic policies that will maintain the recovery and benefit the industry through increases in freight demand
  • Promoting the role of the trucking industry as an employment generator in putting American back to work
  • Addressing long-term economic issues, such as the trade deficit, to improve economic stability.

To help deal with the HOS issue, fleets favored:

  • Continuing to publicize the trucking industry’s safety record operating under the current HOS
  • Supporting studies that generate scientific evidence on the safety impacts of existing and proposed HOS rules
  • Doing research to identify new methods to address driver fatigue that are more relevant and customizable than the existing and proposed HOS rules

After plunging into the CSA system, fleets are, apparently, not as concerned as they were during the run-up to the new safety rating system. Still, nearly 30% of fleets rated CSA as their first- or second-most serious concern for 2011.

Strategies for dealing with CSA include:

  • Engaging policy makers to ensure CSA is implemented equitably across the industry.
  • Continuing to train and educate drivers and carriers on the impact of CSA
  • Studying and assessing shipper impact on CSA

Tort reform has not been on the list since 2008, but this year it showed up again in 8th position. Fleets noted that they would support these activities regarding tort reform:

  • Advocating for federal legislation to regulate lawsuits and impose new caps on non-economic damages
  • Encouraging a new legal fee structure and caps
  • Engaging in public outreach and education to explain the negative consequences of excessive civil litigation

The Top Industry Issues survey is conducted in two phases. The initial phase is designed to identify and categorize key issues and strategies. The second phase is distributed to a larger sample of more than 4,000 carriers, with the objective of ranking the relative importance of each issue and the preferred strategies identified through the Phase One survey initiative. Phase Two survey respondents represent industry stakeholders from both the U.S. and Canada and include motor carriers, commercial drivers and other interested parties, according to ATRI.

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