Throughout 2019, many changes and updates have been made across the trucking industry in the United States. Regulatory reforms, safety and inclusion efforts, and company bankruptcies took over trucking news–let’s reflect on the hottest topics in trucking in 2019.
January 24th–Trucker Arrested for Idaho Hemp Haul
Although Hemp is legal federally, it is still not legal in Idaho.When 36-year-old trucker Denis Palamarchuk hauled a load of hemp for Colorado company Big Sky Scientific, he ended up being arrested. Other similar arrests from the year prior in addition to Palamarchuk’s experience launched a long-awaited court battle with drivers pleading guilty to misdemeanors. Governor Brad Little pushed for an executive order regarding hemp transportation, but the issue still has yet to be fully resolved.
Because hemp and marijuana continue to be illegal in Idaho until the state Legislature decides otherwise, the governor’s order would still make proper transport of hemp extremely difficult, including mandating a stop at Idaho’s port of entry to declare the presence of hemp.
Failure to comply “may subject the transporter to the laws of prohibiting marijuana,” which can carry both civil and criminal penalties.
February 11th: New England Motor Freight Shuts Down Completely
NEMF, a less-than-truckload carrier in Elizabeth, New Jersey, announced its plans to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy and finally shut down after more than 100 years in operation.
It was the largest LTL carrier to close its doors since CF Motor Freight in 2002.
“NEMF was burdened by several large underperforming contracts, including Amazon.com,” Said Armstrong & Associates president, Evan Armstrong. “It just shows if an account can’t stand on its own, more volume doesn’t help.”
February 21st: FMCSA Ends Driver Diabetes Exemption Program
The agency put a stop to its process of exemption for the medical certification of insulin-dependent truck and bus drivers. FMCSA claimed that the decision would end delays for those drivers to receive their exemptions; however, drivers still need a doctor’s approval to drive.
“FMCSA has determined, therefore, that an exemption program for [treated diabetics] is no longer necessary,” said the agency.
March to August: NTDC’s State and National Trucking Championships
In 2019, NTDC began its first national championships in March, which concluded on August 17th. Scott Woodrome of FedEx Freight became the first competitor in two decades to win two years in a row.
“Two in a row is a rare thing. These drivers out here are the best drivers in the nation,” said Woodrome. “They’re not just the best drivers, but they’re the best people, too. I really just wanted to come back as a competitor.”
There were nine classes of winners: 3-axle, 4-axle, 5-axle, flatbed, tank truck, twins, sleeper berth, straight truck, and step van.
July 11th: LME Shuts Doors
Minnesota-based carrier LME shut down immediately after laying off hundreds of workers without notice. Lakeview Motor Express, a company with the same owners, had shut down in a similar fashion in 2016.
It was unclear until October if LME employees would receive their payments.
“I feel sick to my stomach. How am I going to make my rent?” asked one worker. “My brother, who is dockworker, is owed about $2,400. LME should have learned their lesson after they pulled this…two years ago.”
August 14th: FMCSA’s Changes to Hours-of-Service Rules
A proposal to change the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service rules aimed to increase flexibility regarding drivers’ 30-minute rest breaks and allocated time in sleeper berths.
The proposal also worked to extend potential driver duty time by two hours when inclement weather was present, as well as to expand “short haul” exemptions from 12 to 14 hours on-duty.
However, many of those opposing the proposed regulation changes believe the extended duty time could increase driver fatigue and lead to more trucking accidents, thus doing more harm than good for the industry overall.
October 10th: Ray Martinez Resigns from FMCSA
Agency chief Ray Martinez announced his leave and that he would move from his post in the FMCSA to one overseeing reconstruction of Cambridge’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.
Many considered Martinez a huge factor in various important conversations about hours-of-service rules, among many other issues in trucking.
November 25th: FMCSA Announces Plans to Delay ELDT Rule
The Entry Level Driver Training rule was in the works to take place February 7th; however, FMCSA announced it would be delaying the change for around two more years.
“There is a Federal Register notice forthcoming,” said a DOT official. “The whole thing is going to be delayed. It’s mostly due to the failure of the states aligning their systems with the federal system.”
December 9th: Celadon Declares Bankruptcy and Shuts Doors
Celadon announced it would be filing for bankruptcy and canceling all operations after years of legal and financial difficulties. The company had been working toward recovery after financial fraud allegations–to no avail.
“We have diligently explored all possible options to restructure Celadon and keep business operations ongoing, however, a number of legacy and market headwinds made this impossible to achieve,” said CEO Paul Svindland.