Driving Regulations May Soon Be Driving Inflation

Prepare for some sticker shock in the near future — on everything!

Like most retailers in the country, most of the goods we bring into our store come by truck. I take that back — ALL the goods we bring into our store come by truck. And we are hearing from every one of our suppliers to expect much higher freight costs because of some new trucking regulations.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (Never heard of them? Well, now you have) has instituted stricter rules on how long truckers can be on the road before they have to stop to rest. Not only will they be ticketed if they drive for too many hours at a stretch, but trucks are being equipped with electronic tracking equipment that will actually shut down the 18-wheeler if the driver has exceeded the allowed limit.

This means that a truck that used to arrive at our door with one day of travel time may now arrive a day later.

For perishable products we carry, such as fresh grass sod, this will add about $25 to $50 extra cost per pallet (not per truckload, per pallet), and the delay will mean the sod will be one day less fresh as soon as it arrives.

Some of our vendors are having difficulty finding drivers willing to take their loads if the manifest will require more than one stop because the time a driver spends waiting to be unloaded counts toward the total number of hours the truck is on the road. So if the first stop is four hours away and it takes two hours to get unloaded, the truck may not be able to get to its next stop in the same day. Drivers are being very picky about which consignments they will accept, since their bottom line depends on how quickly they can completely unload and return for another load.

So why not just have team drivers so one driver can sleep while the other one drives? The industry estimates that an additional 30,000 to 50,000 drivers are needed to fill the current demand. So it’s hard to get one driver per truck, much less two.

Think you’ll get around this problem by ordering everything online? Think again. How do you think all those goods get from one city to another?

Of course, we don’t want sleepy drivers on the road. But be forewarned. Prices on practically everything will be affected by the trucking situation. Don’t blame your local merchant. It’s beyond our control.