Author

Raman Dhillon

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With over two million cases and over 121,000 deaths, the United States has been the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic for the last few months, forcing an economic shutdown and a series of hastily prepared responses in dealing with the crisis.

Schools went to remote-learning, office workers used Zoom to connect with their associates and grocery stores quickly installed plexiglass to protect customers and employees.

The trucking industry has been no different in becoming more flexible and implementing innovative techniques in attempting to remain as dynamic as ever. A few key changes, all involving technology, have emerged as potentially more efficient for trucking companies, even after the pandemic is far in the rearview mirror.

Finally, it seems, trucking fleets are moving to paperless and contactless technology, using electronic bills of lading for drivers and virtual meetings between sales and customers. Not only are these safer ways of doing business during a pandemic but are also the wave of the future as stakeholders realize it’s easier and quicker to use a smartphone or laptop to conduct business.

The days of a trucker jumping in and out of his cab to get a signature or make a payment are seemingly gone as fleets and their customers come up with more innovative ways to achieve results that used to be done in person.

With a large majority of office staff now working from home, the entire office model has been transformed. No longer are employees standing around a water cooler wasting time. Instead, they are working from the comfort of their own home with less stress which has made them calmer and more effective in dealing with drivers or any problematic issues.

Indeed, some fleets believe they may decide to downsize offices even after the pandemic is over, saving money on rent and equipment. Workers will also save time and money with travel to and from the office reduced. While face to face meetings will still be essential, more virtual meetings should become the norm.

Companies have also found new ways to onboard drivers by providing virtual orientation, especially when it comes to filling out employee paperwork and using virtual signatures. Firms can provide video training, and many are not actually seeing new drivers until at least half of the orientation is completed.

Obviously in-person meetings will never be replaced, but at a time of social distancing and a need for smaller groups, the use of virtual technology has become significant for trucking companies to maintain previous effectiveness and performance levels.

