Today’s Top Fleet Management Issues

Every year the trucking industry deals with a combination of familiar issues, old issues with a new twist, and brand new problems. From the truck cab to the truck company boardroom to the government committee room, there are any number of different places where issues can occur. It is important to stay on top of today's top fleet management issues as well as new truck regulations that are in the works. The following list includes just a few of the top issues that the industry is facing right now.

Fuel prices

At the end of 2012, driver wages and benefits were the highest motor carrier cost for trucking companies, and fuel and oil were the second highest cost. With high fuel prices, it is not surprising that this is one of today's top fleet management issues. It is unlikely that the per-gallon fuel price is going to change significantly before the end of 2013, but that doesn't change the fact that fuel prices are higher than normal. Even though the prices may become less volatile, they will most likely remain high.

California-based trucking companies may run into problems with the new low-carbon fuel regulations that went into effect on January 1, 2013. The state may see an increase of $1 per gallon for gasoline and $2 per gallon for diesel. The current fuel prices and the new regulations may push companies to consider vehicles that use natural gas fuel.

Driver shortage

As of late 2012, 90 percent of for-hire U.S. truckload carriers are not able to recruit a sufficient number of drivers who can meet DOT requirements. With approximately 750,000 trucks in use, the shortage numbers run in the range of 20,000 to 25,000 for-hire drivers. If you think that these numbers are bad, consider that with the current driver trends, the shortage could skyrocket as high as 239,000 by 2022.

Government regulations are not going to help this problem. There will be hours-of-service regulation changes within the next year that will most likely bring motor carrier productivity down as much as three percent. As such, carriers will have to increase the number of drivers and trucks in their forces to compensate for it.

A number of prominent truck carriers stress that a large part of the driver shortage issue stems from high turnover rates. There are very few wage increases available right now, and the increases that are available are minimal. Given the GDP growth of the past few years, that is not likely to change any time soon. Drivers become frustrated with the low rates and turn elsewhere for higher pay.

Regulatory compliance

As previously mentioned, there are new regulations taking effect every year, and this is also not likely to change in the near future. More regulations mean more complexity and potentially higher costs. Fleets must stay on top of what they need to do to stay compliant, which is a never-ending effort.

For example, the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration launched a Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program. This program took the place of the SafeStat system. While the CSA is considered to be an improvement, there are a number of details that are a major concern for fleet managers. The Department of Transportation is under scrutiny to open its decision making process up to the public.

In response, there are plans to put together a committee of industry executives that will do a comprehensive review of the CSA program. The review will include the priorities, focus, and objectives of the program as well as specific details such as risk prediction and how effectively the data mirrors safety performance. Additionally, the review committee will consider regional disparities in data reports, how shippers and brokers use the data, and how insurers use the system.4

Lack of sleep

One of the longstanding battles between federal regulators and truck drivers is the issue of sleep. The recent regulation changes decrease the workweek hours to 70 (down from 82), require periodic rest breaks throughout the day, and limit the number of nights that truckers can be on the road. This is the most substantial rule overhaul in relation to truck driver hours that we've seen in the past decade.

The government administration believes that these new regulations will decrease the number of crashes that occur due to sleep-deprived drivers. Fleet managers believe that the changes will cost them money by necessitating higher numbers of trucks to move the same number of loads, which will have little benefit for the trucking companies.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to enforce these regulations by conducting periodic driver work log check-ins and charge fines for every offense. The fines may run as high as $2,750 for individual drivers and $11,000 for trucking companies.

About the author:

Robert J. Hall is president of Track Your Truck, a leader in GPS vehicle tracking systems and software for small and midsized companies.

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