Regulations

Carriers Get Extension to Rid Systems of Chinese Technologies

www.ttnews.com, Eric Miller, August 19th, 2020, 4:15 PM

The Director of National Intelligence has extended the deadline to Sept. 30 for a requirement that motor carriers that do business with the federal government locate and purge telecommunications equipment manufactured by five Chinese companies that may be in use in their operations.

The waiver was granted in response to a request by Ellen Lord, the Department of Defense’s under secretary for acquisition and sustainment, who had argued that a waiver to extend the deadline is in the country’s national security interest.

The companies believed to be potential hackers into U.S. intelligence and defense agencies’ information systems are Huawei, ZTE Corp., Hytera, Hikvision and Dahua Technology. The provision also covers any subsidiary or affiliate of the entities, but experts warn that the technologies targeted could be difficult to locate in complex modern corporate systems.

The requirement, included in the 2019 Defense Authorization Act, requires federal government contractors to rid their companies of prohibited components manufactured by the five companies.

“I am granting a temporary waiver under section 889(d)(2) until 30 September 2020 to allow the Department of Defense to continue its contracting activities that would otherwise be prohibited under section 889(a)(l)(B) and to provide additional information to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to further assess your waiver request,” John Ratcliffe, director of national intelligence, wrote in an Aug. 12 memo to Lord.

The original deadline was Aug. 13.

“Section 889 [of the law] seeks to prevent certain Chinese technology companies from accessing sensitive and classified information by tapping into devices they designed,” said Bill Wanamaker, executive director of American Trucking Associations’ Government Freight Conference. “All federal contractors, including all modes of freight carriers, have electronic systems that facilitate business processes and operate their equipment.”

Several trade organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and ATA, have for several months been on a letter-writing campaign and engaging congressional staff to extend the compliance date by at least one year.

The law pressures federal contractors of every kind to make a determination on compliance by Sept. 30, or risk noncompliance and possible debarment as a contractor if they cannot ensure the components are not present in their systems, Wanamaker said.

Freight logistics services, including trucking, rely heavily on vast information technology systems, according to an ATA analysis.

“This corporate IT inventory is used to order freight, schedule service, provide in-transit visibility to customers, provide proof of delivery, invoice shippers, support electronic shipping documents and pay by third-party payment systems,” the analysis said. “Motor carriers also use typical office computers, networks, internet service providers, routers, portable computers and scanners, cellphones, security systems, and video monitoring of terminals and warehouses.”

ATA’s analysis also noted that cameras are used for 360-degree video recording around trucks to replace rearview mirrors and that “electronic monitoring of engines, transmissions, braking systems, tire pressure, speed, sudden braking, driver fatigue — all these things are a part of modern commercial motor vehicles.”

The newer the truck, the more IT systems are on the truck for safety, equipment management, tracking and maintenance monitoring, according to the analysis.

Tonnage Decline 8.5% Year-Over-Year in July, ATA Index Shows

www.ttnews, Dan Ronan, August 18, 2020, 1:00 PM

Truck tonnage in July declined a seasonally adjusted 8.3% when compared with year-ago levels, and on a monthly basis was down 5.1% from June, American Trucking Associations reported Aug. 18.

The 8.3% drop is the fourth consecutive year-over-year monthly decline.

In July, the ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index equaled 109.6, compared with June’s 115.5. (In calculating the index, 100 equals the year 2015.)

“After a very strong June, for-hire contract freight tonnage, which dominates ATA’s index, slipped in July for a couple of reasons,” ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said. “It is likely that tonnage was down because many fleets didn’t have the capacity to take advantage of stronger retail freight volumes. Therefore, much of that overflow freight moved to the spot market, which did increase in July.”

Costello said another factor in the decline in tonnage is that the industry is contracting slightly, and there is less available excess capacity.

“Other ATA data shows that for-hire truckload fleets are operating 3% fewer trucks this summer than a year earlier, so it can be difficult to take on a significant amount of additional freight,” he said. “Also, while retail volumes have snapped back strongly, manufacturing output and international trade freight is lagging well behind.”

