No Longer the Cow, but the Whole Herd

By Sandy Long

For many years, trucking provided the cash cow for states and the federal government to suck off of.  Tolls, fines, taxes, you name it, and the states or the federal government found ways to get it off trucking usually in $100.00 increments.  That has drastically changed in recent years, now it is in $1,000,000 dollar increments and gotten due to overwhelmingly expensive regulations.

One of the cheaper regulations pending is Sleep Apnea testing.  At roughly $6-8,000.00 per study and cpap machine if the driver is found to have sleep apnea, this is one of the cheaper, on the surface, regulations proposed.  On the surface because many drivers will be forced out of trucking both due to not being able to pay for the testing and machine, but because of companies not wanting to hire someone with higher BMI’s or who use cpap machines.  This will add to the driver shortage, costing companies in the end lost accounts and sitting equipment.  Furthermore, it is thought that approximately one-half of truck drivers are over the BMI rating suggested in the proposed regulation.  One-half of 4 million cmv drivers times $8,000.00= a lot of money for someone.

The regulation that has doctors/medical practioners who perform DOT physicals be DOT certified is another cheaper regulation on the surface.  The cost will be between $400.00 and $2,000.00 per medical person, depending on what the third party testing provider sets as price.  The FMCSA states that 40,000 certified medical providers will be needed throughout the country to provide DOT physicals.  This will surely raise the costs of the DOT physical.

Anti rollover devices, which is approaching regulation processes, will cost the industry $1 billion dollars over a five-year period for those buying new tractors according to estimates.  This regulation will add roughly $1600.00 per new truck prices.  This device will be able to sense when the trailer tilts beyond a certain point or if the driver maneuvers too quickly say to avoid someone cutting them off.  The device will automatically apply the brakes in those cases.  This device is touted as being able to save thousands of dollars in rollover accident losses.  Nothing is said about the amount of accidents potentially caused because the system is braking when the driver needs to accelerate or when the roads are bad.

Conservative estimates of the regulation proposed to place mandatory EOBRs in trucks is $2 billion dollars, however, those in the know in the industry suggest that the cost may run closer to $4 billion.  At $2,000.00 a unit plus monthly fees, this will effectively close the doors on small companies and owner operators in this economy where most companies and owner operators are hanging on by a thread.  While grants and tax breaks may be offered to those who need them; that money has to come from somewhere, perhaps the taxpayers?

It appears that regulations are being passed to benefit manufacturers along with the government.  Someone designs a new technology, sells the idea to the FMCSA and voila! a new regulation appears to use that design in trucking to supposedly make trucks or their drivers safer.  Do they make trucking safer, or is it a case of greedy rustlers trying to steal other folks cows to make a profit off of?  One thing is sure true, it is no longer that trucking is a cash cow, it is a whole herd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Personal Safety Revisited

By Sandy Long

In my work with new and prospective drivers, I talk to a lot of women who want to become truckers.  Almost everyone of them are concerned about being raped, robbed or killed, no, not by some psychopath from whatever town they are in or someone in a car, but by a brother driver.  This in a way bothers me.  Could a brother driver be a psychopath?  Certainly.  There have been male truckers that have raped women or even killed them though I have heard of very few victims that have been female drivers.  There probably have even been women drivers who have killed while out here though I haven’t heard of any specifically.

The reason that this idea bothers me is it makes me wonder if too many women considering trucking as a career buy into the stereotypical image of truckers in general.  Let’s face it, our reputation proceeds us even though it is based on a misunderstanding of the industry by the general population.  Male drivers are thought of as big burley guys who will fight at a drop of a hat, do drugs, drink heavily and use prostitutes while women drivers are thought of as big burley gals with tattoos who will fight at a drop of a hat and are either all lesbians, prostitutes or dominatrix.  One woman I spoke with several years ago who was wanting to enter the industry told me that, “I can scratch, spit and cuss as well as any man and kick anyone’s butt that don’t like it, that qualifies me to be a woman trucker.”  Oh my!

