Hours of Service

Ports Laying Groundwork for Post-Coronavirus Business

American Shipper, Kim Link-Wills, May 13, 2020

Ports around the globe will have to change the way they do business in a post-pandemic world.

Port officials already are changing the way they interact. The World Ports Conference was to have taken place in March in Antwerp, Belgium, but the spread of the coronavirus foiled that plan. So on Wednesday, industry thought leaders conducted the first in a series of webinars, this one titled “Business as Usual: Adapting Port Business Models to Survive and Thrive in the Post-COVID-19 Era.”

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said the Western Hemisphere’s largest seaport has suffered “two horrible shocks to the supply chain. One were the ill-advised trade policies out of Washington and second COVID-19. The knock-on effects of both will be felt for the rest of this year and into 2021. We simply don’t have the demand in our economy today to support any notion of recovery in our industry for the United States and its major markets — 70% of the U.S. economy is driven by consumer sales products and consumption. That simply is not happening today.”

Seroka predicts “a very slow reemergence of the American economy at the national, state, county and local levels over time.”

The webinar sponsors — the International Association of Ports and Harbors and IHS Markit — also believe that over time industry leaders will gather in person again and noted that the World Ports Conference has been moved to June 23-25, 2021, in Antwerp. 

“In the end, I believe we will lose 15% of our imports because of the trade policies, but what it gives us is the opportunity to reinvent ourselves — how we go to market, the fact that we will overinvest in our export segment of the business to help this reemerging economy whenever it takes place,” he said. “We will help American companies get back to the markets overseas they once enjoyed, and those great partnerships will help them explore new markets. And maybe if we have a better balance of trade coming through the Los Angeles gateway, we may have an opportunity to reduce our cost to serve and be more attractive to people who want to participate in the supply chain through Southern California. So there’s some huge upside here.”

There also are huge obstacles, according to Theo Notteboom, an authority on seaports.

Notteboom, a professor at the Shanghai Maritime University, Ghent University and the University of Antwerp, said there is an “avalanche of things that are hitting the ports.”

“We see a huge drop in the exports from Asia — a 15 to 20% drop to Europe and North America,” Notteboom said. “Of course we’ve seen a lot of blanked sailings, about 20% of the network capacity on average of the container shipping lines is now inactive. We have a lot of idle ships, between 2.5 to 3 million TEU of capacity is now idle.”

Notteboom said although he does not expect any bankruptcies among the major shipping lines, they have gone into “survival mode” as flow patterns have been severely disrupted during the pandemic.

Port operations, however, have not had the kind of disruptions that have plagued other parts of the maritime industry, Notteboom said, referring to the crisis of crew members scheduled to be relieved from duty but prohibited from disembarking ships around the world.

“Only a few ports refer to shortages of dockworkers or shortages of truck drivers. It seems that despite these limits that we have right now in terms of how to perform work, things are close to normal at many ports around the world,” he said. 

Jan Hoffmann, chief of the trade logistics branch of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, agreed port operators are weathering the crisis and also criticized “the fact that seafarers are stuck on the ships and cannot change and cannot fly home. I’m not sure if all port workers are really in solidarity as they could or should be with their colleagues on the ships.” 

Seroka said U.S. West Coast ports had help making sure operations were as close to normal as possible.

“I would like to thank International Longshore President Willie Adams and [Pacific Maritime Association President] Jim McKenna for the work that they did to get coastwide rules on safety for our workers during this unprecedented pandemic. There was meeting after meeting, discussions with leadership on both sides to make sure that we had a plan through all 29 ports up and down the west coast of the Pacific,” he said.

“In particular, early on, before we knew a lot about what was happening, we were called by one of our local officials at the ILWU who told us point-blank that our terminals ‘do not have the proper cleaning solution and materials to get the longshoremen and women feeling safe when they hand off equipment.’ 

