It is OK to Discriminate…

By Sandy Long

I can hear you now, “What?  Sandy Long, who preaches against bigotry and discrimination, is saying it is ok to discriminate now?  What’s up with that?”  NO, I personally do not agree with discrimination, but it appears that some people, including those in government,t do agree with it, in matter of fact, promotes it.  Yep, I can hear those wheels turning in your minds, “there are laws against discrimination, people do not discriminate too much these days, what in the world is she talking about.”

There are two areas that are fashionable to discriminate about against people; I am only going to talk about one of them, obesity.  Have you been paying attention to not only what is going on in the trucking industry, but throughout the business world?  Company after company is either not hiring people above a certain body weight or making them enter weight loss programs.  In trucking, companies are blatantly discriminating with saying if you are above a certain body weight; do not bother to fill out an application.  If they said outright, as they are about obese folk, if you are black or brown, gay, a Christian, then do not bother to apply, my gosh, they would be in court in a Minnesota second!  But they get away with it about obese folk.

The government is supporting mandatory sleep apnea testing, not for every driver, but for those over a body mass index of 35…so called obese folk.  This in the face that many people diagnosed with sleep apnea are of ‘normal’ body weight.  If the government said that it would require every black truck driver to be tested for sickle cell anemia, which is only found in darker skinned races, Jesse Jackson would be making a flight to DC and organizing a protest!

This discrimination against obese people goes further and for some reason promoted by the federal government.  From ObesityMyths.com, “It’s not just the official category of obesity that has been affected by numerical hocus-pocus.  Thirty-five million Americans went to sleep one night in 1998 at a government-approved weight (I never knew there were government ‘approved’ weights for people, when did that happen!–SL) and woke up “overweight” the next morning, thanks to a change in the government’s definition.  That group includes currently “overweight” celebrities like Will Smith and Pierce Brosnan, as well as NBA stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.  It even includes George W. Bush, considered the most fit president in U.S. history.  “Overweight” had previously been defined as a BMI of 27.8 for men and 27.3 for women; in 1998 it was lowered to a BMI of 25 for both genders.”

“The 1998 redefinition prompted a group of researchers to criticize the new threshold in The American Journal of Public Health. They wrote: “Current interpretations of the revised guidelines stigmatize too many people as overweight, fail to account for sex, race/ethnicity, age, and other differences; and ignore the serious health risks associated with low weight and efforts to maintain an unrealistically lean body mass.  This seeming rush to lower the standard for overweight to such a level that 55% of American adults find themselves being declared overweight or obese raises serious concerns.”

The discrimination against obese people started about 150 years ago when the only people who were fat were those rich enough to afford to eat regularly and who had sedentary jobs.  These ‘fat cats’ were considered to be dishonest and lazy.  (Three of our presidents were obese according to statistics, and many were considered overweight by today’s standards.)  Somehow, this perception of those rich folk was transferred to the common population, about the time that the diet and pharmaceutical industries got started in the late 1800’s.  This perception has increased to the extent that obese people are made articles of fun and are discriminated against routinely in the workplace these days.

While it is true that people have become increasingly overweight, perhaps that is more a symptom than what is really the ‘disease’.  In his article, ‘I Hate Fate People’ in MensHealth.com, Richard Conniff cites facts and figures about obesity and people’s perception of ‘fat’ people including the statement that he ‘hated fat people’.

As I was reading his article, getting more angrily frustrated the more I read, I was surprised to see, “So after all this, do I still hate fat people?  I don’t.  The world is already full of stupid bigotry, and what fat people endure is stupider than most. “Every fat person I know has a ‘mooing’ story,” says one fat activist. (That is, some jackass has mooed at them in a public place.)  Giving them a harder time than they already have is like being a grade school bully who zeroes in on the obvious target, sometimes with horrible consequences.  Adolescents who are teased for being overweight are two to three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or behaviors, says psychologist Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D., the research director for Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.  And yet even health-care providers commonly—and mistakenly—believe that a strong dose of disapproval encourages people to lose weight.”

Conniff continued, “Instead, the social stigma just keeps fat people away from the doctor, out of the gym, and afraid to do anything other than stay home—and eat.  When a doctor sends a patient away with the vague admonition to lose weight, the advice often just discourages a return visit, in part because those words alone generally produce no results.  Ignoring the weight issue entirely might actually work better.  For instance, a program at the University of Nevada simply taught people how to handle the social stigma and distress that came with obesity.  Weight loss followed almost incidentally, perhaps because the program taught people coping mechanisms that didn’t involve food.  A focus on health rather than weight also seems to help.  Research suggests that when doctors issue “walking prescriptions,” patients are more likely to increase their activity levels. “Walk 1 mile. Take 6 days weekly. Increase dosage at will.”

Imagine that, give people some tools to use to deal with their size other than eating and they lose weight, amazing concept!  Along with that, how about treating obese people like how you, who are so perfect, want to be treated.  As far as our government and companies promoting discrimination against obese people, well I imagine that will take a few lawsuits to change and they will happen.  There are now support groups for obese folk who will encourage them to sue for their rights under the Constitution.

