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Bringing In The New Year With A Last Rewind Of 2014


Last week, we posted summaries of five major trucking-related news stories of 2014. Now as we move into the new year, here are four more. It will be interesting to see how 2015 builds on these events.

4. New Rules on the Way

Last spring, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced its intention to require electronic logging devices (ELDs), perhaps as early as 2016.

An earlier rule requiring ELDs was struck down by the courts on the grounds that it exposed drivers to possible harassment by their employers. The new rule fixes that problem, giving drivers a number of new protections in including better access to their records, a complaints process, and the power to edit their records.

3. With A Few Rules Suspended

2013 saw important changes to hours-of-service regulations designed to ensure that drivers get adequate sleep. 2014 saw the new rules suspended, pending further investigation. If drivers following the new version of the rule actually perform better and show less exhaustion and stress than those following the old version, the new hours-of-service regulations could be back in effect as early as September of 2015.

2. Head's Up

A recent lawsuit has implications across the trucking industry.

In 2008, a pharmaceutical shipment was stolen. The owner of the load, an Ohio-based broker, asked the carrier to pay the full cost of the missing goods, as per their contract. The carrier declined on the grounds that the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act obligated it to pay only a lesser amount. The broker sued and the judge agreed that the Carmack agreement does not supersede a contract.

The take-home message here is that contracts stand even if they expose one of the parties to more risk that the law, their insurance company, or common sense says that party should take on. No one should sign anything without reading and thoroughly understanding the contrast.

1. Following the Leader

It’s been obvious for years that if trucks followed each other very closely, driving as a team, each truck except the leader could realize substantial fuel savings. Geese fly in formation for the same reason, taking turns in the more tiring point position. The problem with trucks is that at highway speeds, the following driver could not respond quickly enough if the leader had to break suddenly.

That may be about to change, with the development of new systems that allow vehicles to communicate with each other directly. When the lead truck changed speed, the following vehicle changes automatically, keeping the distance constant for maximum efficiency and preventing accidents. All the trucks in the team would still need human drivers, but moving together, called “platooning,” would also make driving much easier.

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