The reality is that we are all different.  Do some of us fit the above descriptions?  Yes, but so do people from other professions.  So, is there a reason for women to fear their brother drivers to the extent that they want to run out and purchase wasp spray that shoots spray 20 feet away to take to truck driving school and into the truck?  Not in my opinion; personal safety is about common sense, not about wasp spray.

Common sense is sound judgment not based on specialized knowledge; native good judgment and can be thought of as the ability to make sensible decisions:  wisdom.  Unfortunately, wisdom is gained by experience, and good judgment is an inherent trait and cannot be taught to any great degree.  The ability to make sensible decisions takes looking at all sides or factors of a situation.

In trucking, one must have good common sense.  Just like you wouldn’t park your truck without setting your brakes on a hill, you approach your personal safety thinking the same way.  For instance, you are delivering in the older section of downtown Los Angeles CA.  Common sense should tell you that the area may be dangerous, so even if you have never been there before, you should ask someone who has if it is safe for you to go into that area at midnight way before you get there.  This provides you with the wisdom to plan your arrival nearer to dawn than to midnight.

Most criminal activity, specially crimes against women, occur in open areas at night.  Therefore, common sense should tell you to limit your exposure to crime at night by staying in your truck or, if at all possible, getting out only if there is someone you can trust to walk with you or security personnel available.  At times neither is possible, so being aware of your surroundings is necessary and applying common sense to any activity in the area is a given.  If you see unusual movement, vehicles or people in the vicinity of your truck…get out of there!  Go back inside and tell the fuel desk person what is going on.  Only go back to your truck when the suspicious activity is over, with truck stop personnel or the police.

Knowledge that most crimes in truck stops against women are against prostitutes, should kick in your common sense so you use good judgment in your demeanor so that your clothes, makeup or behavior do not mimic those shown by prostitutes.  Furthermore, you shouldn’t be going up to or into a male driver’s truck.  This not only opens you to losing your reputation, but also could put you at risk of becoming a victim of violence if in the slim chance that the male driver is a predator.

Bottom line is that all the wasp spray in the world isn’t going to protect you against anyone if they are determined to harm or rob you.  Most criminals are not stupid and are not going to give you the chance to get out a weapon, they are going to jump out of hiding or blindside you.  Use the gift given you at birth, your brain, to develop common sense and gain wisdom by learning about what to look for in your surroundings, keep your doors locked, then have the good judgment to use what you have learned to avoid exposing yourself to criminal activity.  That way you can protect yourself from harm.

Ya’ll be safe out there!

Thousands of Regulations Except Where Needed

by Sandy Long

Entering the trucking industry presents many problems in adapting to the lifestyle and the difficulty of the job itself.  These problems are compounded by there being no clear-cut training regulations in place in the FMCSA, the attitude of many training companies towards their students, the lack of real training done by many so-called trucking schools and the lack of quality trainers or trainers who abuse their positions.

The only current FMCSA training regulations for semi-truck drivers are that one passes the cdl test and for entry-level drivers:  § 380.503 Entry-level driver-training requirements.

Entry-level driver training must include instruction addressing the following four areas:

(a) Driver qualification requirements. The Federal rules on medical certification, medical examination procedures, general qualifications, responsibilities, and disqualifications based on various offenses, orders, and loss of driving privileges (

part 391, subparts B and E of this subchapter).

(b) Hours of service of drivers. The limitations on driving hours, the requirement to be off-duty for certain periods of time, record of duty status preparation, and exceptions (part 395 of this subchapter). Fatigue countermeasures as a means to avoid crashes.

(c) Driver wellness. Basic health maintenance including diet and exercise. The importance of avoiding excessive use of alcohol.

(d) Whistleblower protection. The right of an employee to question the safety practices of an employer without the employee’s risk of losing a job or being subject to reprisals simply for stating a safety concern (29 CFR part 1978).

