Black and White Hide, Four Teats and Eighteen Wheels
By Sandy Long
For decades trucking has been a cash cow for communities, states and the federal government. Taxes, traffic fines and registration fees have been regularly collected that has kept money pouring into coffers and then passed on to other projects and made to benefit many others rather than truckers or the infrastructure. Today’s trucking environment, with the government’s help, has made trucking into a feed lot for everyone.
The federal government has allowed states to pass laws about texting, idling and other so called ‘nanny laws’ with fines attached of up to $10,000 along with jail time in some states for repeated idling and $2,700 for texting. Fines in South Dakota for violating an out of service order are now over $2,000 and can result in suspension. Fines for not wearing a seat belt are going higher and speed traps are popping up like weeds with increased fines for truckers over car drivers as states try to stay afloat economically.
However that is just the tip of the cow‘s horn; now the medical, legal and insurance fields have entered the game though not through fines; but through lobbying efforts that will pay off better than the stock market. Medical device manufacturers are sticking their nose into the FMCSA Medical Review Board’s meetings on increasing testing for sleep apnea along with the Sleep Study industry. With a better than 10% mark up on C-PAP machines and sleep studies costing upwards of $3,000, is it any wonder?
Along with the above medical groups, occupational medicine clinics are all for increased DOT physical requirements if enacted by the FMCSA that have been recommended by the MRB. DOT physicals run between $40-75.00 now, but with increased tests required along with extra physicals required by the ‘matrix’ recommended by the MRB, the costs will go up as truckers scramble to try to qualify.
Pharmaceutical companies also stand to make millions off of truckers with conditions as simple as minor depression as the trucker is diagnosed and required to take medications. This is of course along with the medicines already being taken by truckers for treated conditions. With the increased DOT physicals being required if enacted and further testing of conditions already identified by the MRB, many minor conditions will be found and medicines prescribed to treat them.
Legal associations are betting on the new CSA 2010 making them money as truckers struggle to retain their records against un-called for black marks due to inspections. Furthermore, the legal associations not only support safety groups, but churn gold out of adverse publicity garnered by those groups and the MRB’s focus on how unsafe truckers are even though the statistics do not support their contentions. Keeping the fear and greed alive in the general public is first and foremost to some of these legal associations so they can milk the lawsuits engendered for millions of dollars.
Insurance companies want to increase their bottom lines by only having young, totally healthy drivers in the seat. They forget that trucking is the third most dangerous professions and that most drivers suffer injuries that are not caused by their personal health. Also, most of the conditions mentioned at this point in the MRB recommendations are directly linked to the lifestyle and job of truckers. Yet, the insurance companies are attending the MRB meetings and one can suppose that they are contributing financially somewhere in the mix.
Trucking schools and the training companies are already speaking about another so called driver shortage due to both CSA 2010 and the new MRB recommendations when enacted. Many older drivers will be disqualified to drive by the MRB recommendations when enacted due to their lifestyle and career choice of decades of being a trucker. Companies will be able to hire younger, less experienced drivers and more students thereby lowering starting wages and gain more tax credits for hiring entry level drivers along with decreased insurance premiums. Trucking schools will be once again full with students at $5-8,000.00 a pop. Is it any wonder that they support both CSA 2010 and the new MRB recommendations?
Of course, everything is being based on so called safety concerns, but if one digs deep enough into the manure, one can find the money trail to the milking parlor. It is not a pretty sight. The cash cow of trucking is being milked dry by everyone but the drivers who are sucking hind teat as usual.