20 ਲੱਖ ਤੋਂ ਵੱਧ ਕੇਸ ਅਤੇ 110,000 ਤੋਂ ਵੱਧ ਮੌਤਾਂ ਹੋਣ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ, ਸੰਯੁਕਤ ਰਾਜ ਅਮਰੀਕਾ ਪਿਛਲੇ ਕੁਝ ਮਹੀਨਿਆਂ ਤੋਂ ਕੋਵਿਡ -19 ਮਹਾਂਮਾਰੀ ਦਾ ਕੇਂਦਰ ਰਿਹਾ ਹੈ। ਇਸ ਮਹਾਂਮਾਰੀ ਨੇ ਇਸ ਸੰਕਟ ਨਾਲ ਨਜਿੱਠਣ ਲਈ ਆਰਥਿਕ ਸ਼ਟ ਡਾਊਨ ਕਰਨ ਨੂੰ ਅਤੇ ਜਲਦਬਾਜ਼ੀ ਵਿੱਚ ਤਿਆਰ ਪ੍ਰਤੀਕ੍ਰਿਆਵਾਂ ਦੀ ਇੱਕ ਲੜੀ ਬਣਾਉਣ ਲਈ ਮਜਬੂਰ ਕੀਤਾ ਹੈ।
ਸਕੂਲ ਰਿਮੋਟ-ਲਰਨਿੰਗ ਤੇ ਚਲੇ ਗਏ ਹਨ, ਦਫਤਰੀ ਕਰਮਚਾਰੀ ਆਪਣੇ ਸਾਥੀਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਜੁੜਨ ਲਈ ਜ਼ੂਮ ਦੀ ਵਰਤੋਂ ਕਰ ਰਹੇ ਹਨ ਅਤੇ ਕਰਿਆਨੇ ਦੀਆਂ ਦੁਕਾਨਾਂ ਨੇ ਗਾਹਕਾਂ ਅਤੇ ਕਰਮਚਾਰੀਆਂ ਦੀ ਰੱਖਿਆ ਲਈ ਤੇਜ਼ੀ ਨਾਲ ਪਲੇਕਸ ਗਲਾਸ ਲਗਵਾ ਲਏ ਹਨ।
ਟਰੱਕਿੰਗ ਇੰਡਸਟਰੀ ਹੋਰ ਜ਼ਿਆਦਾ ਲਚਕਦਾਰ ਬਣਨ ਅਤੇ ਨਵੀਨ ਤਕਨੀਕਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਲਾਗੂ ਕਰਨ ਵਿਚ ਪਿੱਛੇ ਨਹੀਂ ਰਹੀ। ਕੁਝ ਮਹੱਤਵਪੂਰਨ ਤਬਦੀਲੀਆਂ, ਜਿਸ ਵਿੱਚ ਸਾਰੀ ਟੈਕਨੋਲੋਜੀ ਸ਼ਾਮਿਲ ਹੈ, ਟਰੱਕਿੰਗ ਕੰਪਨੀਆਂ ਲਈ ਸੰਭਾਵਤ ਤੌਰ ਤੇ ਵਧੇਰੇ ਕੁਸ਼ਲ ਬਣ ਕੇ ਸਾਹਮਣੇ ਆਈਆਂ ਹਨ।
ਅੰਤ ਵਿੱਚ, ਇਹ ਜਾਪਦਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਡਰਾਈਵਰਾਂ ਲਈ ਇਲੈਕਟ੍ਰਾਨਿਕ ਬਿੱਲਾਂ ਦੀ ਵਰਤੋਂ, ਵਿਕਰੀ ਅਤੇ ਗਾਹਕਾਂ ਦਰਮਿਆਨ ਵਰਚੁਅਲ ਮੀਟਿੰਗਾਂ ਦੀ ਵਰਤੋਂ ਕਰਦੇ ਹੋਏ, ਟਰੱਕਿੰਗ ਫਲੀਟ ਕਾਗਜ਼ ਰਹਿਤ ਅਤੇ ਸੰਪਰਕ ਰਹਿਤ ਤਕਨੀਕੀ ਵੱਲ ਵਧ ਰਹੇ ਹਨ। ਮਹਾਂਮਾਰੀ ਦੌਰਾਨ ਕਾਰੋਬਾਰ ਕਰਨ ਦੇ ਇਹ ਸੁਰੱਖਿਅਤ ਤੌਰ ਤਰੀਕੇ ਹੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਬਲਕਿ ਭਵਿੱਖ ਦੀ ਲਹਿਰ ਵੀ ਹਨ ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਹਿੱਸੇਦਾਰ ਸਮਝਦੇ ਹਨ ਕਿ ਕਾਰੋਬਾਰ ਚਲਾਉਣ ਲਈ ਸਮਾਰਟਫੋਨ ਜਾਂ ਲੈਪਟਾਪ ਦੀ ਵਰਤੋਂ ਕਰਨਾ ਸੌਖਾ ਅਤੇ ਤੇਜ਼ ਹੈ।
ਦਸਤਖ਼ਤ ਲੈਣ ਜਾਂ ਭੁਗਤਾਨ ਕਰਨ ਲਈ ਇੱਕ ਟਰੱਕ ਚਾਲਕ ਨੂੰ ਜੋ ਮੁਸ਼ਕਿਲਾਂ ਦਾ ਸਾਹਮਣਾ ਕਰਨਾ ਪੈਂਦਾ ਸੀ ਉਹ ਵੀ ਹੁਣ ਦੂਰ ਜਾਂਦਾ ਹੋਇਆ ਜਾਪਦਾ ਹੈ ਕਿਉਂਕਿ ਫਲੀਟਸ ਅਤੇ ਗਾਹਕ ਇਹਨਾਂ ਨਾਲ ਨਜਿੱਠਣ ਲਈ ਕਈ ਸਾਰੀਆਂ ਨਵੀਨਤਾਕਾਰੀਆ ਸਾਹਮਣੇ ਲੈ ਕੇ ਆਏ ਹਨ।