“We immediately jumped into action and with our partner agency here in Los Angeles, the Department of Water and Power, we secured 700 gallons of industrial bleach that were quickly diluted by our hazmat team, poured into 32-ounce bottles that staff and myself went out to our local home improvement stores to buy, and distributed to all terminals at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles,” Seroka said. “All of that happened within hours, but it set the tone for what we wanted to do on the safety front with our workforce on the waterfront.”

Hoffmann looked at differences between the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial crisis of 2008-09, saying then there was a problem of less demand. Today the problem is with a lack of supply.

“The factories are closing down. The planes are no longer flying, there’s no space in the belly for cargo,” he said, pointing to U.N. figures that estimate global trade will be down 27% in the second quarter of 2020.

Notteboom also sees differences between 2008 and 2020.

“We see much more optimism on how to get out of this situation. Although this is a very serious disease, I think we have more control of how we can get out and how we pick up where we left off. I think overall also, the 2008-2009 crisis was different in the sense that this was something unexpected, at a time when people thought the sky was the limit. … There was a very good market situation just before the crisis,” Notteboom said.

The 2008-09 financial crisis “hit and it led to a lot of pessimism among people,” he continued. “Now I see a lot of optimism. I see people are very anxious to work hard to make sure we can pick up where we left off.

“We also learned from the previous crisis that we have to be resilient, that we have to prepare for sudden shocks. In 2008-2009, nobody was prepared on how to deal with such shocks. Another thing which is quite different from 2008-2009 is that we now have digital tools to help us,” Notteboom said.

Seroka said, “We have to accelerate technology. We’ve been working on this port community system, the only one in the United States, for four years now and I’ve called on the federal government to adopt a nationwide port community system. We’ve learned so much from our colleagues in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It’s time to enable that technology here now.

“The one thing that I am convinced of, because we spent the time and the expertise and the study to implement our system here, it allowed us to invent and plug in what I now call the Medical Port Optimizer, which has allowed us to save lives. We have the ability to see product before it gets into a normal pipeline, speed it through our port and our LAX airport, and bring that product directly to the front-line hospitals. It has been a difference maker and we need to have ports in the U.S. adopt this method because if we’re going to reemerge as an economy, data is going to drive us and our companies toward that success,” he said.

Hoffmann agreed now is the time for ports to invest in automation and optimization.

“Ports are challenged to reassess their revenue models and business models. They’re also looking at digital transformation. These are two areas where ports and port authorities in particular can take up a very important role and at the same time can start thinking about how they can add to the existing revenue streams,” Hoffmann said. “Even small ports can have a role to play in digital transformation and in the greening of the supply chains.”

Decarbonization efforts should not be set aside during the coronavirus crisis, he said.

“It’s a good thing to accept realities and not wishful thinking and accept that climate change is a real threat and it’s growing exponentially, it’s getting worse,” Hoffmann said.

Notteboom agreed work must continue to meet International Maritime Organization targets for reducing carbon emissions.

“COVID-19 cannot be an excuse to slow down … on green shipping targets,” he said. “We have to make sure that we continue on the path we set out years ago.” 

Seroka believes the path ahead will look very different — greener — in a post-coronavirus world.

“In California there will be an emergence of green machinery at our ports and in our trucks and our automobiles that we drive, and we’re going to have to get skilled people around that industry. That means we need to upskill and reskill our workforce,” Seroka said. “We have 30% of our working population [in California] in the transportation sector today. We’re going to need to make sure that those folks and their successors have a pathway to good work in the future as well. And that’s going to come through our decarbonization plan.

“Like many other ports around the world, we’re going to try and accelerate that technology. That workforce development also will be in big play. And I have marveled every time I’ve visited the Port of Antwerp. … The workforce development and training center is a model for all ports to follow around the world,” Seroka said.

“The new economy is going to look very different,” he continued. “We’re going to have to be as nimble as possible to hit the ground running.”