While you may get a kick out of laughing at that obese person, just remember, there but for the grace of God go you…and you ain’t dead yet friend, who knows what your body changes may bring you as you age.  Remember that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paranoia or Reality

By Sandy Long

A caller on a trucking radio show recently said that truck drivers have to lose the ‘us against them’ attitude that they have, that no one is against safe, professional truck drivers.  Do truck drivers have that type of attitude or is it just paranoia and a misunderstanding of what is going on between truck drivers and the government, or is it reality.

During the last 20 years or so, the government has added increasingly strict regulations on the trucking industry, drug testing, new hours of service (HOS), new medical standards, distracted driving reduction, all in the name of safety.  FMCSA developed so called listening sessions on some of these things saying they encouraged truckers to get involved and participate; that they wanted to ‘hear’ what truckers had to say.  Truckers spoke out, they attended those sessions and spoke, and they wrote letters and emails and called their representatives.  Did the Federal DOT or the FMCSA really listen to those truckers, no.  Very few in congress listened either.

For instance, over the new HOS, truckers in droves asked for more flexibility in the hours of service to wait out rush hours, sunrises/sunsets and inclement weather or backups.  Truckers also wanted flexibility to be able to take a lunch break or a shower during the workday.  What did the FMCSA come up with, a mandatory ½ hour break between the 3rd and 7th hour of the day…without stopping the clock, actually cutting a driver’s workday by a half hour.  This is not what little flexibility truckers asked for.

EOBRs are another area, the majority of truck drivers and small business truck owners do not want these EOBRs to become mandatory due to little return on investment and the lack of real need for them.  Reports have abounded about EOBRs being used to harass drivers to the point that OOIDA went to court against the using of EOBRs for non-compliant carriers, which was FMCSA’s first salvo to get EOBRs mandatory, and OOIDA won.  That did not stop the FMCSA, even though thousands of truckers are speaking out against EOBRs becoming mandatory, the FMCSA is proceeding at a fast pace to make them mandatory for all carriers.

The Mexican Border Program required under NAFTA, was shot down initially when OOIDA and thousands of truckers wrote, called and emailed their representatives to protest about allowing Mexican trucks to come freely into the USA to haul freight.  For once, congress listened and the program was closed; but sadly, it was not a whipstitch of time before the border re-opened under the Obama administration.  This, even though truckers once again stood up and spoke out.

Truckers are not stupid contrary to public, and it seems government, opinion.  While the FMCSA touts safety and an unrealistic desire to see absolutely no accidents involving commercial vehicles, truckers know that they are the safest drivers on the road and for the most part, are not responsible for the accidents they are involved in with other vehicles.  Truckers also know that accidents are just that, accidents, and sometimes are unavoidable.  Yet, truckers are constantly under fire from not only the media, but the government and special interest groups who have never driven a truck, or have financial interests in more regulations against truckers.

Truckers also know that all of these regulations are treating the symptoms not the disease.  They know that the root of many accidents, violations and equipment failure or driver error is a lack of training and detention time.  Truckers, many of which have gone through training in recent years, have spoken out in huge numbers about the need for stronger training regulations and standardized training policies at companies.  Does the FMCSA show even an inclination to address these issues, no; instead, they say that there are no statistics showing a need for stronger regulations concerning training and they cannot address detention time.

Is it possible that truckers have an ‘us against them’ attitude, yes, rightly so.  The FMCSA continually ignores the specialists in trucking safety, those who drive the trucks, in their continued attack against those same truck drivers.  One cannot help believe that these attacks made through overwhelming, unnecessary regulations will not stop until all freight is hauled on rail cars.  In this day and age, it is a wise person who has a little paranoia when the reality may cost them their career, their business, their home and affect adversely their families; at least they can plan ahead to be unemployed.

 

 

 

Who Needs a Level Playing Field?

By Sandy Long

In article after article, large carriers and their associations are quoted as saying EOBRs and speed limiters are necessary to create a ‘level playing field’ for them to be competive in the trucking industry.  They cite competition from companies who’s trucks go faster than theirs do and who may not be as tight in HOS monitoring.  Looking at this logically, there are holes in their theory big enough to drive a semi through easily.

The large carriers have, thru competition, cut rates and promised everything under the sun to retain their customer base.  Many are training companies for new entry-level truck drivers, causing their accident rates to go up.  These two factors caused the carriers to lower their truck’s governed speed for both fuel cost savings and for safety for those new drivers.

Furthermore, as reported in TruckingInfo.com, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced legislation to address the detention time, HR 756 that would limit the number of hours a driver can be detained and the FMCSA was looking at doing the same.

“In a letter to FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro, David Parker, chairman of the MCSAC, said the agency should seek legal authority over entities that contribute to FMCSA safety violations.  According to Parker, an undue detainment can cause drivers to violate hours of service rules.”

The move towards detention regulation is also supported by OOIDA who has always contended that detention time was the most common cause of loss of revenue and violation of HOS regulations by drivers.