ਦਫ਼ਤਰੀ ਸਟਾਫ ਦਾ ਇੱਕ ਵੱਡੀ ਬਹੁਗਿਣਤੀ ਵਿੱਚ ਹੁਣ ਘਰ ਤੋਂ ਕੰਮ ਕਰਨ ਨਾਲ ਪੂਰੇ ਦਫਤਰ ਦਾ ਮਾਡਲ ਬਦਲ ਚੁੱਕਿਆ ਹੈ। ਹੁਣ ਕਰਮਚਾਰੀ ਵਾਟਰ ਕੂਲਰ ਦੇ ਆਲੇ-ਦੁਆਲੇ ਖੜ੍ਹੇ ਹੋ ਕੇ ਸਮਾਂ ਬਰਬਾਦ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਰਦੇ। ਇਸ ਦੀ ਬਜਾਏ, ਉਹ ਘੱਟ ਤਣਾਅ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ ਆਪਣੇ ਘਰ ਵਿੱਚ ਆਰਾਮ ਨਾਲ ਕੰਮ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਨ ਜਿਸ ਨਾਲ ਉਹ ਡਰਾਈਵਰਾਂ ਜਾਂ ਕਿਸੇ ਵੀ ਸਮੱਸਿਆ ਵਾਲੇ ਮੁੱਦਿਆਂ ਨਾਲ ਨਜਿੱਠਣ ਲਈ ਵਧੇਰੇ ਸ਼ਾਂਤ ਅਤੇ ਪ੍ਰਭਾਵਸ਼ਾਲੀ ਬਣ ਗਏ ਹਨ।
ਦਰਅਸਲ, ਕੁਝ ਫਲੀਟਾਂ ਦਾ ਮੰਨਣਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਮਹਾਂਮਾਰੀ ਖਤਮ ਹੋਣ ਦੇ ਬਾਅਦ ਵੀ ਉਹ ਦਫਤਰਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਨਾ ਖੋਲ੍ਹਣ ਦਾ ਫੈਸਲਾ ਕਰ ਸਕਦੇ ਹਨ, ਜਿਸ ਨਾਲ ਕਿਰਾਏ ਅਤੇ ਉਪਕਰਣਾਂ ਤੇ ਆਉਣ ਵਾਲੀ ਲਾਗਤ ਵੀ ਘਟੇਗੀ, ਕਰਮਚਾਰੀ ਦਫਤਰ ਆਉਣ-ਜਾਣ ਵਾਲੀ ਯਾਤਰਾ ਦੇ ਨਾਲ ਨਾਲ ਸਮੇਂ ਅਤੇ ਪੈਸੇ ਦੀ ਵੀ ਬੱਚਤ ਕਰ ਸਕਦੇ ਹਨ। ਹਾਲਾਂਕਿ ਆਹਮੋ-ਸਾਹਮਣੇ ਹੋਣ ਵਾਲੀਆਂ ਬੈਠਕਾਂ ਜ਼ਰੂਰੀ ਹੋਣਗੀਆਂ ਅਤੇ ਵਧੇਰੇ ਵਰਚੁਅਲ ਮੀਟਿੰਗਜ਼ ਨੂੰ ਇਕ ਮਿਆਰ ਬਣਨਾ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਹੈ।
ਕੰਪਨੀਆਂ ਨੇ ਵਰਚੁਅਲ ਅਨੁਕੂਲਤਾ ਪ੍ਰਦਾਨ ਕਰ ਕੇ ਡਰਾਈਵਰਾਂ ਨੂੰ ਓਨਬੋਰਡ ਕਰਨ ਦੇ ਨਵੇਂ ਤਰੀਕੇ ਵੀ ਲੱਭੇ ਹਨ, ਖ਼ਾਸਕਰ ਜਦੋਂ ਡਰਾਈਵਰ ਦੇ ਕਾਗਜ਼ਾਤ ਨੂੰ ਭਰਨ ਅਤੇ ਵਰਚੁਅਲ ਦਸਤਖਤਾਂ ਦੀ ਵਰਤੋਂ ਕਰਨ ਦੀ ਗੱਲ ਆਉਂਦੀ ਹੈ। ਫਰਮ ਵੀਡੀਓ ਸਿਖਲਾਈ ਪ੍ਰਦਾਨ ਕਰ ਸਕਦੇ ਹਨ, ਅਤੇ ਬਹੁਤ ਸਾਰੇ ਅਸਲ ਵਿੱਚ ਨਵੇਂ ਡ੍ਰਾਈਵਰ ਨਹੀਂ ਦੇਖ ਰਹੇ ਹਨ ਜਦੋਂ ਤਕ ਘੱਟੋ ਘੱਟ ਅੱਧੀ ਓਰੀਐਨਟੇਸ਼ਨ ਪੂਰੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੋ ਜਾਂਦੀ।
ਸਪੱਸ਼ਟ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਵਿਅਕਤੀਗਤ ਮੀਟਿੰਗਜ਼ ਨੂੰ ਕਦੇ ਨਹੀਂ ਬਦਲਿਆ ਜਾ ਸਕਦਾ, ਪਰ ਸਮਾਜਿਕ ਦੂਰੀਆਂ ਅਤੇ ਛੋਟੇ ਸਮੂਹਾਂ ਦੀ ਜ਼ਰੂਰਤ ਦੇ ਸਮੇਂ, ਟਰੱਕਿੰਗ ਕੰਪਨੀਆਂ ਲਈ ਪਿੱਛਲੀ ਪ੍ਰਭਾਵਸ਼ੀਲਤਾ ਅਤੇ ਪ੍ਰਦਰਸ਼ਨ ਦੇ ਪੱਧਰ ਨੂੰ ਬਣਾਈ ਰੱਖਣ ਲਈ ਵਰਚੁਅਲ ਟੈਕਨਾਲੌਜੀ ਦੀ ਵਰਤੋਂ ਕਰਨੀ ਮਹੱਤਵਪੂਰਨ ਬਣ ਗਈ ਹੈ।

