Unless your name is Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, there is a pretty good chance this was not your year. From a potential World War III in January, to the COVID-19 pandemic that started in March and is still going today, to the summer protests and blocked highways, this year had it all. We want to take one last look back and summarize the year just in time for 2021.
Articles can usually be grouped into different subjects (truck sales, trailer sales, Nikola, Tesla, etc.), and as such our listings will be based on article subjects rather than the article itself. If each article had its own slot, number one would also hold four, six, seven, and eight as well.
Here are the twelve biggest topics of this past year.
The trucking industry is nothing if not resilient. In spite of everything that has happened this year, purchases for equipment assets such as new trucks and trailers has been in line with 2019 (sales slumped in the first half of the year and were nearly record-breaking in the second half, averaging out to be about average).
With all the purchases the trucking industry made this year, it is not surprising people would want to learn how to use the tax code to essentially get a discount on their equipment.
“Normally, business owners depreciate the value of an asset over many years, using a variety of accounting tricks. Section 179 allows a business to write-off the entirety of an asset’s value for the year of initial use as an expense rather than as an asset, allowing the business owner to frontload the tax savings, reduce income taxes for the year, and effectively reduce the cost of purchase.”
Read more about Section 179.
Brokers are legally required to have records of transactions so all parties can view them, but there are loopholes they can use to make it harder for a truck driver to be able to see the records that they have. This is the grievance the Owner-Operators Independent Driver Association (OOIDA) petitioned to the FMCSA to help remedy. With almost everyone having a smartphone, the OOIDA and others hope to make it regulation that the brokers send details to smart phones.
Naturally the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) was not happy with this, and argued that it is not the job of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to facilitate negotiations. The battle has been raging since 2005, and continues to this day.
“While the FMCSA has no intentions to add more regulations about this subject yet, Mullen has also stated they will be researching the tendency of brokers to require carriers to waive their rights to review the records, or risk never doing business with them again.”
Here is one such article about Broker Transparency.
For the week of July 12th-18th, law enforcement agencies ramped up their surveillance and education services to make sure that not only did commercial vehicles act on their best behavior, but passenger vehicles as well. Truckers wanted to know what was coming their way that week, and learned about how to reduce the chances of getting an expensive fine.
“[Operation Safe Driver Week] means if your business plans to be up and about during the week of July 12-18, you had best be on your best behavior to avoid being pulled over. During this time, law enforcement is more likely to cite you for either a moving violation or an equipment violation.”
Here is the primary article in question regarding Operation Safe Driver Week, but we also wrote an opinion article about how a week of increased enforcement sounds good on paper but does little to address the core problem.
The FMCSA not only does safety enforcement regulations, but also helps fund organizations and programs that help it fulfill its mission. Funded agencies include the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, who helped operate Operation Safe Driver Week in the previous entry.
“In total, the FMCSA is handing out $79.86 million in grants. This spending includes:
- $45,163,660 to High Priority (HP) grants.
- $32,702,000 in Commercial Driver’s License Program Implementation (CDLPI) grants.
- $1,994,541 in Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training (CMVOST) grants.”
To learn more about the grants, as well as further details for where the money went, check out this article.
When the coronavirus vaccines started their distribution across the United States, truckers had a multitude of questions, but none appeared to be asked quite as much as to when truckers would get their turn to receive an inoculation.
We postulated that truckers, being both necessary for the economy to run and always being on the move, were primary candidates for receiving vaccines before the general public, but the truth is that the distribution is determined on a state-by-state basis.
“While the list of who is defined as an essential worker under this plan has not been yet laid out, common sense would determine that truckers would be such a group of essential workers. After all, they keep the national economy going as they deliver goods of all sorts throughout the pandemic…and come into contact with various people over a large distance. Giving them vaccines so that they may become immunized and unable to transmit the virus to other people would do a great deal of slowing transmission.”
Have you gotten your vaccine yet? Read more about truckers and their need for the vaccine.
The changes to the hours-of-service itself is closer to number one on the list, but this tangent is tangible enough to deserve its own slot.
It is said that if it rains in America, a weather reporter is getting sued somewhere. Whether that is the case here with the changes of the hours-of-service lawsuit is up to you, but the lawsuit exists. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, among others, believes that the changes pose a safety hazard to the truck drivers and society as a whole.
“If approved to join in on the case, it will see the OOIDA and FMCSA contesting with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and three safety groups. This number has decreased, as on September 16th when the petition was filed there were four safety groups involved. Which one has exited is currently unknown.”