ATA, CVSA Request Commenting Extension for FMCSA Hours-of-Service Proposal

www.ttnews.com, Eleanor Lamb, August 28, 2019, 12:15 PM

ATA, CVSA Request Commenting Extension for FMCSA Hours-of-Service Proposal

Part of FMCSA's hours-of-service proposal involves traveling in adverse conditions. A truck on a snow-covered road. FMCSA’s HOS rules involve trucks traveling in adverse weather conditions. (Dave Gonzalez/Minnesota DOT)

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Two groups have requested that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration extend the public comment period meant to garner feedback on proposed changes to hours-of-service regulations.

FMCSA’s highly anticipated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, released Aug. 14, would allow truck drivers more flexibility with their 30-minute rest break and with dividing their time in the sleeper berth. It also would extend by two hours the duty time for drivers encountering adverse weather and extend the shorthaul exemption by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 hours to 14 hours and increasing the distance limit in which drivers can operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The public comment period is scheduled to close Oct. 7. American Trucking Associations filed a letter to FMCSA on Aug. 27 asking for a 30-day extension to the comment period. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance submitted a similar request Aug. 22 asking for a 45-day extension.

ATA’s letter, written by Vice President of Safety Policy Daniel Horvath, states that more time is needed to collect feedback and data from members of its federation, which include motor carriers, state trucking associations and national trucking conferences.

Dan Horvath of ATA

Horvath

“Because the impacts of proposed HOS regulations will vary depending on the type of carrier operation, ATA is concerned that there will be insufficient time within the current comment period to coordinate with our members and develop comments on this important NPRM,” Horvath wrote in the letter.

Beyond that, Horvath noted that ATA’s annual Management Conference & Exhibition, scheduled for Oct. 5-8, will provide ample opportunity for policy leaders to discuss the proposal. An extension of the comment period, which is slated to close during the meeting, would allow ATA to incorporate additional feedback into the comments.

CVSA, too, said the current window does not provide enough time to compile comments. CVSA represents commercial motor vehicle safety officials and industry leaders across the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

“Forty-five days is not adequate time to prepare and approve comments on such a complicated and important issue,” CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney wrote. “In order to provide comments that will contribute to a comprehensive, well-informed, science- and data-based NPRM, it is imperative that stakeholders be given additional time to develop their comments.”

Collin Mooney, CVSA’s executive director

Mooney

FMCSA officials have shown willingness to hear from members of the trucking industry on the proposed HOS revisions. Agency leaders held the first listening session on the proposal Aug. 23 at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.

During the two-hour session, many drivers suggested that the agency give them the ability to break up the mandatory 30-minute rest break, allow team drivers to use a 6-4 hour split or 5-5 split of their time in the sleeper berth and make it clear to motor carriers that drivers make the call on how they use their time in the sleeper berth.

FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez urged participants to submit comments detailing not only what they liked about the NPRM, but also what they disliked.

A second listening session will be held in Washington in September.

KeepTruckin Adds $149 Million in Funding to Build Up Freight Platform

www.wsj.com, Jennifer Smith – April 23, 2019, 6:00 a.m.

semi trucks at a truck stop

KeepTruckin Adds $149 Million in Funding to Build Up Freight Platform

Series D funding round values the technology startup at $1.2 billion as it pushes into growing market for digital freight booking

KeepTruckin Inc., whose technology helps carriers manage fleets and track driver behavior, said it has raised $149 million to build out an online freight-matching platform and other new products in an increasingly active market for digital freight services.

The Series D funding round gave the six-year-old San Francisco-based startup a valuation of $1.2 billion, up from a $500 million valuation in its previous round in March 2018 and making it the latest in a handful of freight technology ventures to surpass the $1 billion mark.

The company started in the business making apps, software and electronic logging devices that monitor driver compliance with federal limits on driving time. Other offerings use data gathered by the ELDs to track vehicles, flag maintenance issues and reduce fuel usage.

