Construction drives forward 'hours of service' rebuttal
A Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposal regarding ‘hours of service’ for commercial motor vehicle operators should include an exemption for transportation construction because most industry truck drivers do not drive long distances at road construction sites, and have their driving time broken-up as their trucks are loaded and unloaded.
That was the central thrust of the message the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) delivered June 18 in a testimony submitted to a congressional subcommittee.
The House Highways & Transit Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the FMCSA revised hours of service rule, which limits when, and for how long, operators may drive commercial vehicles. It would also mandate 30-minute off-duty periods at least every eight hours in order for an operator to drive.
“Transportation construction industry drivers are not long-haul operators who consistently spend many consecutive hours on the road in a given day. They are short-haul drivers who typically travel less than 20 miles one way,” ARTBA’s testimony said. “Many of our drivers spend substantial amounts of time off the road during the work day, loading and unloading materials or equipment.
“Others may be responsible for positioning a piece of mobile equipment at the beginning of the work day, but may not be back behind the wheel until day’s end, so that their daily drive time is actually minimal.
“Those who transport construction materials may spend substantial time in a queue to pick up or drop off those products. However, in the indiscriminate eyes of the hours of service rule, these examples of non-driving activities are still considered on-duty time and can end up prohibiting industry employees from carrying out their driving duties past 14 hours on a lengthy work day.”
The association noted that transportation construction industry commercial drivers generally do not operate in a manner that leads to concerns over fatigue and cited a lack of any conclusive data to demonstrate that driver fatigue and ancillary health issues are a significant problem in the transportation construction industry.
Moreover, transportation project owners, the driving public and commercial shippers are expecting more timeliness and efficiency in the delivery of transportation improvement projects, as well as less disruption to traffic. Transportation construction firms will often work very long hours to complete these projects expeditiously, especially in regions of the country where seasonal weather is a factor.
ARTBA pointed to existing precedent for exempting other classes of industries or providing certain exceptions, including: agricultural drivers during planting or harvesting season; vehicles operated by the federal, state or local government; drivers for movie and television productions; drivers transporting propane heating fuel during the winter; retail deliveries; and utility service vehicles.
“ARTBA and its members continue to be concerned about the wholesale application of the hours of service rule to the transportation construction industry,” the testimony said. “Contractors make every effort to comply, but often to the detriment of efficiency in the project’s time and cost. Treating short-haul transportation construction industry drivers the same as long-haul commercial truckers defies common sense.
“Correcting this misapplication of federal requirements is the type of regulatory reform that all sides claim to support.”
FedEx is Reshaping Last Mile with Autonomous Vehicles
FedEx is embarking on an expanded test of autonomous, driver-less delivery vehicles to develop its last-mile logistics.
The US logistics firm piloted autonomous vehicles from Nuro in April this year, and the pair will now explore that further in a multi-year partnership. Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships, said the collaboration "will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener".
FedEx will explore a variety of on-road use cases for the autonomous fleet, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries, going beyond more traditional applications of the technology in single-route movement of goods from A-B. Exponential growth in ecommerce is spurring its broader experimentation in new autonomy solutions, Fed-Ex says, both in-warehouse and on-road.
“FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy,” said Rebecca Yeung, Vice President, Advanced Technology and Innovation, FedEx Corporation. “We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”
The changing role of couriers
Unlike structured delivery networks, operating under long-term partnerships and contracts, agility is where couriers deliver true value - and their ability to deftly solve last-mile fulfilment has most acutely been felt during the pandemic. For the billions of people around the world forced to stay at home to protect themselves and their communities from the spreading COVID-19 virus, couriers have been a constant. They may have been the only knock at the door some people experienced for weeks or months at a time.
But the last-mile has been uprooted by a boom in ecommerce, a shift that has been most apparent in the UK, US, China and Japan, according to the Global Parcel Delivery Market Insight Report 2021 by Apex Insight. These are markets with dominant economies and populations used to running their lives with a tap of a screen or double-click of a mouse.
“Getting last mile delivery right has long been a challenge for retailers,” says Kees Jacobs, Vice President, Consumer Goods and Retail at Capgemini. “In 2019, 97% of retail organisations felt their last-mile delivery models were not sustainable for full-scale implementation across all locations. Despite increasing demand from customers, companies were struggling to make the last mile profitable and efficient.”
Jacobs says that the pandemic alleviated some of these stresses in the short term. With no other option, consumers were understanding and tolerant, if not entirely happy, with longer delivery times and less transparent tracking. “But, as extremely high delivery demand continues to be normal, customers will expect brands to contract their delivery times,” he adds.
Last mile's role in ESG
Demand and volume weren’t the only things that have changed during the pandemic - businesses looked closer to home and as a result became more sustainable. Bricks and mortar stores were transformed from mini-showrooms to quasi-fulfilment centres. Online retailers and other businesses sought local solutions to ship more faster. In densely populated London, UK alone, Accenture found that delivery van emissions dropped by 17%, while Chicago, USA and Sydney, Australia saw similar emissions savings.