Reprinted from CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS, July 5, 2004

‘Sleepy trucker' rule a boon
A hit on productivity offers industry a chance to raise rates  

The trucking industry is getting an unexpected boost from new federal regulations designed to cut down on the number of sleepy truckers on the roads.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandated that truckers drive no more than 11 hours during a 14-hour period. Time spent idling at loading docks is now included in those 14 hours.

Old rules phased out in January allowed 10 hours of driving during a 15-hour period, and drivers could exclude waiting time from their on-duty allotment of hours. Now, drivers are reaching their maximum hours on duty faster and racking up fewer miles.

"My time expires a lot faster," says James Perryman, 55, of Texas, a driver for Salt Lake City-based Central Refrigerated Service Inc. who hauled a trailer-load of cheese last week from a Kraft Foods Inc. plant in New York to Kraft's plant in west suburban Aurora.

Such a reduction in productivity would typically elicit howls from trucking executives, especially when a resurgence in manufacturing has whipped up demand for trucks. But drivers' reduced workload capacity has made trucking a more valuable commodity, giving trucking companies the muscle to push shipping rates higher.

"Carriers now have the leverage to go in and take rate increases," says Jeff Conover, supply chain vice-president for Des Plaines-based DSC LOGISTICS, which manages shipping and supply operations for businesses.

Shipping rates have climbed 5% to 10% since the beginning of the year, trucking industry observers say. Inventories of available trailers and trucks also are tight after the industry shrunk by 12,000 companies, or about 20%, since 2001. In addition, a fuel surcharge tacked onto freight rates is running at about 4.5% in the Midwest and higher elsewhere in the country.

Carriers have had to increase wages and provide bonuses to attract new drivers.

Under new rules, drivers making multiple deliveries from a loaded trailer can easily burn up half of a 14-hour work period just waiting for freight to be unloaded.
© Copyright July 5, 2004. Crain's Communication Inc. All rights reserved.

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