FleetOwner's best series of 2022 – FleetOwner

Trucking continued to evolve and change rapidly in 2022. And like any other sector of the economy, the industry we cover here at FleetOwner was subject to inflationary forces (think exploding fuel prices) and other challenges of these times, like the balky supply chain, inconsistent availability of new trucks thanks to shortages of critical components like semiconductors, the volatile cost of and access to used equipment for fleet owners to run their freight-hauling fleets, and the ups and downs of the contract and spot markets—just to name a few.

Some of what affects trucking can’t be covered by one or two or even three stories. A lot of work in 2022 was an ongoing dialogue with our readers about what burdened but also, like our Five Good Things every Friday, delighted the industry. So, with salutations from our staff for happy holidays and a prosperous new year, we present our best series in these five categories: 

  1. Fuel prices surge
  2. Women grow and lead in trucking
  3. Emissions, efficiency, and decarbonization
  4. Autonomy and technology in trucking
  5. Business conditions prove volatile

1. Fuel prices rise to records then retreat

Early in March, an industry stakeholder reminded attendees at trucking conference, Work Truck Week 2022 in Indianapolis, that “fuel is TCO,” meaning prices for diesel and in some sectors of the industry gasoline had great bearing on fleet costs and the health of a freight-hauling operation.

At no time perhaps was “fuel is TCO” more apparent than this year, when diesel surged to records well above $5 and gas reached that mark, spurred on in large part by the Russian invasion of Ukraine but fueled by inflationary and other market pressures. This put excess pressure on large fleets and led to record turnover in the small and owner-operator segment of the industry.

By the end of 2022, the U.S. diesel average remained about a dollar above where it stood toward the end of 2021.

These are among the best in FleetOwner’s series of fuel-related stories in 2022:

Diesel price surge sets U.S. record

In the category of maybe some records aren’t meant to be broken, the cost of a gallon of diesel shot to a never-before-seen high this week as the U.S. average of trucking’s main fuel reached $4.849, rising 74.5 cents in one week mostly on market volatility over Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Check out the full story here.

Diesel hits lowest average price since February

The U.S. average price for diesel fuel has fallen to well below $5 per gallon after a substantial 21.3-cent decline to $4.754 the week of Dec. 12, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Check out the full story here.

Diesel drives fleet costs, freight market shifts

Diesel prices have been a big part of the current freight market shift from spot to contract that the industry is experiencing today. And for the carriers who stayed afloat amid high operating costs and fuel prices, one industry analyst reassures they’ll make it through the long haul.

Check out the full story here.

2. Women step up to lead the industry

Women account for just 7% of the professional truck driver population, but efforts continued in 2022 in the freight-hauling industry to increase that percentage and to demonstrate that a career in trucking can be rewarding and valuable for them.

And women—many of whom are becoming industry leaders—raised their voices this year to advocate for safety and equality and against darker elements that affect them like discrimination, sexual harassment, assault, rape, and human trafficking that stand in the way of their ability to explore trucking careers. 2022 actually turned out to be a great year for women in trucking because of their advocacy.

These are the best in FleetOwner’s series of stories in 2022 related to women in trucking:

Sisters of the Road: Documenting the lives of women truckers

A newly released book, “Sisters of the Road,” chronicles the lives of women truckers in their own words through a series of interviews. The limited-edition photobook introduces 40 truckers and the landscapes they travel, allowing readers to witness the unique experience of being a woman driver in a business dominated by men.

Check out the full story here.

Women underscore ongoing harassment, driver training problems in trucking

Sexual harassment, assault, and even rape remain all-too-common occurrences that continue to plague women who work in trucking—particularly drivers. It’s a problem that weighs heavily on the minds of many women in the industry and one that dominated discussion during the inaugural meeting of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Women of Trucking Advisory Board on Nov. 9.

Check out the full story here.

Women in Transportation 2022: Trailblazers in trucking

Some women grow up in the trucking industry. Their parents may have been truckers or worked at trucking companies, and they experienced all the industry has to offer—the good, the bad, and the ugly—early on.

Some knew right away the industry was right for them. For others, it took some time.

And then there are the women who fell into the industry by chance, those who served in other fields for many years before they realized trucking and transportation were where they truly belong.

This year, FleetOwner spoke with nine different women across the industry’s ranks. They come from various walks of life, but one commonality they all share is their intent on bringing more women and minorities into trucking and the commercial vehicle space.

Check out the full story here.

3. Trucking stresses efficiency, prepares for even stricter emissions rules

Up until almost Christmas, important news was being broken in efficiency and emissions in trucking. Following its Clean Trucks Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 20 released final—and more stringent—pollution-slashing standards for heavy-duty commercial vehicles, beginning with the 2027 model year. The industry anticipated these rules, of course, and OEMs and suppliers had begun to prepare long before, but the EPA move was still far-reaching.

FleetOwner covered the rules and the preparations in several stories this year:

EPA sets stricter smog rule for model year 2027 trucks

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued its final and “80% stronger” emissions rules for heavy-duty vehicles on Dec. 20, saying the new regulations will apply to model year 2027 and beyond and that they are the first update to clean air standards for commercial trucks in “more than 20 years”—making a key distinction between nitrous oxide (or NOx) emissions and greenhouse gases (GHG), which EPA now plans to address for the third time since 2011.

