The US vaccine mandate, if implemented as proposed, would be a “game changer” with a “catastrophic” effect on trucking capacity.
That’s the message David Heller, Vice President – Government Affairs, of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) conveyed at their annual Canadian gathering called Bridging Border Barriers. The rule would require employers with more than 100 employees to tax vaccines.
Heller said only about 50% of American drivers are vaccinated, and about 62% of them say they will not get vaccinated under any circumstances. They could leave the industry or let the big carriers work for those with less than 100 employees. This means that the mandate could potentially wipe out up to 37% of the U.S. professional workforce.
“If this were to take effect and 37% of the industry leaves, imagine the lineups at local gas stations and stores,” Heller said of the implications. “Even though we are losing 1-2% of the drivers in this market because of the vaccine mandate, there are huge problems.”
Heller remains hopeful that “colder heads will prevail.” He noted that 27 states had filed a complaint about the federal proposal and that other industries outside of trucking were pushing back. He also said US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh had verbally suggested that “solo” truck drivers would be exempt.
However, Heller’s message to carriers is: “We like our chances [of defeating the mandate]. But let’s prepare for the worst.
Another unknown is how the rule would affect Canadian cross-border truckers. Heller says if truckers are exempt from the U.S. vaccine mandate, the Department of Homeland Security will likely revoke vaccine warrants for truckers crossing the border. However, US lawmakers are unlikely to create an environment in which Canadian truckers have easier access to the US market than Americans.
The infrastructure bill
The other big news from the United States affecting Canadian cross-border carriers is the passage by the House of a US $ 1 trillion infrastructure deal that was approved earlier this month. Of this amount, $ 110 billion has been allocated to repairing roads and bridges, which is more than double the normal annual expenditure for such Highway Trust Fund projects.
Funding is provided without an increase in fuel taxes, but Heller warned the federal government would look at other ways to raise funds, including a nationwide Vehicle Kilometers (VMT) pilot project that would see vehicle owners shopping and tourism pay taxes based on kilometers traveled.
The big flaw in such a pricing mechanism, Heller said, is that the administrative costs of a VMT tax would be around 40%, compared to the 1% administrative cost of a fuel tax.
The infrastructure bill also contained a pilot apprenticeship program that will allow truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 to engage in interstate commerce with additional training that includes 400 hours of service and 240 hours behind the wheel. About 3,000 young drivers will participate. “It brings the trucking industry into high school classrooms,” Heller said. Currently, drivers under the age of 21 cannot engage in interstate trucking.
The new guidance rules for brokers in the bill will focus on so-called “freight dispatchers” and fill in the gaps that allow them to avoid registering as brokers and putting up the bond. broker.
But these are some of the omissions that really caught TCA’s attention. Truck parking, one of the biggest concerns in the industry, and the most important among drivers according to industry research, has not been recognized. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has found that 75% of truck drivers struggle to find parking and lose an average of $ 4,600 per year looking for parking.
Legislation on speed limiters was also excluded from the bill, as were requirements to increase carriers’ minimum liability insurance.
Heller says the trucking industry needs to improve productivity, but recent changes to U.S. hours of service rules haven’t had much of an impact. The average daily driving time of the 11 available to truckers in the United States has increased slightly from six hours per day to 6.5 hours.
“Somewhere along the line we’re leaving 4.5 hours of driving time unused,” Heller said. He wants the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to focus on rules that would improve productivity, not increase allowed driving time.
“We don’t need more hours. We need to make better use of the hours we have, ”he said, citing more drops and hooks and reduced wait times at senders and receivers as areas needing special attention.
Heller also advised fleets using ELDs and telematics to talk to their suppliers about their plans to transition from 3G to 4G technologies. U.S. cellular carriers will phase out 3G devices over the next year, he said, and truckers may find their devices no longer work properly if they’re not 4G ready.
“I cannot stress enough to speak with your ELD and telematics providers and find out if the devices you are using are 4G compatible so that you can plan for the future,” he advised. “If they aren’t, make sure you have some in your trucks that are.”