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2017 Issues Yield to New Ones

An infrastructure bill takes precedence over everything else

By:  David Heller, CDS

I can’t believe 2017 flew by so quickly. We are so early into the new year that we still haven’t gotten used to writing 2018 instead of 2017. And the new year will inevitably start off the same way the old year ended—extremely busy. In this new era of regulatory retraction, we continually find ourselves addressing issues that are bestowed upon us at a pace that can only be described as hare-quick rather than tortoise-slow.

Roughly two months into our electronic logging device (ELD) mandate, the dust has not really settled on an issue that some felt came way too early, yet we embark on endeavors that truly relate to the implementation of today’s technology on our commercial motor vehicles.

We look down the road at issues like detention, sleeper berth flexibility, and fatigue driving—issues that our industry must address, our regulators must research, and our drivers must embrace. By realistically tracking our hours of service, we can move the needle on these issues and start making sense of new regulations that will go a long way to enhancing the way freight is delivered across this country.

As if the hours of service rules were not enough, we face new regulations that are certain to come back into the picture regarding driver health and well-being. The incorporation of guidance for hair testing to satisfy federal drug and alcohol testing protocols is long overdue, to say nothing of the fact that we are another year closer to a drug-testing clearinghouse that has not yet even been developed.

In fact, while 2017 brought about the removal of obstructive sleep apnea from the regulatory agenda, 2018 promises that the discussions regarding apnea and its testing procedures will continue to be part of trucking conversation and its regulatory landscape. In other words, just because it no longer appears on an agenda doesn’t mean it’s entirely off the agenda.

Yes, this industry is moving so rapidly on issues old and new that even before we have begun to digest the data on ELDs and what they can do for us, we must quickly move on to other issues. Don’t get me wrong. Each and every one of these issues needs to be addressed in an industry that seemingly finds new issues every day yet continually faces the same issues year in and year out.

Just looking at the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) list of the industry’s top 10 issues verifies the important fact that the more the industry changes, the more it stays the same. While we may rotate certain issues from the top spot as others come into focus, ATRI’s list didn’t even touch on autonomous vehicles, a topic discussed in D.C. as often as we have days that end in ‘y.’

My point in all of this regulatory and legislative speak is that sometime in 2018, we will have to make room for an infrastructure bill that will certainly take precedence over all of the other issues our industry needs to address. Excuse the play on words here, but infra¬structure discussions need to trump all else.

Infrastructure discussions become a massive opportunity to shape the landscape of highway travel at a time when it really needs shaping. ELDs have created a need for more truck parking and sleeper berth flexibility. How do we address that? Infrastructure.

Highway construction and crumbling bridges can be addressed through infra¬structure. How about new regulations to make our industry safer by incorporating driver-assist technology? You guessed it—an infrastructure bill will play a tremendous role in getting this accomplished in a bipartisan way to move the needle on matters that are important to everyone.

The jury is clearly still out on how to pay for any new infrastructure bill, but I think we can agree on the things that can finally be included in such a massive bill—things that almost every legislator can agree on. Once and for all, we can finally put to rest the topics and problems of years past and focus on entirely new issues in the next decade.

January 2018