Digital regulation has US truck industry scrambling
GREEN BAY: A new regulation that will force US trucking companies to electronically log employee hours is designed to limit accidents by keeping tired drivers off the road. It may also drive smaller trucking firms out of business. A trucking industry survey earlier this year of mostly small operators found that 84 percent lacked electronic logs, according to load-matching firm truckstop.com.
Paper logs allow transport companies already facing razor thin margins to fudge the books, boosting their hours on the road to help the bottom line. But a mandated switch to a digital system by late December 2017, regulators say, will boost safety by preventing exhausted truckers from driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) forecasts the regulation would save 26 lives per year and prevent 562 injuries.
An FMCSA cost-benefit analysis found the new rule would cost truck firms $1.8 billion across the sector to implement, but fewer crashes and less paperwork would save $3 billion. Industry experts argue that whatever those savings, the smaller firms and independent owner operators that are the backbone of a highly fragmented market will take a productivity hit, making it difficult to pay off their trucks that have doubled in price since 2000. As a result, small to mid-size trucking outfits will need to find more drivers to haul the same amount of freight-and seek other ways to cut costs-in order to make it.