Trucking Issues from a Small and Large Carrier Perspective

CCJ’s Fall Symposium last month featured a debate on regulatory issues facing the trucking industry. The debate between David Owen, president of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC) against Lane Kidd, managing director for the Alliance for Drivers’ Safety & Security (also known as the Trucking Alliance) highlighted the wide gap between small carrier and large carrier interests on some of the larger regulatory issues facing the trucking industry today.

The topics covered were:

Double 33-foot trailers

Congress has suggested several initiatives this year dealing with truck size and weight reform in the U.S., including a measure that would increase the allowable twin-trailer length to 33 feet, up from the current 28 feet.

Owens: For our (owner-operators and small carriers) it would be too expensive to restructure their equipment to be competitive with larger fleets.

Kidd: This is a complex issue that has advantages for shippers to cube out double 33 ft trailers but there are also safety concerns for drivers that are required to break down and reassemble those trailers twice per load

Speed limiters

The DOT is currently considering a proposed rule to mandate the use of speed limiters on heavy trucks.

Owens: NASTC doesn’t see there’s a positive impact on safety by these systems at all. The primary focus of this proposed law is not safety at all, but fuel.

Kidd: I don’t agree with any of that logic. We’re talking about vehicles that weigh 80,000 pounds. They need to obey the speed limit. And 65 to 68 mph is fast enough.

Electronic logging devices

A Final Rule to mandate use of electronic logging devices is expected to be published by the end of the year, if not by the end of the month.

Owens: I am not opposed to a trucking company instituting electronic logging devices to help their drivers comply with the law. But I am totally opposed to a mandate that forces everybody to use logging devices when 50 percent of the truck companies do not ever bump the Hours of Service and do not need electronic logs.

Kidd: These devices are simply a way to prove compliance with the law. Why do we oppose a device that makes us safer and argue that we should depend on the old Honor System? We wouldn’t put up with it in the airline industry, and we shouldn’t put up with it in trucking, either.

Potential carrier minimum insurance rate increases

FMCSA last year floated a proposal to increase the minimum amount of liability insurance required to be held by motor carriers. The plan has seen little action since.

Kidd: Most fleets today are voluntarily running with $1 million or more in coverage to compensate for the rising medical and hospital costs. Adjusting for inflation, that minimum number today needs to be $3.5 million.

Owens: The marketplace has moved that needle to $1 million today. And it’s the marketplace that should be the driver of correct levels of insurance. Minimum coverage of $1 million is reasonable.

Read more highlights at: CCJ Symposium debate