More recently, the startup has rolled out dashboard cameras and fleet safety services aimed at reducing risky driving behavior. KeepTruckin is working with insurers includingProgressive Corp. and developing artificial intelligence applications to analyze video footage and driving events in real-time and deliver driver feedback.

The funding round was led by Greenoaks Capital, with participation from existing investors IVP, Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s venture-capital arm GV, Index Ventures and Scale Venture Partners. The company has raised a total of $228 million in investor backing.

KeepTruckin now has more than 1,000 employees at seven offices in the U.S., Canada, Taiwan and Pakistan. Its customer base includes operators with more than 250,000 trucks equipped with KeepTruckin ELDs and 50,000-plus for-hire carriers.

The company plans to use ELD data to build an online load board where freight brokers and trucking companies can post available cargo. KeepTruckin would match the loads to carriers based on its information about drivers’ location, preferred routes and remaining driving time; truckers would be able to accept or bid on loads electronically.

That puts the company in a stream of digital freight ventures that have attracted hundreds of millions in investments in recent years as startups seek to automate the transportation booking process. Freight-booking startup Convoy raised $185 million in a funding round last year that valued the company at over $1 billion.

Traditional trucking and logistics firms are responding with their own online marketplaces and other digital services. Freight broker Echo Global Logistics Inc. this month rolled out an app and web portal aimed at streamlining freight-booking operations for carriers.

Uber Technologies Inc.’s Uber Freight business generated more than $125 million in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the company’s initial public offering filing. It has contracted with a network of 36,000 carriers “that in aggregate have more than 400,000 drivers and have served over 1,000 shippers,” including Anheuser-Busch InBev SA and Colgate-Palmolive Co. , according to a securities filing.

KeepTruckin Co-Founder and Chief Executive Shoaib Makani said his company’s open-platform approach to freight-matching would give drivers access to a broader set of loads than digital freight brokerages such as Uber Freight, Transfix and Convoy. Any broker or large carrier can use the platform to connect with KeepTruckin’s fleet and driver customers.

“We can bring to them loads that are a better match than anyone, because of the scale of the network and depth of data,” said Mr. Makani, but “we can’t fill those loads ourselves.” The company is working with both large and small freight brokers, he said, but declined to name specific companies.

The new funding will help KeepTruckin build out a program with information on wait times at facilities and other data to help carriers decide which loads they want to accept. Uber Freight and Convoy have similar offerings.

Fleets Credit Safety Systems, Video With Reducing Crashes, Claims

www.ttnews.com, Seth Clevenger – March 21, 2019, 3:00 PM

TLANTA — Active safety technologies such as collision mitigation and lane departure warnings have proved effective at preventing crashes, but proper maintenance and driver training are necessary to get the most out of these systems, fleet executives and suppliers said.

The onboard cameras used by these systems also can help promote safe driving and provide liability protection for fleets, according to experts who spoke at a March 19 panel discussion here at the annual meeting of the Technology & Maintenance Council, which is part of American Trucking Associations.

“This is a very exciting time. We’re thrilled to see where this technology is going,” said Rick Reinoehl, senior vice president of safety and risk management at Covenant Transport. Covenant has seen a 40% drop in preventable rollovers since implementing electronic stability control and a 14% decline in trucks running off the road since adding lane departure warnings, he said. After deploying forward-collision mitigation, the fleet saw a 22% decrease in the frequency of rear-end collisions, as well as a decline in the severity of those accidents, he added.

Overall, the fleet’s Department of Transportation recordable accidents dropped 23% among trucks equipped with all of those safety systems, Reinoehl said.

Southeastern Freight Lines also reported significant safety gains.

Chris Reynolds

Chris Reynolds. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

In 2018, the fleet’s accident rate per million miles was 2.61 on trucks without active safety technology, but only 1.05 on trucks equipped with the technology, said Chris Reynolds, director of safety and security at SEFL.

