New rules for truck drivers could mean higher prices

New rules for truck drivers could mean higher prices

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) - New federal regulations mandating rest time for truckers could mean increased costs for consumers. This according to a new study from the Global Supply Chain Institute at the University of Tennessee. 

The UT study surveyed 417 companies and found that 58 percent of them expected an increase in their carrier rates. They anticipated passing on the costs to their customers in the long term.

This anticipation is due in part to new rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation, designed to improve driver safety by reducing driver fatigue.

The rules, which have been in place since July 1st, reduce the maximum number of hours a driver is allowed per week from 82 to 70. The rules also mandate a 30-minute rest break prior to the eighth hour on duty. 

This could also mean transport times may be longer for companies using trucks to move their products. For some, that means more trucks on the road in order to meet demand.

Mary Holcomb, an associate professor and the study's author, believes that this is not a realistic solution. 

"In this economy, companies won't want to damage the relationships with their customers by raising prices," Holcomb said. "Carriers may be unable to absorb these increased costs, so companies will have to improve their operations in order to minimize their impact."

Holcomb's study identifies ways companies could avoid those costs. She noted that many of those businesses are incorporating some new initiatives. 

"Many of them also will be a doubling down on efforts already underway," she said.

Those new initiatives include extending lead time for shipments and improving shipment consolidation.

The UT Global Supply Chain Institute will conduct a follow-up study in mid-2014 on the longer-term impact of the hours-of-service rules.

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