Confirming Costello’s statement on spot market rates, the DAT Truckload Volume Index released Aug. 13 showed the surge continues across all equipment types. DAT Freight and Analytics operates the industry’s largest online marketplace for spot truckload freight.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 72.5% of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 11.84 billion tons of freight in 2019. Motor carriers collected $791.7 billion, or 80.4% of the total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA said that despite July’s decrease, its index was 3.3% above May’s recent low. June’s index was revised slightly, up 8.9% over May from the 8.7% reported July 21.

Meanwhile, the latest Trucking Conditions Index, released July 31 from FTR Intelligence, which tracked the state of the trucking industry through June 30, reached 11.35. That figure is the highest in a decade, and it comes just two months after a record-low April reading of minus 28.66.

Avery Vise, FTR vice president for trucking, told Transport Topics he is not surprised by the volatility in the industry because of the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There have been some significant movements over the past four months or so and likely will be for several months to come,” Vise said. “However, it is unclear how long the positive factors affecting the June reading — a combination of higher utilization and strong growth in freight demand and rates — will remain in place.”

The latest FTR report and one from the Cass Freight Index Report for the same period confirmed the deep hole the U.S. economy slid into during the second quarter.

Gross domestic product shrank a record-setting 32.9% in April, May and June, tracking closely with economists’ expectations of how the COVID-19 outbreak impacted the economy during the early months of the pandemic.

The Cass Index, specifically for shipments, registered 0.971 — down 17.8% year-over-year. However, month-over-month, the index climbed 3.5% when compared with May.

“The Cass Freight Index showed sequential volume improvement again in June, although freight volumes remain well below year-ago levels and also below pre-pandemic levels. We were thinking the June rebound would have been stronger, based on what we’re hearing,” the report said. “In our view, U.S. freight volumes (the amount of ‘stuff’ moving around the country) will not return to 2019 levels until 2021 at the earliest. Given the most recent Cass readings, there is still a wide gap to bridge.”

The DAT Truckload Volume Index, a measure of dry van, refrigerated and flatbed loads moved by truckload carriers, rose 2.1% from June and was 3.7% higher than July 2019.

Van, reefer and flatbed volumes and rates ended up positive month-over-month.

In its latest report, DAT said spot rates have steadily increased since May for van, flatbed and reefer. Van rates are up from $1.60 per mile to $2.19 a mile in August. Flatbed rates increased from $1.90 to $2.27 a mile, and reefer rates climbed from $2.03 to $2.42 a mile.

DAT says capacity is loosening, but rates still were moving upward Aug. 10-16.

“Nationally, capacity loosened last week, as evidenced by the lower load-to-truck ratios on the DAT One load board network last week,” the analysis said. “Spot rates remain elevated, though, with a majority of high-traffic lanes seeing higher prices for truckload freight when compared with the previous week.”

Senate Committee Advances FMCSA Safety Grants Bill

www.ttnews.com, Eugene Mulero, May 20, 2020, 4:30 PM

Legislation aimed at facilitating financial assistance from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was easily approved by a Senate panel on May 20.

The Motor Carrier Safety Grant Relief Act of 2020 would provide FMCSA the authority to reallocate unspent grants from fiscal 2019 and 2020 to the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program, or MCSAP.

Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a sponsor, explained the bill gives states an extra year to spend certain funds awarded for fiscal 2019 and 2020. He added it would allow the U.S. Department of Transportation to distribute unallocated funds.

Safety Fmcsa by Transport Topics on Scribd

“This would ensure that state and local law enforcement do not lose funding unnecessarily as they continue their frontline work responding to this pandemic,” the chairman said during the bill’s consideration.

Added Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the panel’s ranking member, “This legislation would provide more flexibility for states to spend grant money designated for commercial vehicle enforcement.”

Other sponsors include Republican Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and Deb Fischer of Nebraska, as well as Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

The committee also advanced legislation that would require a joint task force to examine safety and efficiency of air travel during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the bill states the task force “shall develop plans, guidelines and recommended requirements to address the logistical, health, safety and security issues relating to the continued operation of air travel.”

Senate Republican leaders who manage legislation on the floor have yet to announce when they would take up the bills. They have signaled the potential for including such policy measures in either coronavirus economic aid legislation or must-pass government funding bills. A focus on the coronavirus response has dominated debates on Capitol Hill.

