Editorial: Trucking Is 'Tightening Up' in 2018

“Tighten Up” is the title of a catchy 1960s ditty by Archie Bell & The Drells from Houston, Texas. It’s also an apt description of the atmosphere in the trucking industry heading into 2018.

The confluence of the looming implementation on Dec. 18 of electronic logging devices, a driver shortage that’s expected to worsen because of it and a price crunch in the spot freight market that’s pressuring ongoing rate negotiations between fleets and carriers is creating a stressful environment for fleet executives. It’s a lot to deal with.

We’re just slightly over one month away from the federally mandated adoption date of ELDs, and, to be sure, many fleets are ready. The industry has had plenty of time, and suppliers have been making an aggressive push to expand the number of available ELDs on the market. Anyone who isn’t ready has some time — and be sure to grab next week’s Transport Topics, which will feature a special publication packed with information to help with the transition. But, as our cartoon below points out, time is slipping away.

Time is also running out for carriers and shippers to complete 2018 contract negotiations. Before you know it, people will be heading off for holiday travel or burning off use-it-or-lose-it vacation time. Now is the time to come to the table and hammer out the deal, and a story in this issue offers insight into how these negotiations are going across the industry. One thing is clear: everyone is expecting rates to increase, but no one is sure how high they’ll go. Part of the reason why is uncertainty about how many drivers the industry will lose when the ELD mandate is a reality.

Will these devices really chase away as many drivers as some fear? Or will the promised ease of use and clarity in hours-of-service reporting be a welcome change from the responsibility of completing paper logs? Time will tell.

But time doesn’t wait.

With the economy chugging forward on a growth trajectory, the industry must, as always, find a way to deliver the goods. And it will. The great operators across this industry will make sure of it. They just need to figure out how they’re going to handle all of these challenges as 2017 winds down, and 2018 arrives with change all but guaranteed.

It’s time to tighten up.