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2009 brought tears, tough times; here’s hoping 2010 will be better
Tuesday, 05 January 2010 00:00

Around this time of year, it’s traditional for newspapers to print “year in review” news articles.

Most of the time, those articles are offered without editorial comment.

But we at The Trucker decided to use the Perspective forum to talk about some of the year’s events so we could also offer editorial comment.

Overall, it was not the best of years for trucking, but there is some “probable” positive news in this column, too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the truck transportation industry lost 29,500 jobs between January and November of 2009.

The long-haul (TL and LTL combined) segment of the industry lost 33,400 jobs between January and October of last year.

In 2008, the long-haul industry lost 13,700 jobs.

Two major controversial trucking regulations took it on the chin.

First, Congress axed the Cross Border Demonstration Project that allowed Mexico-domiciled trucks into the U.S. beyond the commercial trade zone, and vice versa.

On the surface, President Barack Obama seemed hot and bothered to get a cross-border replacement program in place, sending Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood scurrying all over Washington to come up with a set of principles for a new program.

Almost nine months have gone by and to date, no one is willing to say what happened to those principles or if they even ever existed.

Meanwhile, late in the year, the Hours of Service rule took a hit in October.

Twice, Public Citizen, et. al., had, through litigation, challenged the rule since it underwent a major revision in 2003.

Twice, the court upheld the challenge and FMCSA made revisions.

A third lawsuit followed, and this time, FMCSA agreed to a “settlement” in which it would “review and reconsider the 2008 rule” and issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking within nine months.

Only FMCSA didn’t have an administrator when the “settlement” was announced.

Anne Ferro’s nomination was being held in limbo by the Senate.

Ferro had been a supporter of the current rule as head of the Maryland Motor Truck Association, the position she held before coming to FMCSA.

In her confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last summer, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., made his feelings known about the current rule.

He didn’t like it.

A few days after the settlement was made public Ferro was finally confirmed, and some have questioned the timing of the announcement and Ferro’s confirmation.

Meanwhile, annual sales of new trucks reached a record low last year.

Based on sales during the first 11 months of 2009, somewhere around 90,000 new trucks were sold.

During the past three years, just under 375,000 new trucks have been put on the road compared with almost 740,000 during the 2004-2006 period.

Not only did this cost jobs in the OEM industry, it also means that trucks have remained in service longer, driving up maintenance costs and adversely impacting the industry’s “green” efforts.

We promised some good news and we offer it on two fronts.

Trucking continues to be one of the most important industries in the U.S.

No one has yet figured out a better way to move a majority of this country’s goods and services.

The industry is replete with outstanding folks at all levels.

Truckers are some of the friendliest men and women you’ll find anywhere.

The men and women who own and/or manage companies—large and small—with whom we’ve talked have shared nothing but the utmost concern and respect for those behind the wheel.

Second bit of good news: the truck-related accident and fatality rate continues to drop, and although the 2009 data won’t be released for quite awhile, we expect the downward trend to continue.

(So why do we want to rewrite with the HOS rule?)

Here’s hoping for a better year for the industry and another great year for those of us who dearly love trucking.

TheTrucker.com, 1/5/2010