The Trump administration’s fiscal 2021 budget request proposes allocating $403 million for Motor Carrier Safety Grants. According to background from the administration, the grants are designed to dedicate funding to “eligible states to conduct compliance reviews, identify and apprehend traffic violators, conduct roadside inspections and support safety audits on new entrant carriers.”

On the House side, policymakers have yet to consider their version. Pertaining to the safety of the supply chain, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced they would continue to explore the administration’s efforts to procure and coordinate shipments of personal protective equipment where there are high or increased cases of COVID-19.

House policymakers also indicated they would examine “how the administration is working with commercial distributors, and the extent to which the federal government is relying on private supply chains versus playing a more proactive role in decisions related to distribution of supplies.”

On May 14, FMCSA announced a final rule to allow more flexibility for the 30-minute rest break rule by requiring a break after eight hours of consecutive driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using “on-duty, not driving” status, rather than “off-duty” status.

“America’s truckers have been on the front lines in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and these regulatory improvements to help them do their jobs as effectively and safely as possible come at a critical time. These improvements to hours-of-service rules won’t increase driving time, but they recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach does not give drivers the necessary flexibility to make the right decisions to safely operate their vehicles,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “I applaud [Transportation] Secretary [Elaine] Chao and the Trump administration’s continued commitment to improving the regulations in a manner that benefits workers, the flow of commerce, and the safety of our transportation system.”

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.”

Commentary: How Will Technology reshape the industry for COVID-19?

www.freightwaves.com, John Mannes, March 28, 2020

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates. 

In the wake of 9/11, 11,000 U.S trucking companies folded. Outside of hurricanes and earthquakes, the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were the largest insured losses in history. In an effort to regain control, insurance companies raised premiums across industries with trucking taking a direct hit. The notoriously slim margins of the trucking industry meant that anyone who couldn’t get costs under control went under. 

Today, the trucking industry is facing a similar vulnerability as a result of COVID-19. This time, it’s unlikely cost cutting alone will steady the industry. The current pandemic is exacerbating driver shortages and putting a strain on the aging drivers holding up the world’s supply chains. When the trucking industry rebounds, technology stands to play a critical role in its recovery.

The next few weeks are going to be hard — really hard. Most big enterprises are in crisis evaluation mode, working overtime to assure shareholders that everything is under control while taking steps to increase employee safety.

Few CEOs had a pandemic preparedness guide sitting in their top desk drawer. Companies are doing the best they can to respond with the resources on-hand. Optional pilots and POCs are on hold in the most affected industries. Innovation teams in some cases have been repurposed entirely to serve as COVID response teams — searching for thermal scanners instead of RPA tools. Their most immediate need is for solutions that can keep drivers safe and help manage cash flow risks.

In the longer term, COVID-19 is forcing conversations around autonomous trucking and remote work to the forefront of the industry. While glitzy tech companies have been preparing for years with Zoom, Tandem and Dropbox, trucking companies are for the first time grappling with what ‘remote’ means for drivers that already operate in the field.

“When a truck driver makes a delivery, he often gets out of his cab and goes into a room to talk to the individual responsible for that unloading facility,” explains Jeff McCaig, owner of Trimac Transportation, the third largest tanker and dry bulk trucking company in North America. “We’re saying don’t do that, do it through the window, do it through your phone but avoid the contact.”

Remote technologies for industries like trucking need to be able to effectively bridge the physical and digital worlds. This means better communications technologies so trucking companies can do more with fewer field resources. It also means better connecting stakeholders so more planning and coordination can happen back at the office and less has to be done ad-hoc by drivers.

“Truck stops that have formerly been available to a driver as he goes on longer haul, some of them are closing down,” McCaig adds. “How do we make sure our drivers have places to rest, to eat and to use hygienic facilities?”

Autonomous technologies are also moving from nice to have to need to have. Trucking companies need options in the event that sick drivers are unable to work. A successful response to COVID-19 hinges on keeping supply chains functioning. We’re already allowing drivers to exceed federally mandated driving time limits in cases where they’re carrying medical supplies. It’s not infeasible to imagine autonomous trucks running some routes in areas where normal traffic has been prohibited.

“The most tactical and strategic issue for trucking is the availability of truck drivers,” explains Trevor Adey, vice president of Trimac Digital. “Truck driver is the largest employer in Canada and one of the largest in the U.S., but the role is not as appealing as it has been in the past.”

