Gaining a Supply Chain Edge

Are Good Intentions Creating Negative Effects on Transportation?

A few days ago, I read the Supply Chain Consortium's latest report, Domestic Transportation: Finding the Right Balance of Volume, Capacity and Pricing. Of course I am biased, but I thought it was a must-read for any supply chain leader who is concerned about transportation trends and costs.

The sidebar piece on the Hours of Service (HOS) and Compliance, Safety Accountability (CSA) proposals makes some great points about a couple of changes that could soon be happening within the industry. I'll talk about CSA in more detail in an upcoming blog, but today, I wanted to focus on HOS.

Basically, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is proposing to increase safety by decreasing the number of hours drivers are on the road. But, at the same time, these new proposals have some potentially devastating negative effects on the industry.

The two main proposals being touted are:
Reducing the length of driving time each day by one hour, allowing drivers to be on the road 10 hours a day, instead of 11.

Adding a component to how "restarts" (essentially weekends) are figured. Currently, a driver's "weekend" is calculated is 34 consecutive hours off. In the proposed change, the 34 hours would need to include two periods of downtime between midnight and 6 a.m. This means a driver finishing his week just after midnight would need to wait up to 57 hours before being eligible to drive again.

While the industry is not happy about either HOS proposal, the second one is most perplexing, considering that this rule would, effectively, mandate that a large percentage of drivers begin their day during the peak morning rush hours. This idea hardly seems conducive to increasing safety, since there aren't as many cars on the road at night.

Not to be overlooked is the first issue, reducing the length of time an individual may drive by one hour represents an effective 9% reduction in work force. I know unemployment is still high but, the last time I checked, people weren't lining up to become over-the-road truck drivers.

Still, if these changes were being proposed to solve a chronic problem and make our roads safer, it would be hard to argue with them (regardless of the cost or imposition). I don't think anyone, including me, would argue that safety on the roads is not of great concern.

However, the number of fatalities caused by accidents involving large trucks has declined every single year since 2004, including last year- the lowest number on record since the stats started being kept. With all the challenges the economy continues to face, enacting new laws that will constrict supply and increase costs in order to solve a problem that is already under control doesn't seem like time well-spent.

Or is it a policy that should be accommodated in order to ensure even safer roads? Like the title of the report says, it may come down to "finding the right balance." What do you think?

Jim
Tompkins Associates

TAGS: Supply Chain
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