To work effectively, however, these safety technologies must be installed and maintained properly.

In some cases, it can be a challenge to identify maintenance problems if they occur because drivers may not report them. And drivers who dislike the audible alerts issued by the systems may even tamper with the technology to disable it, Reinoehl said. Covenant ultimately established a zero-tolerance policy to prevent tampering and had to part ways with some drivers over the issue before seeing improvement, he added.

SEFL’s Reynolds said fleets can gain driver acceptance of the technology by expressing concern for their safety and sharing examples of drivers who have been exonerated by video the systems have captured.

“They become believers quickly,” he said, and touted onboard video as “the most accurate witness” when determining the cause of a crash.“Without video you don’t have the same level of accountability,” he said.

Covenant’s Reinoehl also said onboard video can provide clarity when the cause of an accident is under question. “There’s just no end to where technology is going to help us with our claims mitigation costs,” he said.

Safety technology also can improve driving behavior.

SEFL’s Reynolds cited the Hawthorne effect, where people change their behavior when they know they’re being measured and observed. Moreover, it’s important to use information captured by the technology to support driver coaching, he said.

“Without a robust follow-up system, it’s only going to be sustained at a certain level because people will revert back to old behavior,” Reynolds said.

But active safety systems aren’t there to be punitive; rather, they’re designed to supplement the driver, who remains the most vital element of safely operating the vehicle, said Brian Daniels, manager of powertrain and component product marketing at Detroit, which is part of Daimler Trucks North America.

“100% of you do have a collision mitigation system on your trucks — and that collision mitigation system is your driver,” he said.

As the systems have become more advanced, industry adoption has increased, Daniels said. The current sales rate for the Detroit Assurance safety system, available on Freightliner trucks, has reached about 75% of all new vehicles ordered, he said.

Automated steering is the next stage in the evolution of safety technology.

In September, the 5.0 version of Detroit Assurance will introduce active lane assist features that automatically steer a truck back into its lane after a lane drift, and can help keep the vehicle centered in its lane while using adaptive cruise control, Daniels said.

Doug Donaldson, chief engineer for steering and product innovation at Wabco Americas, said a focal point for the development of next-generation safety systems will be making them less intrusive and more intuitive for drivers, which can improve acceptance.

Brad Aller

Brad Aller. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Brad Aller, regional director for fleet sales and service at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, also emphasized the importance of driver training.

“If we put a driver in a vehicle and we do not train them correctly, they do not know how the system is going to work,” he said. “They need to know what the system does and does not do.”

Fleets also should listen to drivers who complain about false activations, he added. Technical problems can stem from something as simple as a technician replacing a camera on the windshield but failing to put the bracket on correctly.

“A driver who is in a vehicle day in and day out knows how that vehicle should work,” he said. “A lot of times if they tell you there’s a problem with the system, there could be.”

Location Intelligence Improves Driver Safety

https://www.ttnews.com, February 18, 2019.

Information excess

With a vast increase in the data generated and available for use in fleet management applications, information overload is likely to be a significant industry challenge in the next few years.

In fact, the T&L industry risks data paralysis, where so much information is available that organizations have no idea how to utilize it fully. Against this backdrop, how can they leverage and optimize data for their own benefit and that of their customers?

Location intelligence can play a critical role in unlocking the value of this data. For example, in the T&L industry it can improve driver safety. It does this by adding context to big data and creating actionable insights that can help differentiate a business from the rest of the market.

Safety first

As driver shortages across the transportation industry are expected to remain a challenge for several years, retention of safe and experienced drivers will continue to be of paramount importance.

As such, fleet managers that want to remain competitive will need to focus closely on delivering high levels of driver safety and satisfaction.

In addition, those organizations keen to limit potential liabilities and cost of operations are likely to consider driver behavior monitoring, coaching and measurement of road use regulation compliance as critical to their futures. As transportation companies are liable for their trucks on the road, fleet managers are highly motivated to take steps that help reduce the possibility of accidents from occurring.

