December 7, 2017 6:45 PM, EST
Editorial: Costs of Doing Business

The trucking business is not a low-cost endeavor — think equipment, fuel, insurance — but the costs of doing business just keep increasing. What’s a motor carrier to do?

That’s the question fleets operating in California are asking since the state adopted a law that boosted sales and excise taxes on diesel, and also adjusted registration fees. The response among companies that spoke exclusively with Transport Topics is that surcharges must be instituted to offset these costs, and others, tied to operating in the state. Which raises costs for shippers. And, potentially, consumers. For all involved, the costs of doing business are rising.

Nationwide, we’re one week away from implementation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s electronic logging device mandate. Installing the devices in trucks will cost money, and fleet resources must be dedicated to ensuring a smooth transition.

That’s also true for enforcement of the mandate come April 1. More will be asked of inspectors, and investments in law enforcement resources must be made to ensure effective policing of the mandate.

All of this must be done as technology continues its relentless march forward. The devices drivers and inspectors will be using next week likely will evolve by this time next year, or sooner, requiring even more investment.

The good news is that this technology will be increasingly finding its way into newer trucks. Orders jumped again last month, following a trend in orders and sales this year that suggests fleets are adding new equipment. Which is great for truck and engine manufacturers, drivers and motor carriers.

And a cost of doing business.

Some hope for a break on these costs of doing business may be, literally, shining through the window.

The iTECH supplement that appears in this issue explores how fleets are harnessing solar technology to power systems on their trucks. Turns out that the roofs of trailers make a great home for solar panels, and carriers are finding ways to draw energy from the sun to help power the growing number of systems that require electricity.

While the costs of doing business will never go away, advancements in technology, equipment and employee training eventually can lead to a trucking industry that is leaner, cleaner and more efficient than in years past.

Some costs — such as those in California — are hard to accept. Others, such as new trucks and technology, hold the promise to improve a fleet’s operations from the truck cab to the back office. It’s a balancing act. But motor carriers have been finding a way to bring it all together and effectively serve their customers for years. And they’ll continue to work hard and find ways to continue doing so.

It’s just a cost of doing business.