Work Should Continue to Clarify Safety in Permitting

July 1 marks a day that will probably pass without much fanfare when it comes to trucking. Though a significant piece of legislation (Senate Bill 1229) goes into effect, the general public will probably not notice that vehicles that are permitted up to 129,000 pIMG_20160630_135654586.jpgounds will be allowed to operate on the Interstate system in Idaho.

That is probably well and good. Why? Because work should continue on the negotiated rulemaking process that is being conducted in response to Governor Otter’s charge to “go beyond truck weights to include all relevant, professionally established and widely accepted operational standards.” A big production on the effective date of Senate Bill 1229 would just distract from what the public really does care about: safety.

The victory in getting the federal exemption from the 1991 freeze, and the subsequent adoption by the state of Idaho, shouldn’t keep carriers from staying involved on this issue. Continued support is needed to ensure safety concerns are addressed in ways that are implementable and that directly translate into safety results. This will ensure fairness and efficiency in the permitting process, especially since the Idaho Transportation Department is looking at all vehicles over 80,000:  This is no longer just about 129,000 pound trucks.

There are 5 rules that have been drafted that are slated to go out for public comment in September. However, I strongly encourage everyone to at least read them, if not submit comments on them, by the deadline on July 8. All of the information you will need can be found at ITD Rulemaking.

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These rules will be incorporated into the permitting process by the Idaho Transportation Department and enforced by the Idaho State Police – Idaho’s designated commercial vehicle safety agency.  Though this has been done to a certain extent in the past, there has never been a concerted effort to clarify a carrier’s safety responsibilities through their overlegal permit.

Though you may already be subject to federal regulation, and though the public may not notice, we can all agree that safety is paramount to our industry.  This process is taking place because of concerns over safety. Therefore, as the work continues to clarify the safety responsibilities of carriers through the permitting process, so should our participation.

Julie Pipal is the President/CEO of the Idaho Trucking Association

Take Every Opportunity to Participate

If the trucking industry wants to have a say in how our industry is viewed or impacted by the actions of governmental entities, we need representatives at the respective decision-making tables when we are offered a seat. Always.

We have an invitation to a new effort to determine what the needs are in California to improve mobility and efficiency through infrastructure improvements. On April 15, trucking industry stakeholders are invited to participate in an interactive webinar to learn more about the California Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (CA-VIUS) and how CA-VIUS will benefit the trucking industry.

If you operate any part of your fleet in California, you will want to register for this conference call. The information gathered by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI)*, and the rest of the team working with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), is part of a statewide effort to provide a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system.  CA-VIUS is an effort to collect data on the physical and operational characteristics of the State’s trucking industry, which is critical to understanding where, when and how often trucks access the transportation system.

Yes, this is a good opportunity to find out what is going on in this particular instance.  ATRI BLOGMotor carriers who operate in California are encouraged to register for the webinar to learn more about the purpose of the CA-VIUS and how to participate once the CA-VIUS is launched.

But this doesn’t have any great impact, right?  Let’s keep our powder dry for a really important opportunity.  One we care about because it impacts our bottom line.

Wrong. The most important message here is our industry’s need to be its own voice in every arena, no matter how important we view an opportunity to have our say.  The reality is the trucking industry is often not offered a seat, forgotten, or left to fight for a place to represent ourselves.  Then those who are at the table do define us, and we probably won’t like what they have to say.

That is why we should take every opportunity.

Julie Pipal is the President/CEO of the Idaho Trucking Association

 *ATRI is the trucking industry’s 501(c)(3) not-for-profit research organization.  It is engaged in critical research relating to freight transportation’s essential role in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient transportation system.

There is Still Work to be Done on Increased Truck Weights

Driver pay and impact on the roads were the two biggest concerns that came up when Road Dog Radio’s Mark Willis, Sirius XM 146 radio host, made Idaho’s Interstate exemption the topic of his show today.  Regardless of how the supporters of the increase in permittable truck weights from 105,500 lbs. to 129,000 lbs. view this victory, it is up to all of us in the industry to be good stewards of the tool.

Though none of the members of the Idaho Trucking Association disagree with the inherent inequity of the 1991 freeze on truck weights, there are varying degrees of disagreement on how the exemption will affect drivers, carriers and infrastructure.  While we should continue to lead with our strengths such as fewer trucks on the road, higher efficiency and qualified drivers, we also need to be aware that these are not universally accepted as good reasons to have exemptions from the freeze.

Transystems Truck at the Annex
Idaho Trucking Association member Transystems is one of a few companies in Idaho that have been using the 129,000 tool for years.

As the drivers who called into the show stated, carriers who take advantage of the exemption need to ensure their drivers have the type of training that will make then knowledgeable and confident.  Equipment needs to be maintained and inspected consistently.  The industry needs to stay engaged on issues about funding and make the case for spreading the responsibility when necessary, but accepting the responsibility when it is supported by the facts.  We need to work effectively with state and local roads officials to build corridors of commerce that incisively improve our economy.

 

Most importantly, we need to be a voice of reason and common sense.  Our goals?  To be trusted by policymakers and the pubic when it comes to their roads and their economy.

Julie Pipal is President and CEO of the Idaho Trucking Association

“Sue and Settle” Practice Needs to End

No one knows better than the trucking industry how consent and settlement agreements negatively impact business.  Many of the current regulations and rules – even guidelines – are the result of behind-closed-doors agreements between the anti-truck lobby and our regulators.  The “sue and settle” practice ultimately compels agencies to issue rules in an expedited timeframe.  The states and the public are not given notice of lawsuits, and there are no meaningful efforts to include other voices in the process  once those lawsuits are settled.

This is patently wrong.