Smart data

Location intelligence plays two critical driver safety roles: it powers applications that monitor truck driver behavior; and it enables the analysis needed to efficiently manage and coach drivers about road safety.

Location intelligence can help improve understanding of – and compliance with – posted speed limit data; it can also help to understand what the appropriate driver action is when taking elements such as traffic, weather conditions and other road legal and physical restrictions into account.

Rich, real-time location data can mean the difference between a costly and life-threatening accident and a driver empowered with vital knowledge who can maintain a brand’s trustworthiness through safe and efficient driving.

By enabling fleet applications to create driver safety and analysis features, location intelligence plays a critical role in helping to analyze driver behavior in real time. It can also help fleet managers identify drivers who exceed performance requirements and who can then be incentivized to stay with the company.

Big data, big future

Big data may have been around for almost 30 years, but it’s only now we are starting to see how the wealth of information held by T&L companies can be transformed into a vital asset through the application of location intelligence.

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HERE, the Open Location Platform company, enables people, enterprises and cities to harness the power of location. By making sense of the world through the lens of location, we empower our customers to achieve better outcomes – from helping a city manage its infrastructure or an enterprise optimize its assets to guiding drivers to their destination safely

Making Life Easier on the Road

Transport Topics (https://cdn.advanced-pub.com), Week of October 15

It’s no secret that finding and retaining good
truck drivers is a challenge for fleets, but recent
reporting has taught us that there are simple
options for improving drivers’ quality of life on
the road.

For one thing, listen to them. In discussing the 96%
turnover rate among for-hire drivers reported earlier this
month by American Trucking Associations, experts said
the key to retaining drivers is efforts designed to make
them feel appreciated — not just sign-on bonuses to lure
them through the door, but rather things that will compel
them to stay once they’ve arrived. That includes generous
benefits packages, easy and ready access to freight,
and an open arena to always speak their minds, and be
heard.

While they’re on the road, increased flexibility
with hours-of-service regulations would also be welcomed,
according to comments during a listening
session to discuss possible changes to those regulations.
The latest in a series of these events, hosted
Oct. 10 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration,
revealed that drivers want the ability to
determine when and for how long they take breaks,
and also want regulators to understand that different
sectors of the industry have different needs. A
break for a driver hauling a load of livestock is very
different from a break for someone hauling a load
of dry goods. And short breaks offer precious little
time to either check on animals or check the condition
of a truck’s tires.

Let’s hope that the members of Congress already
angling to be in charge of top transportation committees
after the midterm elections are listening, and will
emerge post-election ready to help the trucking industry.
Not all of them will earn leadership posts, but all
of them can play a role in helping to shape a future for
the trucking industry that is built around creating an
environment where drivers can succeed.

Let’s hope the same for the leaders of the companies
that employ them. Truck drivers keep food on the table
and clothes on our backs, and we as a country must
show appreciation for them year-round. Day to day, it’s
up to the carriers who employ them — and the government
leaders who set the rules they follow — to listen
to the guidance they’re offering. After all, they’re the
ones living life on the road.

Truck rules help produce with haulers hours-of-service, ELDs

The Packer (www.thepacker.com), Tom Karst – June 7, 2018 04:13 PM

In a relief to produce haulers and the industry in general, the federal government has said hours-of-service rules don’t kick in until a driver goes 150 miles from the original pickup.

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on June 7 published clarifications to trucking regulations that defined when electronic logging devices (ELDs) should start the clock on hours-of-service deadlines. Since a federal mandate to use the ELDs went into effect in December, questions about the 150-mile rule for ag haulers were rife in the transportation industry. The FMCSA on May 31 cleared the air with two documents clarifying the rules.

Following a 90-day waiver from the electronic logging device mandate issued in March (set to expire June 18), the FMCSA released its final guidance containing definitions and clarifications under the 150 air-mile hours-of-service exemption for agriculture. The guidance is effective for five years.