Descent from the ATA was strong; the ATA board of directors voted not to support the measures.  “ATA and its members value the time of our drivers,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said following the board’s decision. “However, federal intervention into this area would have significant impacts on the contractual agreements between carriers and shippers.”

“No carrier wants to see our drivers’ time wasted,” ATA first vice chairman Dan England, chairman and president of C.R. England said. “However, this is not an issue that can be handled with a ‘one-size, fits all’ regulation and as a result is best addressed in contractual agreements between carriers and shippers.”

“The ability of carriers to negotiate rates, routes and service with our shippers is very important to us,” said ATA Chairman Barbara Windsor, president and CEO of Hahn Transportation. “Federal regulation in this area would directly affect shipping rates and would significantly change the playing field for carriers and shippers.”

Wait!  ATA vice Chairman England says that “this is not an issue that can be handled with a ‘one-size, fits all’ regulation” and Chairman Windsor says that it would “significantly change the playing field for carriers and shippers.”  Uh, folks, isn’t that exactly what you are wanting to do in your support of EOBRs and speed limiters, develop one-size, fits all regulations; change the playing field for those carriers who do not have access to your discounts and shipper base to your levels of operation?  There is nothing ‘level’ about them and further regulation will ‘level’ them all right, in the large carriers direction.

In the trucking industry, it is always wise to look for the money trail in any sort of proposed regulation supported by the mega carriers.  In an article dated April 2012 on the ATA website it states, “After a year of quarterly increases, the turnover rate for truck drivers at large truckload fleets unexpectedly dipped one percentage point to an annualized rate of 88% American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello…”

The article continues, “Turnover among large truckload fleets had risen to 89% in the third quarter of 2011 after bottoming out at 39% in the first quarter of 2010. For all of 2011, the large truckload turnover rate averaged 83% – the highest average since 2007 when churn averaged 117%.  At small truckload firms, with less than $30 million in annual revenue, the turnover rate dipped to 55% from 57% in the previous quarter.  The fourth quarter turnover rate for less-than-truckload fleets fell to just 7% from 10% in the third quarter.”

An all time average of 117% and a today’s rate of 88% for large fleets perhaps provide one money trail found.  The Intermodel Insurance Company reports  that Noel Perry, managing director at consultant FTR Associates, Nashville, Ind., whose latest driver supply report gauged the shortage at 125,000 in the third quarter said, “We are almost certainly going to see an increase (in driver shortage).”

Furthermore, in the same article, USA Truck noted the scarcity of drivers.  They reported a “$4.3 million loss; said 10% of its fleet of more than 2,200 trucks don’t have drivers.”  Other carriers that have driver-related issues are Heartland Express and Knight Transportation among others.

Driver retention is a large factor at any company as shown, as is a ‘driver shortage’ is at larger carriers, though driver shortage may be another way of saying driver retention in this case.  It is a well-known fact that many entry-level drivers, who have little choice outside of the large carrier training companies, leave after their initial year.  They tire of the micromanagement, the governed slower speeds found at the larger carriers, the impersonality of communication and the lack of adequate hometime.

This fact is supported by Tim Brady’s article at Trucker.com.  Brady states, “Driver turnover usually occurs within the first year of employment.  A company may have an overall turnover rate of 60%, but the ‘newbie flight’ (those first-year hires) can far exceed that—as much as 180% to 240% plus.  We’ll define this as driver “churning,” i.e., drivers leaving one carrier and being hired by another.  As with most problems, the cause is fairly easy to find; believe it or not, it’s not just about the money.  Although several factors contribute to driver churning, its root cause is a lack of communication from the very beginning.  It’s making sure both trucker and carrier understand each other’s needs and wants, and how this is going to be accomplished within the business relationship.”

If the large carriers can get EOBRs and speed limiter regulations through, they think that this will stop drivers leaving for greener pastures.  Billy Woolsey, President of Midwest Compliance Inc., states in a letter to the editor to Transport Topics about EOBRs, “But all that information carries a price because drivers are likely to favor carriers without e-logging devices.  That creates additional problems for small fleets competing for drivers in a marketplace now being reshaped by the government’s new Compliance, Safety, Accountability safety-management program(CSA)… it is glaringly obvious that this is really about politics, not safety…not to mention fueling an incorrect but widely held belief that the agency (DOT) wants to put smaller carriers out of business.”

Marge Bailey, founder of DriverFinder.net states, “Depending on what resources a company engages to advertise, i.e.; the size of their budget, what their orientation costs are and cost to get a driver to orientation, a new ‘experienced’ hire can range from $3500.00 to over $5,000.00 each.”

Add in the costs of schooling for entry-level drivers that the company may pay for or reimburse plus additional costs of the training time after school, and you end up with a seriously significant amount of money that replacing drivers costs a carrier.  While creating a level playing field using EOBRs or speed limiters due to HOS compliance or safety does not make a lot of sense, creating a level playing field to retain drivers does, at least to the larger carriers who support it.  CSA takes care of both HOS compliance and safety issues adequately; there is no need for the rest of us to suffer for the wants of large carriers to save money by retaining drivers.