Caution on Using ELD Records for IRP & IFTA

As of late this year, most motor carrier drivers will be obliged under Federal Regulations to keep their hours-of-service records by means of electronic logging devices. The rules require the ELD systems to use GPS to track a driver’s travels, within limits, and to create records that include periodic location and time information.

Many carriers will doubtless want to use the new ELDs to produce records to back up their IRP and IFTA reports. WELL BE CAREFUL.

Both IRP and IFTA records require specifying where a truck goes, and do accept electronic records, BUT: (1) those records are required to be much more precise than those required for hours-of-service, and (2) while HOS records, like paper logs, must be kept for only 6 months, IRP and IFTA records must retained by a carrier for up to 5 and a half years.

The U.S. DOT will not require that ELDs be able to create acceptable records for registration and tax reporting, and it’s to be feared that ELD providers may not be aware, or in some instances care very much, whether their ELDs will do the job for IRP and IFTA.

It is up to the carrier, if it’s going to use an ELD to create records for IRP and IFTA, to ensure that the device it uses is up to the job.

SOURCE: ATA State Laws Newsletter 4/7/17

Quality of Driver Medical Examinations is Inconsistent, ATRI Reports

The quality of truck and bus driver physical exams administered by certified Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration medical examiners is inconsistent, according to new analysis by the American Transportation Research Institute.

The analysis, done in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, was based on a survey of 900 commercial drivers, 300 motor carriers and 1,200 certified medical examiners. It was intended to assess FMCSA’s requirement that examiners take a training course and test before being permitted to do exams that are required every two years for drivers.

The list of certified examiners now numbers more than 52,000, said Larry Minor, FMCSA associate administrator for policy.

The registry was designed to improve the Department of Transportation physical exam process and ensure that medical examiners understand FMCSA regulations and guidance for issuing medical certificates. The analysis suggested the process is falling short of some of its goals.

The ATRI survey concluded that a majority of bus and truck drivers said they are paying more for the exams but not seeing commensurate improvements in their quality since the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners system requiring certification of all medical examiners went into effect in 2014.

“The data show a polarity in quality of medical examiners,” said Dr. Clayton Cowl, chairman of the Mayo Clinic’s Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine. “Those examiners who are performing only minimal examinations may have received substandard training or are not taking their role seriously.”

The survey also showed that 6% of drivers reported spending 20 minutes or less with their examiner, with 6.5% spending 10 minutes or less, an insufficient time to complete all required processes of a DOT physical, ATRI said.

“Drivers certified by chiropractors were more likely to have important medical checks omitted,” according to the analysis.

Among the 5.9% of drivers who were not issued a medical certificate on the day of their physical exam, 22.6% cited having a medical condition that required treatment before certificate issuance as the reason.

In addition, the study showed that motor carriers still have significant concerns related to the medical certification process, including requests by medical examiners for additional medical documentation causing certification delays, driver confusion about how regulatory changes affect the ability to hold a valid medical certificate, and concerns with the competency of medical examiners. Nearly 50% of motor carriers reported that they specify which medical examiner their drivers see to ensure medical exam quality.

Less than 1% of carriers reported no major concerns with the medical certification process.

The analysis also concluded that the ability of drivers to find a medical examiner close to where they live may be more challenging in the future because 15.3% of the examiners reported that they have quit or plan to quit performing DOT physicals.

“The inconsistency in quality of exams provided our drivers creates real challenges for us as a fleet,” Victor Hart, director of safety for DOT Transportation, said in a statement. “Where, in one terminal location, a driver may be required to undergo extensive tests and provide additional documentation prior to getting a medical certificate, drivers in other locations are expedited through with cursory exams.”

SOURCE: Transport Topics/ATRI

Sales of Used Trucks Rise 11% on Strong Replacement Need

Sales of Class 8 used trucks in February improved 11% year-over-year and prices steadied, but the oversupply of late-model sleepers continues and could grow by the end of the year, experts said. Sales reached 3,684 compared with 3,306 a year earlier, ACT Research Co. reported, based on its sample of dealers, wholesalers and auctioneers as well as a few large fleets.