Check out the full story here.

Industry reacts to EPA’s truck, engine emissions proposal

Flexibility. Consistency. Feasible implementation. Not disruptive to the economy or supply chains.

Those are just a handful of priorities on the trucking industry’s must-haves list in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed heavy-duty truck and engine standards rule. The industry, which had more than two months to mull EPA’s latest proposals, filed more than 600 new comments in the Federal Register by an extended May 16 deadline.

Check out the full story here.

Fleets and their customers are driving decarbonization

More fleets are seeking decarbonization solutions from truck makers than ever before. While sustainability-aimed regulations drove some early development of battery-electric trucks, the industry is taking more control of its future.

Check out the full story here.

Grid not prepared for electric truck ‘avalanche’

A new study of the coming EV charging requirements made the rounds in the automotive media, with headlines typically pointing to the report’s most eye-popping (and easily understandable) analogy: The charging capacity required to supply a large passenger vehicle travel center/truck stop site will be “roughly equivalent to the electric load of a small town.”

Check out the full story here.

4. Autonomy and technology advance in trucking

Is trucking headed toward an autonomous future? FleetOwner reported more about that possibility in 2022. The test cases are piling up, but the driverless technology companies still are focusing on ensuring the safety of autonomy before removing humans entirely from the cab. Plus, the trucks that humans still drive are getting more and more advanced, with emphasis on electrification, safety, and driver comfort.

These were among the best in FleetOwner’s series of autonomy technology stories in 2022:

Fleets begin to get a feel for the future of moving freight

Large fleets are starting to get a feel for the future of humanless freight transportation. As various autonomous trucking technology companies and truck makers team up, they are starting to show how the middle mile could transform supply chains and create more home time for the human drivers on their payrolls.

Check out the full story here.

During these disruptive times, technology can keep fleets prepared

As fleet customer demands continue to rise, transportation technology is expanding. If used right, the technology and data can create opportunities for success, according to McLeod Software CEO Tom McLeod.

“It’s more important than ever for transportation companies to stay up on technology,” he said during a sit-down with trucking industry media at his company’s user conference at the Music City Center.

Check out the full story here.

Suppliers set sights on enhancing tractor-trailer connectivity

Once upon a time, truck and trailer equipment suppliers manufactured only hard parts. What was once considered off the shelf, more mechanical components and information have since shifted to today’s connected, data-driven ecosystem.

Commercial vehicle suppliers today are putting even more emphasis on connecting tractor-trailer data to create holistic units for fleets. They are also focused on the importance of integrating with existing fleet telematics software as well as offering turnkey solutions that might be a carrier’s first step toward a connected fleet environment.

Check out the full story here.

5. Business conditions proved volatile in 2022

High-flying fuel prices aside, the ground underneath the feet of truckers often shifted this year, with AB5 in California potentially threatening independent contractor labor practices, fleet failures (especially smaller freight haulers and independent operators) accelerating as the spot market went south, a proposed government speed-limiter mandate looking the transform how fleet dispatchers and drivers plan their routes and operations in 2023, and nuclear and high-dollar verdicts and settlements after accidents continuing to drive up insurance rates and squeeze the profitability and survivability of freight haulers.

FleetOwner had coverage of all this and more in ongoing series this year:

With California law, trucking operations face uncertainty

When the U.S. Supreme Court late last month refused to consider an appeal challenging a California law restricting the use of owner-operators, the question among industry experts wasn’t whether this would impede operations in the Golden State, but to what degree.

California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) set forth a three-pronged legal test for independent contractors that, if failed, would require employers to hire these contractors as employees. The bill was originally intended to affect “gig” economy workers, such as rideshare and food-delivery drivers, and while there are many professions exempted from the law, truck driving is not among them.

Check out the full story here.

June FMCSA data shows accelerated fleet failures

Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) analyzed by FTR Transportation Intelligence shows that fleet failures started to accelerate in May and rapidly picked up pace in June, setting a record.

Check out the full story here.

Speed limiters divide truckload meeting safety stakeholders

Judging by the 14,000-and-growing comments posted to the Federal Register on the subject, opinion has been anything but muted about the federal government’s renewed push to require all Classes 7-8 commercial vehicles in the U.S. to be limited to an as-yet-to-be-determined speed. The speed-limiter proposal also had top billing here at a trucking industry safety conference.

Check out the full story here.

Large fleets a big target for pricey litigation

Larger fleets know the crushing math too well: The more tractors, trailers, and people they have out on the road, the greater their vulnerability is to accidents and, ultimately, the much higher their exposure is to costly litigation. Factor in that many of these large fleets have robust and multilayered safety and driver-training programs—and are winners of safety awards as well—and the irony grows even greater.

This shows that all the accolades in the world do not shield larger fleets from “nuclear” verdicts. In fact, the bullseye on their backs might be bigger. So safety, technology, and driver screening and coaching at any big fleet becomes that much more important. Happenstance, of course, also plays a part.

Check out the full story here.


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