[69 FR 29404, May 21, 2004]

So technically, if you can pass a road test, you can go to work driving a tractor trailer.  The rub comes in where insurance companies have requirements, though minimal, for training to be provided for entry-level drivers.  Without regulations from the FMCSA, these training periods may be with another student without an on-board trainer or be with an on-board trainer for 2-8 weeks at times with another student along too.  Some companies with team operations will put two people just out of training together in a team situation, kind of a blind leading the blind situation.

Two organizations are pushing for enhanced training regulations.  The Women In Trucking Association is addressing the issue of women who are coerced into having intimate relations by their male trainers, being discriminated against, or intimidated out of the trucking industry by their trainers or even the companies that have initially hired them.

Student WIT members are reporting this type of alleged behavior repeatedly.  One woman was allegedly physically attacked last summer by her trainer who had become convinced that he was in love with her.  Another woman was allegedly propositioned on the second day of training by her trainer being told she would have to submit to him to continue training.  Still another woman had a female trainer who was allegedly taking excessive over the counter drugs and was out of it most of the time, got off of the trainer’s truck early only to allegedly find problems with the company due to her objection to running with a stoned trainer.  Many women are subjected to lewd jokes and behavior by their male trainers.  Unfortunately, there are not enough women trainers to go around and we have seen above that even women trainers are not at times, the quality they should be.

Women are not the only ones affected by bad trainers and training schools.  A young man from Wyoming went all the way through school and was taking his tests before finding out there were such things as log books and then when he asked, the school refused to teach him the HOS regulations.  Another man’s trainer had such a bad attitude that the student feared for his safety.   The trainer yelled and cussed at him and then took a swing at the student…just because the student scraped a gear on his first day.

OOIDA is pushing Washington D. C. to increase training regulations.  Todd Spencer, Executive Vice President of OOIDA had this to say about the regulations and why they need to be addressed.  “Training is something we have been working on for a long time and believe it will have significant impact on the value of drivers’ time, and more importantly, on safety for all highway users. It is a matter of raising the level of professionalism of our industry and seeing the correlation between that and highway safety…Drivers are held responsible for almost everything that can go wrong. It only makes sense that the training required should correspond with the responsibilities of the job. Obviously, the qualifications of the trainer are crucial to quality training. FMCSA says they will be releasing a driver training proposal by mid-January. I’m sure it will be an improvement over the non-existent requirement we have now, but I’m also sure we and others will need to point out areas that need improvement.”

It makes no sense to regulate trucking into the ground on the issue of safety while leaving the basics of trucking safety, that of the training of drivers, to remain inadequate or not addressed at all.  One would think that companies, who pay tremendous amounts for insurance would want to train their entry-level drivers adequately, instead they push them through their system quickly for the most part to keep the trucks moving.  The companies seem to be working on the percentage idea of training, if they hire ten students and only two kill themselves due to inadequate training, then the other eight are still making money for the company.  The only way to get companies to adequately train is by getting the FMCSA to put in place comprehensive training requirements for schools and for the companies and their trainers, and then enforce those regulations rigorously.  Let us hope it happens sooner than later!

Ya’ll be safe!

Cookie Cutter Trucking

by Sandy Long 2008

Trucking has sure changed radically since I started otr over 26 years ago.  Back then a driver was told where to pick up a load, when to deliver it and was basically left alone to get the job done…and took pride in doing it too.

Nowadays, a driver is told where to pick up the load, when to deliver it, how many miles to do in a day, where to stop, where to fuel and how much to put in, when to sleep, when it is comfortable so he/she can sleep, how many hours they have to run in a day and how many miles to log according to computer averages, and questioned when they take a pit stop to pee because the satellite marked them as stopped for X amount of minutes.  Appointments too are set up according to computer formulas…never mind you have a castrated 65 mph truck, with 45k in the box and going over the mountains…”computer says it is only 18 hours driving time…so do it.  Appointments cannot be changed unless the truck breaks down and even then you might hear…no, YOU HAVE TO BE THERE!!!

