Motor carriers are facing a number of major regulatory concerns, says Lower. The last five to 10 years have seen a flurry of new measures that affect trucking, including tighter restrictions on drivers' hours of service, and a mandate to install electronic logging technology. Many of those actions promise to have a direct impact on capacity, as well as lead to the "unintended consequence of negatively impacting carrier productivity," he says.
There are also some lesser-known regulations with an impact on trucking, including an increase in minimum insurance requirements from $750,000 to as high as $2m. Other rules mandate that drivers be examined by certified medical examiners, and set up a national clearinghouse for drug-testing results, an initiative that is expected to cost around $186m a year.
The majority of the trucking industry will be affected by the new rules, with the exception of certain private fleets and other “small pockets” of operators, Lower said. So carriers will have to respond.
The first round of hours-of-service restrictions resulted in a move by industry toward improved planning and greater awareness of driver availability. In the process, carriers were able to mitigate some of the impact of the rules. Now they need to go even further, and achieve a higher degree of understanding about where they can find new efficiencies to offset reductions in capacity and driver hours.
Carriers are becoming more selective about where they send drivers, Lower says. Service regions are getting smaller, causing a reduction in the number of carriers with nationwide routes. “There will always be shippers that need to move coast to coast,” says Lower, “but we’ll see carriers regionalizing their networks, and relaying loads across the country.”
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