The all-electric Volvo VNR model, which will be used by the dealership for local parts distribution, is the first pilot truck to deploy as part of the Volvo LIGHTS project.

Volvo Trucks North America has deployed its first pilot VNR Electric truck in Southern California as part of the Volvo LIGHTS (Low Impact Green Heavy Transport Solutions) project-an innovative collaboration with the South Coast Air Quality Management District (South Coast AQMD) and 13 other organizations to develop a blueprint to successfully introduce battery-electric trucks and equipment into the market at scale.

The first pilot Volvo VNR Electric truck will operate at the Volvo Trucks North America TEC Equipment dealership in Fontana, California. The zero-emission truck will transport local parts between the TEC Equipment dealerships in Fontana and La Mirada.

“Volvo Trucks is proud to lead the way in the sustainable electrification of freight movement. Working with our dealership, TEC Equipment, to pilot the first Volvo VNR Electric on the road and in real-world applications is an exciting step toward our plans to commercialize these zero-emission trucks in North America this fall,” said Peter Voorhoeve, president of Volvo Trucks North America. “The all-electric Volvo VNR will become the ideal truck model for short- and regional-haul applications, such as urban distribution and drayage.”

The TEC Fontana dealership has two 50 kW chargers inside their truck maintenance bays, as well as a 150 kW charger located outside to enable fleet customers to fast charge at the dealership. Over the past year, the Volvo LIGHTS team worked with Southern California Edison (the local utility) and San Bernardino County (Authority Having Jurisdiction, or AHJ) to safely install the high-power infrastructure.

“This experience in designing, planning, and installing high-power chargers for electric trucks has taught us how critical it is to engage a variety of stakeholders early on,” said Aravind Kailas, advanced technology policy director for Volvo Group North America. “The Volvo LIGHTS project has provided valuable insight into how to build realistic project timelines. Despite the unavoidable delays due to the COVID-19 situation, we’re proud the team has been able to continue moving the project forward.”

Starting in 2021, Southern California businesses will have the opportunity to lease Volvo VNR Electric trucks from TEC Equipment to gain firsthand experience with these advanced trucks in their fleet operations.

“Everyone on my team that has had an opportunity to drive the Volvo VNR Electric has been surprised by how smooth the truck operates,” said Mike Reardon, general manager of TEC Equipment’s Fontana dealership.  “Our parts delivery driver loves taking it out, saying it is very quiet and comfortable in the cab and has great power at take-off.”