ACT uses the sample to determine average prices, age and mileage, and it includes about 13% of the total market, which is statistically enough to project market conditions, according to the company. By that measure, total sales of used Class 8 trucks in February rose to 28,338 compared with 25,430 a year earlier – more than doubling the sales of 11,200 new Class 8s in the same month.

Used-truck demand is the same replacement phenomena as in the new Class 8 sales market, “just at a different tier,” ACT Vice President Steve Tam told Transport Topics. The average price for all Class 8 trucks – including retail, wholesale and auction – was $40,731 compared with $42,047 a year earlier, according to ACT.

The year-over-year changes in average pricing each month are getting progressively less negative, Tam said. “To me, that suggests pricing is firming,” he said. “I think a $40,000 number is a target for a floor. I think we are going to spend quite a bit of time in that neighborhood this year.”

Mileage on the average heavy-duty truck fell to 449,000 compared with 479,000 a year earlier, while the average age remained unchanged year-over-year at 7 years, 2 months. Tam has forecast the 2017 used-truck market to be 250,000 compared with 270,000 in 2016.
The fundamentals are not supporting the early gains this year, he said. Instead, it is “little things here and there” that suggest improvements in freight demand and the larger economy, but there continues to be a “vacuum for the catalyst for any meaningful improvement,” Tam said. Also, inventory will decline by the end of the year to about 50,000 trucks compared with 75,000 at the start of the year, he said.

Meanwhile, some used-truck buyers continue to seek very old trucks because they remain leery of those built beginning in 2007 to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and, most recently, greenhouse gases, said Craig Kendall, specialty markets manager at The Pete Store in Knoxville, Tenn. “But we are starting to see that most of the used-truck buyers have figured out that it is the way of the world,” he said. “If you go into California, you are going to have to have a fairly new truck. A lot of shippers are under tremendous pressure to be ‘green,’ so they want somebody with a pretty ‘green’ truck to haul for them.”

Model year 2014 trucks are beginning to enter the market, he said. There were 220,405 new heavy-duty trucks sold that year, according to, making it the fifth-best year since 1999. For customers who don’t shy away from late model trucks with automated manual transmissions and aerodynamic designs, “there are some deals out there right now.”

Chris Visser, senior analyst for commercial trucks at J.D. Power Valuation Services, noted the 3- to 5-year-old group of sleeper tractors continues to trend lower year-over-year.

The average price in February was $62,480, down 5.2% or $3,430 month-over-month, while the average pricing for this group through the first two months of the year was $5,904, or 8.4%, lower compared with the 2016 period. March’s pricing results are expected to be similar, Visser wrote.

“Individual makes and models generally lost more value than anticipated in February. We expect depreciation to relax in upcoming months, as pricing trends in the auction market cross over to the retail market,” he added.

To accelerate used-truck sales, truck maker Paccar Inc. launched a certified pre-owned program at the Mid-America Trucking Show last month for its Kenworth Truck Co. and Peterbilt Motors Co. brands. The trucks must be four model years of age or less, have mileage less than 450,000 miles and pass a 150-point inspection. When a truck comes with its MX-13 engine, it will have a one-year, 125,000-mile warranty covering 105 components on the engine and after-treatment system, Paccar said.

Tam said by the end of the year, “We will be at the confluence of a very good new-truck industry [sales years] in 2014 and 2015, and those larger fleets with more rapid trade cycles will be sending some of that into the used-truck arena in that timeframe.”

SOURCE: Transport Topics 4/10/17

TCA Implores Congress Not to Raise Truck Weights

The Truckload Carriers Association reiterated its support of the current five-axle, 80,000-pound federal gross vehicle weight limit for trucks in an April 5 letter to the leaders of both the Senate Committee on Appropriations and the House Committee on Appropriations.