As trucking tech continues to grow hotter with recent rounds for companies like Convoy, Flock, Emerge, CloudTrucks and Ike (among many others), hundreds of new startups working on everything from autonomous trucks to digital carriers need to be thoughtful about how their operations and value propositions will evolve as COVID-19 reshapes the industry.

The next few weeks may appear bleak, with churn and sales cycles moving in the wrong direction. Fortunately, demand for trucking is nearly constant. There’s more than enough demand for food and pharmaceuticals to keep the industry humming. Many of the costs in trucking are variable, so while companies are seizing this opportunity to tighten their belts, it’s likely that trucking will emerge as one of the industries best equipped to ramp-up with technology coming out of this pandemic.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the first episode of Future Proof which features both Jeff and Trevor from Trimac speaking at length about the themes presented above. 

John Mannes is an investor at Basis Set Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund in San Francisco focused on artificial intelligence and automation.

Virginia’s $3.7 Billion Rail Investment Intends to Ease Freight, Road Congestion

www.ttnews.com, Eleanor Lamb, December 20,2019, 3:45 PM

Virginia’s $3.7 Billion Rail Investment Intends to Ease Freight, Road Congestion

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has announced a partnership between the state and CSX to expand rail service for both freight and passengers.

The $3.7 billion investment, announced Dec. 19, would involve construction of a new state-owned Long Bridge across the Potomac River with tracks dedicated solely to passenger and commuter rail. Freight trains will continue to use the existing bridge.

The Long Bridge, which links Washington, D.C., and Arlington, currently moves freight and people along its two tracks. Built in 1904, the bridge carries every passenger and CSX freight train that crosses the Potomac River. It operates at 98% capacity during peak times.

Additionally, the deal includes acquisition of more than 350 miles of railroad right-of-way and 225 miles of track. The agreement also proposes 37 miles of new track improvements, such as a Franconia-Springfield bypass.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make our rail system work better for everyone, both in Virginia and along the entire East Coast,” Northam said. “This agreement will change the future of transportation in Virginia, improving our ability to move people and goods across the state and opening up potential rail service in underserved parts of the Commonwealth.”

State officials also negotiated improvements with CSX to increase service levels, such as doubling the number of Virginia Amtrak trains, providing nearly hourly Amtrak service between Richmond and Washington, increasing Virginia Railway Express service along the Interstate 95 corridor and establishing the foundation for Southeast High Speed Rail south of Petersburg. These improvements are set to be phased in over the next 10 years.

“CSX is proud of the innovative agreement reached with the Commonwealth of Virginia, which will advance our goals for increased safety, efficiency and volume growth while meeting the public’s desire for more passenger rail service to relieve commuter traffic congestion in the I-95 corridor,” said Jim Foote, president of CSX.

The project is meant to expand people’s options to use rail — rather than roads — for travel. I-95, which runs up the eastern side of Virginia, bisecting Richmond, is frequently congested. Virginia’s Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment found that adding one travel lane to I-95 in each direction for 50 miles would cost $12.5 billion and would still become clogged the day it opened.

The rail expansion is projected to remove five million cars and one million trucks from Virginia’s highways each year. Furthermore, it is expected to aid the Port of Virginia’s goal of moving 40% of containers by rail.

CSX@CSX

CSX CEO Jim Foote joined Governor Ralph Northam today to announce a new landmark agreement to expand reliability and service along Virginia’s rail lines, creating a pathway to separate passenger and freight operations along the Richmond to D.C. corridor. https://bit.ly/2SkASHh 

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter
See CSX’s other Tweets

“As we work to maximize investments in highways, transit and Metro, this partnership creates an unprecedented opportunity to unlock the potential of rail and commuter rail and allows Virginia to focus on customer service, reliability and performance,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “This also provides the critical infrastructure needed to explore options to expand rail to other corridors in the Commonwealth.”

Northam’s announcement indicates that the proposal will be funded by federal, state and regional partners. Additionally, the Amtrak Board of Directors approved a memorandum of understanding with the state outlining their commitment to the program.

According to Northam’s announcement, the parties will continue to negotiate and plan to finalize their agreement in the second half of 2020.