TEC’s Fontana team will be fully trained and equipped to safely perform maintenance for its fleet customers. In addition to being outfitted with personal protective equipment (PPE) for working with high voltage, the technicians have been trained on the proper procedure to isolate the high voltage for diagnosis and service repairs.

“We are proud that our Fontana dealership will be first in in North America to pilot the Volvo VNR Electric model,” said Dave Thompson, president and CEO of TEC Equipment. “Through the Volvo LIGHTS project, we are gaining valuable hands-on experience for our drivers and maintenance staff to ensure that we are well prepared to support the widescale deployment of these advanced, zero-emission trucks throughout the Southern California freight corridor.”

As part of the Volvo LIGHTS project, two local fleet operators—NFI Industries and Dependable Supply Chain Services—will also begin demonstrating the pilot Volvo VNR Electric trucks for full operations in their regional routes later this summer.

The Volvo LIGHTS project was made possible by an award to South Coast AQMD of $44.8 million from CARB as part of California Climate Investments (CCI). CCI is a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.

As a result, South Coast AQMD contributed $4 million from the Clean Fuels Fund and awarded a $45.6M contract to the Volvo Group to design and implement the project.  Volvo and its partners have promised no less than $45.7M matching contribution to increase the total project value to over $91M for South Coast AQMD to administer.

“Residents in communities across Southern California, and particularly in San Bernardino County are affected by air pollution as a result of trucks transporting goods throughout the state,” said Wayne Nastri, South Coast AQMD’s Executive Officer. “We are excited to see this first all-electric truck on the roads and hope that this is just the first of many zero-emission technologies deployed to reduce air pollution locally.”

“Volvo has enthusiastically embraced the challenge of deploying, supporting and promoting these state-of-the-art vehicles, which will not only provide significant fuel savings but will also benefit communities along transport corridors,” said Sydney Vergis, Assistant Chief of CARB’s Mobile Source Division. “These quiet, zero-emission vehicles are a big step in the right direction on a path toward cleaner air and a better quality of life.”

The Volvo LIGHTS team also includes partnerships with Rio Hondo College and San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC) to create electric vehicle repair and service technician programs to prepare the region’s workforce for the introduction of battery-electric freight trucks. The colleges have already begun introducing the curriculum in the classroom and enrolling students for the fall.

“The Rio Hondo College Automotive Technology Program will enable students to earn a degree specific to heavy-duty, battery-electric truck maintenance to promote the region’s workforce development,” said John Frala, professor and coordinator of alternative fuels and electric vehicles at Rio Hondo College. “The programs being designed at Rio Hondo and SBVC through the Volvo LIGHTS project are critical to sustain this project long after the initial trucks have hit the roads.”

Rio Hondo and SBVC are also working with the Volvo LIGHTS team to design a training program with fire departments within the Inland Empire communities—including San Bernardino County (which covers the TEC Fontana dealership), Chino and Ontario—to ensure that the region’s first responders are fully prepared to safely respond in case of an incident or accident involving a heavy-duty battery-electric vehicle (HD BEV).

For insight into how the project is helping Southern California support the widescale deployment of battery-electric trucks and charging infrastructure, join the Volvo LIGHTS project team for the 2020 Inland Empire Regional Mobility Dialogue Series, “Getting Ready for Electric Commercial Fleets.” The event, taking place online on June 23 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. PT, is hosted by the Leonard Transportation Center at California State University San Bernardino. Registration is complimentary. To register, visit https://bit.ly/RMDS-Jun23.

Despite pleas from small-business truck owners and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), a U.S. House of Representatives committee marking up the surface transportation reauthorization bill has voted to raise the minimum insurance coverage for commercial truck owners from $750,000 to $2 million.

Introduced by U.S. Rep. Chuy Garcia, D-Illinois, and labeled Garcia Amendment 062, the potential law was passed through the House Transportation & infrastructure Committee with a 37-27 vote. The amendment is an updated version of a bill introduced by Garcia in 2019.

