There are a lot of moving parts in the poultry and egg industry. To name a few, there are genetics research, live production, food safety, processing, sales, marketing, and distribution. And, although often overlooked, there are also major trucking operations within the industry. Many poultry firms have hundreds, even thousands of trucks on the road every day delivering eggs to hatcheries; feed, chicks, or poults to farms; birds to processing plants; and finished products to customers.
Just keeping up, and then complying, with an ever-increasing number of federal regulations is an increasingly arduous task for most businesses. I occasionally visit www.regulations.gov, a government website that lists proposed regulations and related documents published by nearly 300 federal agencies.
As I write this, there have been 5,632 documents posted in the last 90 days, which is almost 90 per business day. Imagine that every five minutes of every workday there is a new proposed rule, final rule, notice, or update that may impact your business in one way or another. Certainly, very few of these impact all industries, and most will impact a very specific issue or group, but how do you know unless you devote resources to evaluate each one?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is one such agency within the Department of Transportation whose primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks. Using government data, the American Trucking Associations calculated the 2013 large truck-involved crash fatality rate as 1.44 per 100 million miles traveled, a 39.2-percent decline over the past decade and the lowest fatality rate ever. That’s 1.44 fatalities per year involving large trucks driving on increasingly congested roads and highways over a distance longer than from earth to the sun! Trucking safety has never been better.
Despite the trucking industry’s impressive safety record, FMCSA continues to add new regulations. Some of them include:
• Hours of Service regulations, which address driver fatigue, were revised even though the rules in place since 2004 had been effective in reducing crashes. Congress recently suspended the most egregious portions of the new rule until FMCSA conducts proper research.
• FMCSA is currently advancing regulations to require all drivers subject to Record of Duty Status rules (hours of service logs) to convert from paper logs to Electronic Logging Devices.
• FMCSA has proposed rules to establish entry-level training requirements for drivers of commercial motor vehicles.
• FMCSA is currently collecting information to evaluate driver safety as it relates to compensation systems, which comes with the unproven implication that hourly pay is inherently safer than paying drivers by the mile or load.
While all may sound like good ideas, they add complexity and expense to trucking operations, may require scheduling changes, and often are implemented without proof of real benefits or lacking sound research to justify them. And, as occasionally seen with regulations, unintended consequences may offset any perceived benefit. Increased regulations require businesses to devote considerable resources just to keep up with the number of new rules. Those resources could perhaps be better used to improve operations while achieving improved safety performance.