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.”

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.

White House Reduces Trucking Rules, but Doesn’t Ease Enforcement, Attorneys Say

Transport Topics (www.ttnews.com), Eric Miller – June 6, 2018 09:45 AM

INDIANAPOLIS ­­— The deregulatory nature of the Trump administration threatens delay or elimination of several Obama-era trucking-related regulations, but those that remain on the books will continue to be aggressively enforced, panelists said at a law seminar here.

RELATED: ATA’s Chris Spear cautions against further ELD exemptions

“That’s what I’m seeing in representing carriers all across the country in dealing with DOT audits,” Tim Wiseman, an attorney with law firm Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, told nearly 600 attendees at a regulatory update session at the 2018 Scopelitis Transportation Law Seminar on June 4.

Wiseman

Wiseman

Wiseman said he believes there are indications that federal regulators are still “coming down hard” on motor carriers, truck drivers and executives of companies.

“I think that’s a good thing if they’re truly targeting unsafe motor carriers,” Wiseman said. “Unfortunately, for a dozen different reasons, trying to replace the current paperwork-driven audit system with Compliance, Safety, Accountability program data just doesn’t work the way the Safety Management System and CSA is currently structured.”

The 2016 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Safety Fitness Determination proposal — which has since been withdrawn — likely will not resurface any time soon, he said.

“So we’re left with the antiquated paper-driven audit process that we’ve had for decades,” Wiseman added. “Because it relies so heavily on carrier safety scores to initiate audits, when auditors arrive they’re looking to find the paperwork to support what the SMS is telling them. So there’s a little bit of bias now in the audit process.”

“We’re supposed to be talking about what’s going on at FMCSA,” Richard Pianka, deputy general counsel for American Trucking Associations, told attendees. “But as several other speakers have alluded to, it’s almost easier to talk about what’s not going on at FMCSA.

Pianka

Pianka

“This administration, it’s no secret, is committed to reducing the regulatory burden on industry,” Pianka said.

So far, the Trump administration has put the brakes on the safety fitness determination rule and speed limiter rule, but also has been working to study requested exemptions for the electronic logging device rule that went into full effect April 1, Pianka said.

“A lot of the hostility toward ELDs really is about the hours of service,” Pianka said. “As a result of all the hostility, there is some appetite in Congress and the FMCSA to take some of the pressure off by adding some additional flexibility to hours-of-service rules.”

Pianka said he sees a few possible changes on the horizon. For example, relief on supporting documents, bringing the 100-air-mile CDL driver exemption into line with the 150-air-mile non-CDL exemption, and getting FMCSA’s split sleeper berth pilot program off the ground.

Jennifer Hall, ATA’s general counsel, said that the Department of Health and Human Services has been slow to respond to a congressional mandate to set a standard for hair-based drug testing of truck drivers. She added that Congress in recent weeks has been encouraging HHS to complete the mandate.

Hall

Hall

Hall said FMCSA has rescinded plans for adopting a plan for obstructive sleep apnea guidelines, and has been moving slowly on a rule to make it easier for diabetic drivers to get behind the wheel.

David Osiecki, president of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, said one thing that has not changed with the new administration is the number of audits, adding that violations of carriers has remained about the same. But even though the number of audits aren’t increasing, the number of closed enforcement cases being generated is on the rise, he said.

“What’s not clear is why is this happening,” Osiecki said.

Scopelitis attorney Annette Sandberg, a former FMCSA administrator, said the ELD rule has gotten off to a “rocky start.”

“There’s been a real lack of training on behalf of drivers and on behalf of the enforcement officers out there,” Sandberg said. “Since January of this year, we’ve had over 35,000 violations cited on drivers for not having a device that’s registered.

“The reality of it is, drivers are getting cited for having an automatic on-board recording device, the old system. Those are not required to be registered, and enforcement doesn’t understand that.”

Sandberg said two regulations that have not been nixed by the Trump administration include the Entry Level Driver Training rule and the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse rule, both set to go into effect in 2020.

As directed by the 2015 FAST Act, CSA scores for property carriers have been kept out of public view since late 2015, Sandberg said, and they haven’t gone back up.

FMCSA officials currently are studying several recommendations of a special academic panel but have yet to announce any changes to CSA methodology.