The amendment is now part of the House’s Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST) Act, a five-year, $494 billion transportation bill which will now be voted on by the full House at some point in late June.

Those in favor of the bill argue that the current insurance amounts do not properly compensate victims of accidents with large trucks. Opponents, however, say that the increased amount will not only put small-business owners and independent owner-operators out of business but will also raise the price of shipping for consumers.

In a letter written to the committee on June 16, OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Collin Long said, “Passage of the bill would be a poison pill for OOIDA and our members, forcing us to vigorously oppose a bill we otherwise support.”

Opponents also note that federal studies found that only 0.06% of crashes result in damages which exceed the current minimum coverage and that raising the amount would not make highway’s any safer.

While the bill must still be approved by the entire Democratic-controlled House, it also must face further negotiations when it reaches the Republican-controlled Senate before becoming a law.

 

 

Longtime Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) President and CEO Robert Voltmann are stepping away from the organization at the end of September. Voltmann has served in his role since 1997. 

Labeled as a “trusted voice for third-party logistics (3PL) companies of all sizes,” TIA was established in 1978. TIA is the only non-profit trade group that provides resources for 3PL companies and is a resource for training industry employees.

In more than 20 years as CEO, Voltmann said he feels he has accomplished all of his goals and is moving on to a new challenge. During Voltmann’s term, TIA has tripled its membership and established an active political action committee. TIA also expanded its budget from $721,000 in 1997 to $7.5 million in 2019.

Voltmann said, “Together, we took TIA from a fledgling organization with weak finances and turned it into an association worthy of the dynamic third-party logistics industry. TIA is now clearly recognized as the voice of third-party logistics and has the financial strength to continue to grow and change with the industry.”

TIA Board Chairman Brian Evans thanked Voltmann for his “leadership, vision, and dogged determination to drive TIA to success.” Evans also said, “While it is never a good time to change a winning lineup, we agreed that now was the best opportunity to do so for both TIA and Bob.”

Doug Clark, an industry executive, and lifetime TIA member will assume Voltmann’s duties while the board looks for a successor.

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged through the U.S. in May, Class-8 truck retail sales plummeted 62.5%. Sales of 9,165 trucks during the month signified the lowest sales number since 2011. In comparison, retailers sold more than 24,400 units during the same month last year.

Overall for 2020, Class-8 sales are down nearly 38% from 111,332 at this point last year to 69,379 so far this year. Analysts indicate it will be a difficult year and that the recovery will be long and slow. They also indicate that capacity now exceeds demand, especially as the nation continues its intermittent battle with the health emergency.

Dan Clark, head of Canadian bank BMO’s transportation finance department said, “Given that the industry is still wrestling with the hangover of a near-record two-year stretch of heavy-duty truck sales, which is now compounded by lower than previously expected economic activity for the next year or two, we aren’t expecting to see a V-shaped recovery in Class 8 sales.”

Clark believes that sales will be up and down during the second half of the year with forecasts predicting sales will only reach about 147,000. For many analysts, this year simply marks another cycle for the trucking industry which has seen times of boom and bust over the last several years.

Some see bright spots ahead, however. Tobias Waldeck, head of Daimler Truck Financial said, “The world has never needed trucks and their operators more than it does right now.” Daimler is currently offering several incentives for new truck buyers.

Daimler’s Freightliner sold over 3,100 Class-8 trucks during the period which was 63% less than last year. Western Star, another Daimler brand, sold 27% fewer trucks. 

International, a subsidiary of Navistar, Inc., sold 1,196 trucks during the period, more than 62% less than the previous year. Another top manufacturer, Volvo Trucks North America had sales of 1,084, down 60%, while Mack Trucks, a Volvo brand, sold 879 units, down 51%. 

The good news for manufacturers and retailers is that as the economy begins to reopen, with many states entering Phase 3 of their recoveries, truck sales should climb, but most industry stakeholders believe it will not reach 2019 levels anytime in the near future.

 

Long considered a major barometer for the health of the trucking industry, Canada’s Bank of Montreal (BMO) reported a rise in impaired loans in the transportation sector for the second quarter of 2020. About 90% of BMO’s business is done with U.S. companies.

