Upfront: What keeps you up at night?

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ATRI study ranks carriers’ top concerns, and CCJ survey respondents weigh in on equipment and technology worries

 

BY JEFF CRISSEY

 

 

At the American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition in Las Vegas last month, ATA president and CEO Bill Graves outlined a number of industry challenges based on the American Transportation Research Institute’s study of top carrier concerns released last month.

At the top of the list are the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance Safety Accountability program and new hours-of-service regulations set to take effect next year. Clearly, the magnitude of these regulations and the uncertainty around them are enough to warrant them rating as high as they do in ATRI’s study. Concerns of carriers and industry associations on the overall fairness of CSA continue to mount, as do worries about the future HOS regulation.

“The Obama administration chose to rewrite the safety rules that have helped us to achieve record-low crash rates,” said Graves, referring to the pending changes to HOS. “The rule was working just fine. What part of success didn’t they like? I have no doubt the changes were a result of political pressure brought to bear from the White House and not the result of FMCSA believing that further changes were necessary or justified.”

Randall-Reilly Market Intelligence also keeps a close eye on carrier sentiment. Curious to know fleet executive sentiment regarding equipment- and technology-specific concerns, Commercial Carrier Journal posed the question, “What keeps you up at night?” to a group of for-hire fleet executives in the September 2012 Randall-Reilly MarketPulse Report.

On the equipment side, the overwhelming majority of open-ended comments revolved around new emissions regulations and the associated costs to purchase and maintain new equipment – two concerns that didn’t even break ATRI’s top 10.

“I am concerned about all the junk that has been hung on our trucks due to EPA mandates,” said one respondent. “The guts of the truck are fine, but it’s all of the emissions equipment that are challenging us and increasing our maintenance costs.”

“Trying to keep our new equipment running,” said another respondent. “I sure hope the EPA can breathe the air that our trucks emit – it sure isn’t fun trying to run trucks on it.”

As for worries related to technology, the common thread among respondents with fleets of more than 100 power units was choosing the right technology path and then acquiring, implementing and learning new technology before it becomes obsolete.

“The challenge is to know what to buy, when to buy it and how to get a return on investment on it before the newest technology comes out,” said another respondent. “We can’t afford to chase every new idea or the latest change.”

Respondents with 100 or fewer power units fret over adopting electronic onboard recorders and a looming mandate to implement them, coinciding with the number 6 concern on ATRI’s study.

“We need an EOBR standard so that we can make a purchase,” said one respondent. “I’m ready but don’t want to buy equipment twice.”

JEFF CRISSEY is Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. E-mail jcrissey@ccjmagazine.com.JEFF CRISSEY is Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. E-mail jcrissey@ccjmagazine.com.

Many of the top concerns in the ATRI study, as well as the responses to the MarketPulse survey, just as easily could have been top concerns five or 10 years ago. It just goes to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same. What remains to be seen is how the trucking industry continues to adapt and thrive in response to a litany of regulatory changes.

 

Top 10 carrier concerns, based on the American Transportation Research Institute’s “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry” 2012 report:

Compliance Safety Accountability

Hours of service

Economy

Driver shortage

Fuel supply and fuel price

Electronic onboard recorders

Driver retention

Truck parking

Driver health and wellness

Road congestion and bottlenecks

To request a copy of ATRI’s “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry – 2012 Report,” go to www.atri-online.org.