Federal funding debates impact fleet operations

Freight management software will be a crucial tool for small and medium-sized transportation businesses as recent activity in the U.S. political arena will likely shape the makeup of the industry in the near future.

Fleet owners are often subject to rules and regulations from multiple federal and state agencies. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) produces safety guidelines for operators of heavy-duty trucks. In other cases, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops standards for limiting pollution and encouraging greater fuel conservation among commercial vehicles. The cumulative effect of these rules can substantially limit productivity if managers don't have access to the right planning tools and technology.

Politicians make strides in spending bill agreement
Most recently, members of Congress have agreed to negotiations on a federal spending bill that will both directly and indirectly affect most trucking businesses in the country. According to The New York Times, both the House of Representatives and the Senate have compromised on a plan to finance the federal government through September. While the measure includes a framework for large-scale cuts, many major federal initiatives were spared. In fact, the newspaper reported that funding for the EPA's efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions was ultimately upheld, meaning many fleet owners may soon find themselves in need of creative ways to limit pollution.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one organization particularly invested in whatever spending plan Congress ends up passing in the early part of this year. A recent article from the Los Angeles Daily News said a previous fiscal battle in 2012 resulted in the breakdown of funding for many comprehensive highway infrastructure projects throughout the nation. Business groups are adamant about not falling into the same difficulties this time around. Perhaps the biggest reason it has been difficult for politicians to agree on financing road construction is the fact that it would require an increase in the national gas tax. As a result, few members of Congress are feeling optimistic looking forward.

"Based on the performance of the Senate over the last three years, a six-year highway bill is a pretty big expectation," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told the newspaper. "These discussions are important to have, but I don't have any real faith at this point that they lead in a direction that produces a long-term result on highways."

Focusing on highway funding this year
Thomas Donohue, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, said during his organization's "State of American Business" address that supporting highway infrastructure funding will be a top priority in 2014. According to the online publication Fleet Owner, Donohue argued the nation's transportation system is in a state of decline, which may lead to consequences in regard to safety and productivity.

Regardless of what Congress is able to accomplish this year, fleet owners are in a unique position to benefit from comprehensive logistics software that eliminates many of the inefficiencies of transporting goods long distances. For example, delivery routing software will make it easier to conserve fuel amid the prospect of more stringent greenhouse gas regulations from the EPA. Most companies aren't able to simply replace their vehicles with new trucks that run on alternative fuel. Instead, finding ways to complete multiple in assignments in one trip is often a more effective solution.

Route optimization software will also help fleet managers identify the most productive directions when planning shipments. An increase in highway construction may cause traffic problems. The ability to easily avoid these holdups will make all the difference in maintaining profitability in the long run.