A loan is considered impaired if not all of the related principal and interest is expected to be repaid. Impaired loans rose nearly 20% to C$189 million in the second quarter which ended April 30, a significant loss compared to the same quarter in 2019 when that number was only C$147 million.

About 75% of BMO’s transportation sector portfolio is tracking-based so these losses tend to indicate that the overall trucking loan market is seeing hard times. In fact, write-offs (when a debt is declared uncollectible) leaped 40% from C$25 million to C$35 million. In 2019, write-offs were only at C$14 million.

Since the trucking industry peak in 2018, BMO has seen a consistent rise in impaired loans in every quarter except for a brief decline in the second quarter of 2019. In 2019, more than 600 North American trucking firms filed for bankruptcy.

Despite these losses, BMO’s loans to the transportation sector actually rose in the second quarter from C$12.2 billion to C$13.3 billion. BMO entered into the transportation sector as a large-scale lender in 2015 on the heels of its purchase of the transportation unit of GE Capital for $8.7 billion.

Comments made just after the release of first-quarter earnings by Dave Casper, the head of BMO’s personal and commercial loans in the U.S. sounded optimistic. “A number of our competitors get in when things are really good and get out quickly. And we’ve seen that recently a couple have gotten out and that just makes it better for us. We’ve got the best team to run this through the cycles and I’m very, very happy with it,” said Casper.

During the most recent conference call regarding second-quarter earnings, however, bank officials barely mentioned BMO’s recent losses in the transportation sector.

 

Motion Picture Compliance Solutions (MPCS), a third-party administrator for truck drivers who work for major movie studios and independent production houses, has secured a five-year exemption from conducting full pre-employment queries of the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for its drivers.

The Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is a database which allows carriers, state licensing agencies and law enforcement to check on a driver’s past drug and alcohol violations. The Clearinghouse had been set to go into operation at the beginning of this year but has seen delays and a three-year postponement of requirements by state DMV’s. 

The announcement made by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in late May says that MPCS can do a “limited query” of the Clearinghouse to see if it contains any information about potential drivers. However, before such a query can take place, an employer must get the driver’s consent to check the database. 

If information is found, the employer must once again get permission from the driver to check the entire Clearinghouse file. Limited query information would prevent a driver from full employment until a full query showed the driver was not prohibited from operating in a commercial setting. 

The main purpose of the MPCS is to provide representation for drivers who carry crew members and filming equipment to various locations. MPCS argues their drivers are different than most commercial drivers because they generally only drive about one to two hours each workday.

“MPCS members quickly find driver applicants by accessing pools of available drivers maintained by local unions. These driver pools are static by nature, exhibiting little driver turnover and few new drivers. There are currently approximately 12,000 drivers in this pool,” a statement from the organization said.

Of the 12 public comments received by FMCSA on the issue, only four supported the idea while eight were against the exemption. In particular, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) opposed MPCS’s exemption. 

In a statement, the OOIDA said, “Waiving the pre-employment full query requirements may prevent carriers from accessing necessary hiring information and allow drivers with drug/alcohol violations to return to the road before proper evaluation and treatment is completed.”

FMCSA disagreed and said the exemption would not sacrifice safety because the limited query would lead to a full query if any issues were found.

 

Tire inflation experts Aperia Technologies Inc. has responded to challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic by making it more convenient for fleets to get tech support for their truckers without a down payment. Aperia’s Halo Pro+ program allows users to cancel after a year with monthly fees automatically waived.

In a press release, the Burlingame-based company said, “As a company that cares deeply about the success of our fleet customers and industry as a whole, and understands the vital role the trucking industry plays in delivering essential services and goods across the United States, our No. 1 priority is to help them succeed during these challenging times.”

Considered by many analysts as the state of the art in truck inflation systems, Aperia’s Halo automatically keeps truck tires from falling below optimal tire pressure. It is part of Halo Connect, introduced last year, which is a connectivity platform that gives fleets the ability to diagnose and eliminate unplanned operation delays with predictive analytics.

