Connect with us

The Nation

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, some of this stuff is getting redundant

Published

on

Oh, man, it’s column time again.

You know what? I’m going to have to be straight with you. There isn’t a darned thing I feel like talking about this time around. This is one of those “slow news” periods you hear about, and there really isn’t a whole lot going on in the trucking universe these days, at least nothing to write a column about. Things almost always slow down around the holidays. And now the midterm election is over and done with. In the weeks leading up to it everyone was playing the “What could it mean? What could it mean?” game. Then for a few weeks everyone played the “What will it mean? What will it mean?” game, which all adds up to a whole lot of nothing.

Speaking of which, the other day we had a meeting – boy, I’ll tell you what, that is one thing I envy you drivers for, you don’t have to sit in on staff meetings. Especially teleconferences, those are the worst. Half the time what they are talking about has nothing to do with you, and so you just have to sit there – it’s excruciating. The only good thing with teleconferences is, unlike traditional conferences around a table, you don’t have to even look like you’re paying attention.

I swear, there are times you can get up after an hour thinking, “Wait, did we decide on anything, about anything, aside from when the next meeting will be?”

But this wasn’t a teleconference. This meeting had a purpose. We were trying to figure out our editorial game plan for the near future. For inspiration, we looked at the just-released annual ATRI report on top industry concerns to see what we could tackle that we hadn’t covered lately.

We went down the list of carrier concerns, then the list of driver concerns.

Whaddaya know? We’ve done them all. Some of them repeatedly,

If anything, going over the list only emphasized how many issues there are in trucking that never seem to go away. Week after week, month after month, year after year, sometimes for decades, they are talked about and talked about. Studies are done. Programs and legislation are proposed. Then someone objects to the proposal and alternate programs and legislation are proposed. Then it stalls out, so someone decides to do another study.

These issues may evolve, but they’re never resolved, and we get stuck covering them, every misstep and false step and backtracking step of the way.

For instance, with the election over, everyone’s back to talking about infrastructure. I was hearing about “our crumbling infrastructure” long before I ever thought about writing about trucking, for at least 30 years. Elected officials come and go, and everyone everywhere agrees something needs to be done about it. They’re saying this might finally be the time we get something done.

Uh, huh, I’ve been hearing that for 30 years, too. Tell you what, when you figure something out and the steam shovels start rolling, give me a call.

And I’ve had enough of the autonomous vehicle stories, too. Talking about self-driving vehicles at this point is like talking about a manned mission to Mars. Folks are working on it, great. And they want to make a lot of noise about how they’re working on it. Of course, they do, and that’s largely because they know it will take a long time to convince the public it’s a good idea.

But I don’t think they’re nearly as close as some of the hype would lead us to believe. I’ll go on record saying it’s about 50-50 humans will at least orbit Mars before fully automated vehicles go mainstream.

The lack of truck parking is another issue that makes the ATRI list every year, at least among drivers. For some reason trucking executives never rate it as high, go figure. We keep hearing it’s bad, we keep hearing it’s getting worse. We keep hearing something must be done about it.

So, what’s keeping something from being done about it? The solution is simple. If you need more parking, build more parking. The question is, who’s going to foot the bill?

At the risk of rendering much of trucking journalism moot, that’s why many of these issues have the lifespan of a giant tortoise and move about as quickly – money, plain and simple.

Which brings us to the perpetual driver shortage. Carriers have gotten scared enough that they’ve dynamited their wallets open and started giving raises, to which drivers have responded by saying there’s more to life than money, to which has followed a wave of public soul-searching about trucking culture.

And now it’s popular to beat the drum about opening interstate trucking to 18-year-olds and rolling out the red carpet for veterans. There are some proposals out there, some pilot programs, but of course, it’s going to take a couple years of studies and data crunching to determine how much good these moves will do to relieve trucking’s labor shortage.

More talk, still not much in the way of results, and it gets boring to write about.

Another bold prediction: It’ll help a little, but not that much and not nearly enough.

What would be interesting would be to get a cross-section of industry analysts and try to break down exactly why trucking seems to be perpetually stuck with some of these problems.

Wait a minute – that’s it! That’s what we decided to do at the last meeting! OK, now that could be a cool topic for conversation. Now we’re getting somewhere.

 

 

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Nation

Can you say oversized load!

Published

on

That is big!