TCA President John Lyboldt wrote the lawmakers that the association and its trucking company members are “concerned about allowing freight-shipping trucks to carry a maximum of 91,000 pounds with the addition of a 6th axle, up from the current 80,000 pounds standard.” While conceding that this idea is an attempt to improve trucking productivity, he contended that “it clearly would only benefit a minority of carriers, while forcing the rest of the industry either to divert critical resources into these new configurations or risk becoming obsolete.”

Interestingly, that is often the strongest argument put up by truckload carriers that oppose liberalizing federal rules to allow 33-foot-long “turnpike” double trailers to operate on Interstate and other highways- regardless of state laws. T
TCA was among the groups that lobbied Congress successfully to keep a measure allowing twin 33s from being passed in 2015.
As to whether carriers should be allowed to run heavier when rigs are equipped with a 6th axle, about a year ago TCA did opt to ditch a two-policy position it had held since 2011 that called for increasing truck weight limits either by allowing a five-axle, 88,000-pound weight limit or six-axle, 91,000-pound limit.

In the letter, Lyboldt detailed TCA’s concern that changing the weight limit via a 6th axles would drive up both capital and operating costs for truckload carriers while not allowing them to recoup those costs through rate adjustments. “Truckload’s shift from 48′ trailers to 53′ trailers was exactly this issue, only in reverse,” he pointed out, offering a history lesson. “Shippers who filled trailers by volume before maximizing the allowable weight put pressure on industry to move to 53′ trailers. Like the proposal today, there were pilot programs prior to it being legalized across the nation. Only half of the loads cubed out before they weighed out, yet the entire industry was forced to move.”

Lyboldt said that while “the market demands ultimate flexibility from general freight haulers, those who cannot provide the service simply disappear. As has happened before, maximum capacities become the norm. Carriers are forced to adjust their equipment to accommodate 91,000/6, even though they will likely never recoup the costs of the adjustment or haul loads requiring the 6th axle.” He added that truckload carriers “simply cannot afford” a rule that would allow 91,000 pounds on 6 axles.

“TCA supports a policy of no increase in truck weight,” Lyboldt stated flatly in the letter. “As an association, we will continue to examine components of increasing productivity as they arise.”

Making his message crystal clear, he added that “TCA reiterates that we are opposed to the stand-alone concept of 91,000 pounds on 6 axles; however, TCA is open to any, and all, discussions with key stakeholders in regards to improving overall transportation efficiency and productivity on our nation’s highways.”

SOURCE: Heavy Duty Trucking 4/11/17

Inventories Rose in February, Retail Sales Slipped in March

This morning, the Census Bureau reported that inventories rose in February (this data lags by one month), however a 0.4% bump in sales kept the inventory-to-sales ratio steady. Specifically, the total business, which includes manufacturing, retail, and wholesale, inventory-to-sales ratio stood at 1.35.

Inventories at wholesalers and retailers remain too high, but the problem is now manageable. High inventory levels benefit the overall GDP figure but mean softer freight levels for our industry.

Also the Census reported that retail sales fell for the second straight month in March. This figure declined 0.2% from the previous month. Both January and February were revised downwards. Excluding autos and gasoline, sales were actually up 0.1%.

Autos, gas stations, restaurants, and building material sales took the bulk of the hit, with most other sectors posting gains. This weak consumer spending for the first quarter is likely temporary. Positive movement in employment and income should spur consumption. Compared with the same time last year, retail sales were up 5.2%.

Earlier this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the Producer Price Index (PPI) for March slipped 0.1%. The PPI measures prices that producers receive for there products or services. March is most likely a blip as rising commodities prices should push the PPI higher in the months ahead.

Related, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures prices that consumers pay for goods and services, fell 0.3% in March. Gasoline and wireless telecom took the biggest hits, down 6.2% and 7%, respectively. For the first quarter as a whole, this index is up 2.5% from the same time last year. Consumer prices should edge their way higher through 2017.

SOURCE: ATA Economic Update 04/14/17