The documents also state truckers whose clocks run out while waiting to be loaded or unloaded can use “personal conveyance” time (counted as off-duty) while seeking a place to sleep without violating the hours-of-service rules.

“It clarifies quite a bit, which we were glad to see,” said Ken Gilliland, director of international trade and transportation for Western Growers.

He said the FMCSA confirmed that even if a load is a long-distance shipment of fruits and vegetables, hours-of-service (HOS) rules kick in only after the truck passes a 150-mile air radius. Then the ELD starts counting.

The federal guidance also gives a broad definition of the “source” of agricultural commodities, including fields, coolers and packing sheds, Gilliland said. Processing facilities are not considered a source; packing facilities for whole produce are, he said.

For truckers hauling whole produce, the HOS clock won’t start while they wait to be loaded at a “source” location. The rules don’t give HOS relief to the time truckers spend waiting to unload at destination, however.

Gilliland said empty trucks driving to a loading spot qualify for the 150-mile air-radius exemption.

The FMCSA seems to have addressed industry concerns but some questions remain, said Dante Galeazzi, president and CEO of the Mission-based Texas International Produce Association.

“We’re really trying to digest what we’ve received and we’re asking questions,” he said.

For example, he said June 6 that the association wants to make sure that the locations along the border that are the first point of entry for fresh produce from Mexico fall under the definition of “source.”

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and disseminate information without first clarifying that the way we read it is the intent of FMCSA in their guidance.”

Galeazzi said his association is working with United Fresh Produce Association and other industry groups to contact regulatory officials with questions.

“It does feel like the guidance is in support of a lot of the flexibility needs that we had shared with FMCSA, but again, we just want to make sure that we are interpreting their guidance correctly.”

Rate bump

The government’s rule clarifications come at a time of fast-rising rates for fresh produce shippers and predictions of firm rates through the summer shipping season.

Truck rates for produce loads rose more than $1,000, or up as much as 25% compared with week-ago numbers for some destinations May 29 to June 5, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

USDA reported truck rates for produce shipped from Southern California to Boston rose from a range of $8,100 to $9,100 on May 29 to a range of $9,400 to $12,000 June 5.

Truck rates from Salinas, Calif. to Chicago for strawberries rose from $5,800 to $6,800 May 29 to $7,100 a week later.

In south Texas, the USDA reported loads sent to Atlanta rose from $3,600 to $4,000 on May 29 to $5,000 to $5,400 June 5.
Beyond seasonally increasing produce shipments, industry reports said some independent truckers pulled their rigs from the road for several days in response to the June 5-7 International Roadcheck, which is organized by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

During that 72-hour period, commercial motor vehicle inspectors throughout North America intensify inspections of commercial motor vehicles and drivers, according to the group.

The date of the Roadcheck is publicized in advance and some companies shut down because the heightened inspections can create delays and long lines for truckers, said Kenny Lund, vice president of operations at Allen Lund Co., La Cañada Flintridge, Calif.

“If a trucker has a load of strawberries and is held up in line for eight hours, it screws up customer service,” he said.

Produce and trucking industry leaders say the June timing of Roadcheck is problematic because it comes at a time when there is seasonally high demand for trucks.

“It creates a spike every year they do it,” Lund said.

The effect of Roadcheck on freight rates may be overestimated, said Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications for Western States Trucking Association. While some truckers park their trucks, he said many continue to run.

“Some states really amp (enforcement) up but in California, for instance, it’s no different than any other day,” he said.

He said truck rate increases may more have to do with volumes going up seasonally, in addition to a reflection of the electronic logging device mandate and the capacity crunch.

“ELD is slowing down the supply chain and volumes are going up,” he said.

While the Roadcheck-related spike in rates may ease somewhat by mid-June, industry leaders say seasonally increasing produce volume is likely to put upward pressure on truck rates through July.