Compared to the previous two years, 2022 was more about actual trucking than how the industry coped with and kept rolling during a nationwide health crisis.
But, the year was far from smooth sailing. Diesel prices soared to record heights through much of the year before dropping markedly as 2022 drew to a close. Supply chain issues that plagued the economy for part of 2021 and into 2022 eased, and a major bullet was dodged when Congress voted to impose a contract settlement on freight railroad unions.
Here are some of the other major stories we covered during 2022:
MATS returns in-person
The COVID-19 pandemic began in January of 2020 with the first reported cases in this country. But, it really took hold by March, about the same time the Mid-American Trucking Show was supposed to be held in Louisville. As the severity of the disease and its spread continued to grow, the show’s management made the difficult decision to cancel. And, they made the same tough call a year later and called off the 2021 show.
However, this past March, the trucking faithful returned to the Kentucky Exposition Center for the 2022 edition of MATS signaling the industry was willing to return to near-normal.
FMCSA finally gets full-time administrator
Just after the first of the year, Biden appointee Meera Joshi announced she was leaving the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to return to a government post in New York City.
To replace her, Robin Hutcheson moved from being deputy assistant secretary for Safety Policy for the U.S. Department of Transportation to become FMCSA’s deputy administrator.
Like Joshi, Hutcheson passed her confirmation hearing with the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Then she was confirmed by the full Senate in September, giving the agency its first full-time, fully-confirmed administrator since Ray Martinez stepped down three years ago.
American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear said of Hutcheson after her confirmation, “Whether it is addressing safety concerns, ongoing supply chain issues or workforce development, she has been open to engaging with our industry and we look forward to continuing our ongoing, candid dialogue about these challenges and to engaging with her and her agency to implement solutions that uphold safety and improve efficiency in trucking and across the supply chain.”
Trucking responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
In late February, Russian troops crossed the border from Belarus into Ukraine in the north and from Crimea in the south. Since then, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed or wounded, and Ukraine’s infrastructure has been under constant bombardment.
From the earliest days of the war, America’s trucking industry has shown its support of the Ukrainian people. Several trucking companies like Nortia Logistics and GP Transco, both from the Chicago area, were quick to organize efforts to raise funds and ship humanitarian supplies. Other industry partners joined in and have donated funds for humanitarian aid, including the Trucking Cares Foundation and Pilot.
Women get a seat at the FMCSA table
On Nov. 9 a bit of trucking history was made. On that day, the first meeting of the FMCSA’s Women of Trucking advisory board was held online. The 16-member board created as part of President Joe Biden’s Trucking Action Plan discussed numerous issues facing women in the industry.
They also heard and responded to the results of the agency’s Crime Prevention for Truckers survey, which was meant to understand the nature and prevalence of harassment and assaults against truckers, specifically women and minorities. The key takeaway from the study was this: "Crimes against truck drivers are prevalent."
The survey also found that harassment was prevalent in the trucking industry. However, results show 42% of women, 57% of minority men, and 51% of non-minority men choose not to report the harassment. Many respondents said they did not think that it would make a difference, while others said they have to deal with it.
Mergers and acquisitions flourished in 2022
Dealmakers had a busy year in 2022 as carriers used mergers and acquisitions to expand their capacities, add equipment and drivers to their fleets or expand into new territories. Some of the more notable deals included:
Tesla finally delivers the Semi
Elon Musk first showed off his all-battery-electric Class 8 Semi in 2017. After several lengthy delays, Musk tweeted that a Semi fully loaded with freight made a 500-mile on-highway trip in November. Then, in early December, Musk presided over the elaborate stage show when the first ones were delivered to PepsiCo.
However, at about the same time Pepsi was taking delivery of 10 Semis, a new study found that the country’s electric grid would be hard-pressed to meet the charging needs of an all-electric trucking industry fleet.
Additionally, we found truckers are not too enthusiastic about battery-powered trucks. In a driver poll, we asked, “Would you drive an all-electric truck?” and just shy of 60% of respondents said no.
Possibility of speed limiters returns
The FMCSA is revisiting a proposed rulemaking that appeared in the fall of 2016 but stalled. The rule would “propose that motor carriers operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or more that are equipped with an electronic engine control unit capable of governing the maximum speed be required to limit the CMV to a speed to be determined by the rulemaking and to maintain that ECU setting for the service life of the vehicle."
In October, the agency announced it “intends to proceed with a motor carrier-based speed limiter rulemaking” with a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) expected to be published in the Federal Register by June 30, 2023.
Comments on electronic identification for trucks sought
In the fall, the FMCSA sought comments on a possible regulatory change that would require commercial motor vehicles to be equipped with the technology to wirelessly transmit a unique identification number to state or federal enforcement personnel. It said it is considering the change to improve roadside inspections and allow enforcement agencies to focus their efforts on high-risk carriers and drivers.
When all was said and done, truckers gave the FMCSA an earful of almost universally negative comments on the idea. More than 1,300 comments were received online.