 

Continue Reading

The Nation

Diesel prices all but stagnant nationwide, less than 2-cent shift anywhere

Published

on

The average price for a gallon of diesel nationwide fell by 0.7 cents for the week ending July 22, to currently stand at $3.044 per gallon, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The lack of movement in diesel prices continues a pattern that has been going on for the past month. On June 24, diesel was at 3.042, with changes of less than 1.5 cents every week in between.

Though tiny, the movement in diesel prices was nearly unanimous this past week, down in all but one region of the country.  That one exception was the Rocky Mountain region, where diesel rose 0.3 cents, to $2.978. Year-to-date, diesel prices are lower in every region, with the Rocky Mountain region again being the standout, having the greatest difference, 39.1 cents from this time last year.

California made it a clean sweep for lower diesel prices year-to-date with a drop of 1.3 cents this past week, to $3.939, still by far the highest in the country, but 0.4 cents below this time last year.

Along the rest of the West Coast, diesel dropped 1.1 cents to $3.198, bringing the overall West Coast average to $3.611 per gallon.

The average along the East Coast is currently $3.072, with prices highest in the Central Atlantic, where diesel is going for $3.259 after a 1.3-cent drop. Diesel is $3.122 in New England following a decrease of 0.9 cents over the past week, while in the Lower Atlantic region diesel slipped by 0.4 cents to stand at $2.937 per gallon.

That’s still slightly better than the Midwest, where diesel is going for $2.948 per gallon after a drop of 0.8 cents. Meanwhile, the Gulf Coast, the low-price leader in diesel, fell by the same 0.1 cent it gained the week before to stand at $2.804.

On Monday, increasing tensions between Iran and Western countries failed to produce a sharp reaction in the crude oil markets. Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 98 cents, or 1.57%, to settle at $63.45 a barrel. U.S.-based West Texas Intermediate crude rose 59 cents, or 1.06%, to settle at $56.22 a barrel.

Click here for a complete list of average prices by region for the past three weeks.

Continue Reading

The Nation

DOL opinion letter: Time in sleeper berth does not count as compensable time

Published

on

The Department of Labor says the time a truck driver spends in the sleeper berth is not compensable time. Pictured in the Peterbilt 579 UltraLoft sleeper berth. (Courtesy: PETERBILT MOTORS)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor said Monday said it had determined that time spent in the sleeper berth by professional truck drivers while otherwise relieved from duty does not count as compensable time.

The DOL issued the determination in a written opinion letter by the department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the individual person or entity that requested the letter.

The American Trucking Associations lauded the opinion.

“ATA welcomes Monday’s opinion letter from DOL Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton that concluded time spent by a commercial driver in the sleeper berth does not count as compensable hours under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, unless the driver is actually performing work or on call,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This opinion, which is consistent with decades-old DOL regulations, the weight of judicial authority, and the long understanding of the trucking industry, clears up confusion created by two recent court decisions that called the compensability of sleeper berth time into question.

Significantly, this opinion letter provides new guidance, the DOL said.

Under prior guidance, the DOL said WHD interpreted the relevant regulations to mean that while sleeping time may be excluded from hours worked where “adequate facilities” were furnished, only up to eight hours of sleeping time may be excluded in a trip 24 hours or longer, and no sleeping time may be excluded for trips under 24 hours.

“WHD has now concluded that this interpretation is unnecessarily burdensome for employers and instead adopts a straightforward reading of the plain language of the applicable regulation, under which the time drivers are relieved of all duties and permitted to sleep in a sleeper berth is presumptively non-working time that is not compensable,” the opinion letter said. “There may be circumstances, however, where a driver who retires to a sleeping berth is unable to use the time effectively for his or her own purposes. For example, a driver who is required to remain on call or do paperwork in the sleeping berth may be unable to effectively sleep or engage in personal activities; in such cases, the time is compensable hours worked.”

The ATA commended Acting Secretary Patrick Pizzella and Stanton for adopting a straightforward, plain-language reading of the law, rather than the burdensome alternative interpretation embraced by those outlier decisions.

“ATA also commends the department for making guidance like this available through opinion letters, which provide an opportunity for stakeholders to better understand their compliance obligations prospectively, rather than settling such matters only after the fact, through costly and wasteful litigation,” Spear said.

 

 

Continue Reading

Trending