Read more about the hours-of-service lawsuit if it interests you.
Here is a topic that is showing its age. Truckers want to know when society is going to go back to normal, so we compiled the list of when each state said they would reopen. This included things such as April 24th for Alaska and April 27th for Colorado.
While things are more open then they were back then, society is still a ways off from returning to normal.
“The current stay-at-home order will remain in effect until April 30. Alabama Governor Ivey said the state needs to expand its testing before resuming normal economic activity despite being eager to get the state’s economy moving.”
Read more about governors being unable to predict the future.
The FMCSA requires truckers to use certified Electronic Logging Devices, but does not update its list of what is certified or not, and expects the fleet/driver to just know which ones comply with regulation and which ones do not. We wrote an opinion article that says if the FMCSA wants to make roads safer, it has to put in the work.
“The mandate is a great idea in theory. Nobody would argue in favor of going back to manually tracking driving times with paper logs or worse, driving beyond hours-of-service regulations and dozing off into an accident. But at the same time, the FMCSA has made it unnecessarily difficult for drivers and carriers to stay compliant.”
Read more about the ELD Mandate
While the hours-of-service exemptions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic were far and away bigger deals in the trucking industry, there were other exemptions put into place to keep the trucking industry rolling. These were originally set to expire at the end of September, but were extended to the end of 2020, which by the time you read this is about to happen or already has!
“On September 18th, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA…made it so that the exemption for needing to renew specific paperwork has been extended until the end of the year.”
Read more about these exemptions, and remember to get your renewals if they are not extended further.
The FMCSA wanted to make driving easier for truckers without putting too much of an impact on safety, and compiled a list of four different changes that it believed would fulfill that goal. These included the ability to use refueling and bathroom breaks as part of the 30-minute break rule, and allowing short-haul drivers to travel in a 150-mile radius instead of 100 miles.
“Attentive readers may notice this means one change the FMCSA previously suggested did not make the cut, which was pausing a driver’s 14-hour window when he or she takes a half-hour to three hour break. When asked about this omission, FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen said that the split sleeper-berth change pretty much fulfills the same need.”
Read more about the final rule if it interests you. While the lawsuit mentioned above continues, the changes are the default setting in the interim.
The election is not officially over until the fat lady sings, but with each passing day and each rejected court hearing, the odds continue to shift into Biden’s favor. Truckers hearing about the initial election results were worried about the impact it might have on their careers, and while nothing is set in stone, we made predictions on what might happen if Biden inhabits the Oval Office.
“Without going too far into detail on the executive branch in the government, the Secretary of Transportation is nominated by the president and confirmed by a senate vote. Elaine Chao, a republican who is the second-longest running member of the cabinet behind Mike Pence himself, would almost certainly be replaced. The same logic would apply for the people that lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator, Raymond Martinez and James Wiley Deck. These changes would precede just about all other changes that a Biden presidency would lead to.”
Read more about our predictions and see if any become true in the following months.
Popular and ubiquitous throughout the year, the FMCSA has constantly been pushing back this exemption to allow truck drivers to make necessary deliveries to help the United States get through this once-in-a-lifetime ordeal. Recently, the exemption has been expanded to also include the vaccines, which America is counting on truckers to deliver so we can all get back to fun events that do not directly involve trucking, such as cruises and indoor skydiving.
“Originally enacted March 13, the declaration provides relief from hours of service regulations for drivers responding to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. The original declaration was to expire Sunday, April 12.”
Take a trip down memory lane to read about the first extension.
Years are arbitrary time durations set based upon the Earth revolving around the sun, so 2021 is not guaranteed to be any better than 2020. However, with the coronavirus vaccines being distributed and the economy constantly on the rise since a trough in the Spring, it is hard to imagine becoming much worse. Fingers crossed for 2021.
If you need financing for a truck, trailer, or other business equipment we hope you will consider TopMark Funding. Read below for more information about our business!
CORONAVIRUS [COVID-19] UPDATES AND ARTICLES
- Trucker’s Guide to When Every State is Reopening
- FMSCA Extends Hours of Service Relief Declaration
- How Truck Drivers Can Keep Their Cabs Clean During COVID-19
- International Roadcheck Delayed Over COVID-19 Fears
- Pennsylvania Reopens (Some) Rest Stops
- Truck Dealers Seek “Essential Status”
- Navistar And Paccar Halt Production
- Mack And Volvo Suspend Truck Production
- Fmcsa Expands Its COVID-19 Response
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