US-House-of-RepresentativesWith the right amount of money, lawsuits have been a very effective way for special interest groups to get their way without having to include those who are impacted.  However, H.R. 712 would make federal agencies more accountable to the American public and it will improve the transparency of federal agency actions by stopping the abusive “sue and settle” practice; requiring agencies to disclose planned rulemaking; and requiring agencies to notify the public of proposed rules each month.

Comprehensively known as the “Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act,” H.R. 712 is good government. This Act would help Congress reassert control over federal regulatory agencies in an arena where lawsuits cause agencies to act as the handmaidens for powerful special interest groups.  The Act would also increase transparency and accountability and restore some fairness to a process that should be conducted on the principals of open government and public participation.

This really is about equal protection.  The Idaho Trucking Association is joining the US Chamber of Commerce in supporting the effort, and so should you.

Julie Pipal is the President and CEO of the Idaho Trucking Association

Compliance Demands Education

Demand something of the federal government? It is a laughable prospect…. Or is it?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is extremely demanding of the trucking industry. It is virtually impossible to comply with all of the regulations FMCSA is heaping upon us, often without the science to back it up. Even with the efforts of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance to bring uniformity, many laws, rules and guidelines are left to interpretation or individual discretion.

That is why we must demand that FMCSA exorcise this delusion of enforcement (they are not an enforcement agency) and focus on education. Compliance requires education. So, FMCSA, if we call you because we do not understand why we have a violation, the impetuous is on you to explain it in a way that does not patronizingly dismiss us.  We cannot comply if we do not understand what we did wrong.

I recently helped one of my carrier members faced with such arrogance in two states. The safety person had read the rule his company was cited for violating. He did not see how the situation his driver and truck were in fit the definition. He wanted to know the why, but was instead dismissively told the violation would stand. Huh?!?

chalkboard revisedThis attitude will not help the company avoid this situation in the future – the goal of the calls to FMCSA – and is reflective of the anti-truck lobby rather than an agency whose primary mission “is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”

The trucking industry has every right to demand that our regulators put safety first by educating us on how to comply. That means taking the time to explain to people why a regulation is affecting them. Compliance is not simply about right or wrong: Compliance is about knowing how and why. Who should best be able to explain the how and why? In the trucking industry it is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

So we must demand FMCSA educate. Compliance depends on it, and no one is laughing.

Julie Pipal is the President/CEO of the Idaho Trucking Association

 

Simpson a Champion for Idaho

The trucking industry owes a big “thank you” to Congressman Mike Simpson for his leadership in successfully getting and keeping language exempting Idaho from the arbitrary cap on truck weight limits for the Interstate in Idaho.

According to Right Truck for Idaho spokesman Roy Eiguren, Congress enacted and the President signed on December 18, the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which included language for Idaho’s exemption in it as a policy rider.

“The bill became effective upon signature by the President, said Eiguren. “Accordingly, the federal statutory limitation that has precluded the state since 1991 from increasing weight limits to 129,000 pounds on the federal Interstate Highway System in Idaho has been repealed.”

Now it’s up to us to look critically at how we use this tool to increase efficiency while we to continue to keep the traveling public safe, just as we have on state and local roads for more than a decade.  In fact, the Idaho Legislature will need to take action to allow permitting on the Interstates in Idaho.  Then our companies can decide if they want to apply for the permits and invest in the necessary equipment.

However, we need to thank our champion on this issue first:  The exemption would not have been accomplished without Congressman Simpson. 

Regardless of the Issue, Driver Behavior become the Focus

An editorial appeared in the Idaho Statesman today that was penned by our Idaho Trucking Association (ITA) Board Chair Alan Ginkel, vice president of Western Transport, Inc.. By 7:50 a.m., I already had an email that did not even discuss the issues in the editorial. Instead, the writer used the opportunity to vent about his experience on the road. Here’s what it said:

“Having spent the last couple years shuttling rental cars around southern Idaho as a retirement job, I can tell you things aren’t nearly that great. The following are commonplace:

 1. Trucks on the freeway cutting 80-mph cars off as they swerve into the left lane to pass another truck–only to spend the next few miles side by side as the one going 70 tries to pass the one going 69.5 with traffic backing up behind them. I have been run onto the shoulder by this nifty trick.

 2. Trucks gradually fading off the right side of the road… only to swing back into the lane when they hit the rumble strip. 

3. Truckers with their tablets propped up on the steering wheel. 

 By “commonplace” I mean that I saw all three things on every trip. The first happens continually on the freeway.”

As you can see, this had nothing to do with wanting to take a collaborative approach to addressing freight needs or the value our industry plays in our economy. What people see on the road is their focus.  It does not matter that 80 percent of crashes involving commercial vehicles are actually caused by the passenger vehicle. It does not matter that our drivers are professionals, or that our industry is heavily regulated. It all comes down to the public’s perception on the road with our drivers.

So what is the solution? It is three-fold.

  1. Focus on bringing more people into our industry by promoting the career opportunities and professionalism that truly exemplify the transportation industry. The ITA is doing that with our new QR Code program, An Industry That Will Take You Places.
  2. Keep the facts and good deeds flowing out about our industry. We need to encourage the collection and dissemination (through ITA or our members) of the good stories.  Stories like those surrounding the Truckers Delivering Hope program.  Stories about our model drivers and their accomplishments.  Stories about our industry that make drivers human.
  3. Address the factors that cause the interactions above, whether it is with our drivers on the road, our customer demands, or our retention or wage policies.

Jump in and help. Share best management practices. I am waiting to hear from you.

Julie Pipal is the President/CEO of the Idaho Trucking Association

 

Shifting into the Future

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