Fortune-telling is not what we do best. But it doesn't take a fortune-teller to know that new regulations change our industry forever. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Congress are always looking for that next regulation or mandate. Most we can't do anything about; we can only control so much in our operations, but we can prepare for upcoming regulations. So with that said, here are three that will dramatically alter our universe.
Electronic onboard recorders (EOBRs)
Like them or not, they're definitely in our future; exactly when, though, no one knows. The best advice is to put them into your operating system as soon as possible and get your drivers and operations people trained. Then you'll have time to deal with the challenges these devices create and be ahead of the curve while your competition plays catch-up when the EOBRs are officially mandated.
Compliance, Safety, Accounting (Formerly known as Comprehensive Safety Analysis, or CSA)
If you haven't been preparing for this for the past two to three years, you're already behind the eight ball. Your operation needs to be proactive to prevent negative scores from piling up. Think compliance and safety in every activity you perform. Putting off even small equipment repairs and maintenance is no longer an option. You must run your trucks within hours-of-service (HOS) guidelines; make sure your drivers are qualified; and make sure your drivers have the correct credentials to prove they are qualified. With enforcement organizations looking for every opportunity to generate revenue and show they're aggressively pursuing highway safety, you must have equally aggressive programs to ensure your carrier is in full compliance 100% of the time. Shippers, brokers and insurance companies will rely on your carrier's SMS rating to determine at what level they're willing to do business with you and what your insurance rates will be.
Hours of service
HOS is going into its eleventh year of revisions with no end in sight. Best preparedness here is keeping your ear to the ground. If there is an official proposed revision from FMCSA, start making contingency plans to deal with the newest twist. Anticipate that no matter what the “final” rule, some organization will file a lawsuit to stop or change it. So no matter how final it may appear, the rule is still subject to change. Don't sit back and let everyone else comment; get involved, let the powers that be know the impact this new set of rules will have on your operation. Your best approach is letting them know how the rules affect the safety and health of your drivers and what you think the overall impact on highway safety will be. Provide regulators with alternative solutions to the problems you point out.
I've only barely scratched the surface of the many things we need to be watching for in the months and years to come. From all indications, we're seeing the beginning of regulatory and government intrusions into the business of trucking. While we can't control the things that are tossed in our path, we can figure out how to absorb them into our daily operations. Don't just survive, adapt and thrive.
Contact Tim Brady at 731-749-8567 or at www.timothybrady.com