According to the American Trucking Associations, under-inflated tires are one of the major causes of truck downtime. They estimate that breakdowns happen every 10,000 miles and tire pressure is often the culprit. 

Not only does proper tire pressure help avoid breakdowns, but it is also a key to fuel efficiency. Aperia’s website says “By decreasing tire rolling resistance, properly inflated tires will increase your MPG by 1.4% on average. This can lead to savings of up to $1,000 a year per tractor-trailer.”

The trucking industry has long been a male-dominated environment, and although things are changing, it’s still predominantly men behind the wheel, in the corner office, and the shop.  As women are drawn to the industry, they are often unprepared to deal with some of the issues they may face, specifically when it comes to coping with diversity challenges.

Many of the women who are seeking tuition funding from the Women In Trucking Scholarship Foundation cite negative reasons for getting a CDL.  Often, they are survivors of domestic abuse, spousal harassment, or worse.  Yet, when we offer them a scholarship, education doesn’t include topics to include needed coping skills.

To make matters worse, our drivers are dealing with unprecedented pressure to keep our economy moving by delivering their loads, despite the potential exposure to COVID-19.  How are we supporting these women and men in maintaining their mental health stable in addition to their physical security?

At the Women In Trucking (WIT) Association, we recognized this need and found the answer by partnering with the leading behavioral health company, ESPYR, to support our driver members.  We know that a driver’s physical and emotional health is being compromised in this pandemic, so we found a way to help alleviate this challenge.

Every commercial driver in the WIT membership roster is provided free ninety-day access to ESPYR’s Fit To Pass ® coaching solution which offers customized health screening support.  This service is to reinforce and create healthy behaviors to ensure the driver’s successful DOT recertification.

Importantly, mental health support is also included through the TalkNow ® a 24/7 mental health and emotional wellbeing support line for drivers and their families.  TalkNow lets people talk to a qualified professional immediately and without an appointment. By making a phone call, they’re connected with a licensed clinician to talk through almost any immediately troubling issue – personal or work-related. It’s a barrier-free way to reach immediate assistance. One of our driver members shared her struggle with mental health issues on Facebook, “Really struggling with the stress lately.  I get all jittery inside and I get mad easily. It’s my normal PTSD response but quite exaggerated due to stress over the virus. I’m not working, staying home, not laid off, no benefits, no money. I don’t know what else I can do right now.” We reached out to her, and a counselor is now working with her.

These two services were able to be offered to all of our commercial drivers through the generosity of Amazon’s Chris Heine, who recognized the need to support these front-line workers in these trying times.  Amazon agreed to cover the services for all of our driver members for these ninety days.  Drivers have the option of renewing on their own when the free period concludes.

ESPYR coaches have reached out to these drivers to offer their services, and the response has been rewarding.  Drivers are sharing their concerns about dealing with COVID-19, as well as the stresses they are experiencing on a daily basis.  Each driver also receives a weekly health tip as a text or email to prompt small changes to create a healthier lifestyle.

For many drivers, the apprehension they face before they must renew their DOT physical is crucial.  Weight management, smoking cessation, and health challenges due to diabetes sleep apnea, and more weigh heavy on a driver’s mind before recertification. ESPYR’s Fit to Pass ® coaching has already helped many of our drivers lose weight and eat healthier in anticipation of their upcoming physicals.

Margaret, a professional driver from Pennsylvania, sent this message, “Thanks so much to whoever set up the 90-day free health coaching!  I am having a blast getting fit, increasing my flexibility, range of motion, cardiovascular fitness with the help and encouragement of Diana at ESPYR.  Yesterday, I fit into a dress I haven’t worn in years.  Thanks for this opportunity!”

Thanks to Amazon for recognizing the need to help our drivers in staying both physically and mentally strong.  We also say thanks to ESPYR for providing the coaching and behavioral health expertise to provide the personal, customized attention these drivers need.

For more information visit www.womenintrucking.org.

Ellen Voie, CAE, PDC
P O Box 400, Plover, WI 54467-0400
888-464-9482    920-312-1350 Mobile