On July 1, a convoluted and controversial change to the rule governing the driving schedules for our nation’s commercial vehicle drivers may go into effect, much to the dismay of the trucking world. But the concern over the modifications to the “Hours of Service” rule should be shared by the entire business community, because commercial driver’s paychecks may not be the only things negatively affected.
At a recent congressional hearing, the trucking community asked Congress to step in and have the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) scrap the rule, or at a minimum delay implementation. They did so by providing evidence demonstrating a potential loss to general productivity in the industry of 1.5 percent – 4 percent. Combining that estimate with a government report on the impact of the regulation, the new regulation could generate a $356 million loss per year per percentage point drop in productivity.
This decrease in trucking productivity has a direct relationship to the health of the vehicle aftermarket. In 2012, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) trends show that 68.5 percent of all domestic shipments were carried on trucks. It can be argued that every product made for, used in, or sold by the aftermarket was transported on a commercial vehicle at one point or another. So if the commercial vehicle industry slows due to choppy and decreased driving hours, the aftermarket inevitably slows, as well.
The potential decrease in productivity comes from the way the new rule structures how many hours in a week a commercial vehicle driver can consecutively operate and what hours during the day they can and cannot drive. The new rule requires 34 hours rest between a driver completing up to 70 hours in eight consecutive days before they can “restart” their driving logs. This cuts the current 82 hour driving week significantly.
The most confusing provision, however, dictates what hours during the day commercial drivers can actually drive. The rule requires drivers must have two periods in a driving cycle where they are not on the road between the hours of 1 a.m. – 5 a.m. These tend to be the best hours of truck movement because competing traffic is low and drivers can maintain faster and steadier speeds. By tying driver’s hands during prime periods industries relying on fast, on-time delivery of goods are also crippled.
The ripple effect for aftermarket suppliers, distributors and retailers means specifically altering product delivery schedules to accommodate the slower shipping process. The only other option would be for the trucking companies or aftermarket organizations with their own fleets to take the costly action of hiring more drivers and purchasing additional trucks to fill the gaps created by the restart requirement and limited weekly driving time.
Although there is no indication that the FMCSA will back down from implementing the new regulation, the trucking industry, including the ATA and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, continue to work with Congress and the federal agency to stop this from taking effect, slowing down the economy and eventually slowing down your business. How this battle turns out could have an impact not only on the bottom line of the truckers, but the many businesses that depend on trucking to ensure their profitability as well.