Truck tonnage sees first year-over-year increase in 15 months

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Trucking news and briefs for Wednesday, June 19, 2024:

Truck tonnage rebounded in May

ATA Truck Tonnage Index May 2024ATA's Truck Tonnage Index saw the first year/year increase in 15 months in May, with a 1.5% increase over May 2023.ATA

The amount of freight hauled by trucks in May improved in May after declining in April, according to the American Trucking Associations.

ATA’s advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 3.6% in May after decreasing 1% in April. In May, the index equaled 115.9 (2015=100) compared with 111.9 in April.

“May was the first month since February 2023 that tonnage increased both sequentially and from a year earlier,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “While there was clearly an increase in freight before the Memorial Day holiday, it is still too early to say whether this is the start of a long-awaited recovery in the truck freight market.”

Compared with May 2023, the index rose 1.5%, the first year-over-year gain in 15 months. In April, the index was down 1.3% from a year earlier.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 120.4 in May, 7.1% above April. ATA’s For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index is dominated by contract freight as opposed to spot market freight.

Alaska requests renewal of waiver for entry-level training relief

The state of Alaska is requesting the renewal of a waiver that allows the state to waive specified portions of the CDL skills test for drivers in 14 defined geographical areas that lack infrastructure to allow completion of the full skills test. The state currently holds an exemption through Dec. 30, 2024.

In its original request, Alaska petitioned for an exemption from the portion of the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) curriculum that requires an applicant to demonstrate proficiency in proper techniques for initiating vehicle movement, executing left and right turns, changing lanes, navigating curves at speed, entry and exit on the interstate or controlled-access highway, and stopping the vehicle in a controlled manner. The state said complying with that requirement would “have devastating impacts on rural Alaska’s movement of produce, prescriptions, people, and other goods.”

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Drivers who receive a restricted CDL under the provisions of the exemption under this exemption may not operate outside of the 14 defined geographic areas.

FMCSA is requesting comments on the renewal request, which can be filed here through July 18.

FMCSA renews under-21 exemption for U.S. Custom Harvesters

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has renewed an exemption that allows U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc. (USCHI) from the intrastate restriction for under-21 drivers.

FMCSA’s regulations currently provide an exception to the minimum age requirements for drivers of commercial motor vehicles engaged in custom harvesting operations in interstate commerce. However, under the agency’s CDL regulations, states can impose an intrastate-only (or “K”) restriction for these drivers.

On Oct. 11, 2023, FMCSA announced its decision to provisionally renew USCHI’s exemption for two years, pending a review of any comments received in response to that notice. After reviewing the four comments submitted to the docket, FMCSA said it believes that drivers who qualify for the exemption will likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety that would be achieved by complying with the “K” restriction.

The exemption was originally granted in October 2018, which FMCSA noted “did not require any special action or processing” by the states who would continue to place the “K” restriction when called for, but enforcement officers would disregard it in situations involving drivers who can demonstrate eligibility for the custom harvester exemption.

In requesting its renewal, USCHI said that it frequently employs drivers under the age of 21 who are issued CDLs with the “K” restriction, adding that, despite the exemption, “they are frequently cited during roadside inspections because of the presence of the ‘K’ restriction on their licenses. USCHI states that this issue negatively impacts the safety records of drivers and employers.”

With the renewal of the waiver, which is effective through Oct. 3, 2025, custom harvester drivers under the age of 21 will be able to display the exemption notice “to help explain that when operating in that capacity, they are permitted to operate outside the State issuing their CDL even though the license has a ‘K’ (intrastate only) restriction.”

To ensure drivers are legitimately operating as a custom harvester, they must provide at least three of the methods of verification found here.