Coming back from the American Trucking Associations’ annual Management Conference & Exhibition in Austin earlier this week, what is striking is how low tech and high tech the industry is at the same time. The exhibition floor is filled with some very low-tech exhibitors (want to reward your drivers for a job well done? Give them Omaha Steaks!) and high-tech. The latter tend to fall into the category of finding endless new ways to pull together telematics to aid drivers and produce efficiencies. But the low-tech aspect of it remains the person behind the wheel. You can put all the technology you want into training, into safety development, intro tracking trailers, and you can talk about the long-range promises of automated driving. But for a long time to come, the biggest task will be putting somebody’s butt in the driver’s seat. And while technology will aid that, that ultimately is a pretty low tech issue: reliance on human beings, with all their flaws and all their strengths.
Did you know?
Intermodal volumes saw 4.7% growth in the third quarter, according to the Intermodal Association of North America . IANA says domestic equipment saw slightly better growth of 5.1% versus international marine containers seeing growth of 4.4%. In the domestic segment, trailers on railcar saw volume growth of 12.1% for the quarter.
–Saia chief executive Rick O’Dell, responding to a question on freight activity at start of fourth quarter.
In other news:
Another $267 billion in goods targeted
Trump administration looks to double the amount of Chinese goods facing U.S. tariffs.(Bloomberg)
Maersk touts instant freight booking
World’s largest shipping introduces container booking as easy for customers as booking a flight ticket. (Seatrade Maritime)
Gary, Indiana seeking intermodal site
Local leaders look to take intermodal traffic away from neighboring Chicago (The Times of Northwest Indiana)
MSC, Maqta Gateway trial blockchain
The second largest global shipping company in the world, plans blockchain trial at Abu Dhabi ports (Maritime Standard)
JAXPORT on track for record year
Port of Jacksonville sees third record year for container imports (Jacksonville Port Authority)
The American Truck Associations’ annual meeting was notable for what brought a solid round of applause twice: criticism of the California requirements on rest breaks for drivers. According to the Shouse Law Group, under the law “non-exempt employees must receive a thirty minute lunch or meal break if they work more than five hours in a day. Employees who work more than ten hours in a day are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break.” The problem is that the federal Hours of Service rule requires only one 30-minute break, and even that is under consideration for change. At one of the meeting’s first sessions, FMCSA administrator Raymond Martinez said he generally didn’t like state laws that conflicted with federal regulations; he received rousing applause. In the speech by ATA President Chris Spear, he said much the same thing as Martinez, though was more pointed; again, lots of applause from the audience. With so many issues, it seems like this one wouldn’t be that high on the list of important ones that the industry would focus on, but clearly, that is not the case. It’s viewed as establishing the limitations of what a state can do to the industry that might be in violation of federal rules, so in that regard, it is a very big deal. ATA has a petition in with FMCSA seeking to have the agency find the California rules are in conflict with federal law. Based on the brief but unambiguous remark made by Martinez, the FMCSA administrator may have the trade group’s back.
Hammer down everyone!