MAXIMIZE YOUR HOURS!!!, is the new battle cry of companies instead of “if you get tired, take a nap”.  “We expect you to run 600+ miles a day no matter what…and do 150,000 miles a year!, but we are turning the trucks back to even slower speeds”

Satellites track us down to the foot, keep track of our speed, stops, and can send truck information for the asking…such as idle time, mpg, hours moving etc.  (wonder how long it will be before the dammed things drive the truck too???)

Dispatch uses the satellites for dispatching and supposedly answering questions…but they rarely reply unless it suits them.  Dispatchers now manage a driver’s log book and tell them how to log…the other day, I got hung up at a receivers for 6 hours and was going to miss my reload…dispatcher proceeded to tell me that I could show the 6 hours in the bunk and drive over my 14 legally…lol…said DUH, I FORGOT, when I pointed out that it took 8 to stop the clock.

Safety on the other hand, uses the satellite system to also keep track of the driver’s logs…and can fire someone or make them go to electronic logs if the paper logs don’t match down to the minute…of course dispatch says, don’t worry about the safety department…call us and we will finagle the system.  Safety plays ‘safety bingo’ with big prizes for the winners to make the drivers more safe…while dispatch pushes the driver past their limits.

Individual drivers are no longer celebrated for their abilities…held up to the computer model, we are now expected to be clones and all run the same miles in the same way, need the same hometime, never get sick or tired, never get held up in construction or traffic jams or shippers/receivers, and are supposed to be able to sleep anywhere, anytime we are told to.

Trucking has become cookie cutter trucking with all of us being like gingerbread men and women with only the outer decorations being different.  Where is the flipping pride in that???

The Fight is Not Over…EOBRs

By Sandy Long

The mandatory placement of EOBRs amendment remained in the Highway Bill and was passed and signed into law.  For those of you who do not understand what this means and why many of us are fighting it, here is why that is not such a good thing.  It is the word MANDATORY.  This  will make every truck owner have EOBRs in their trucks or not do business…no choice.  This mandate will put many single truck owner operators and small fleets out of business.

While the above statement has been spun to make people think that those single truck owners and small fleets do not want to install EOBRs because they want to run illegally, this is not the case at all.  It is mainly the cost.  EOBRs run roughly $2,000 a unit and then there is a monthly fee.  For the company I drive for, this will mean that they will pay $56,000 for the initial installation, then roughly $1,400 a month in service costs along with costs for maintenance, replacements and training.  This is for a company with good CSA numbers.

The other reason that people are against the mandatory EOBRs is that they are invasive and are an invasion of privacy being able to pinpoint where a drivers at any time.  This is tantamount to putting a tracking bracelet on them like they are a common criminal on house arrest or putting a tracking device on them.  Tracking devices cannot even be put on a criminal’s vehicle without a court order.

This was proven in Federal Court, from OOIDA: “A regulatory version of an EOBR mandate was struck down by a federal Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit because the FMCSA failed to deal with the harassment of drivers. Noted in that ruling was the fact that no research has shown how such a mandate would do anything to improve highway safety.”

That all being said, the fight is not over.  The highway bill is only as good as the money set aside to make it work; this is done thru the appropriations bill.  From TruckingInfo.com: “The amendment to the annual transportation funding appropriations bill is sponsored by U.S. Representatives Jeff Landry, R-LA and Nick Rahall, D-WV, and co-sponsored by Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-WA, Tom Graves, R-GA and Bill Huizenga, R-MI. It would strip funding from the electronic on-board recorder mandate included the conferenced highway bill negotiated last this week.  The amendment would “prohibit the use of funds to be used to promulgate or implement any regulations that would mandate global positioning system (GPS) tracking, electronic on-board recording devices, or event data recorders in passenger or commercial motor vehicles.”

There is some rumor going around social media places that intimate that private concerns can fund the regulatory process of making EOBRs mandatory even with this Landry/Rahall amendment passing.  I did some research on my own and could find nothing that would allow private funding definitively.

I called OOIDA headquarters and spoke to Rod Nofziger, Director of Government Affairs for OOIDA.  Mr. Nofziger said that with the wording in the Landry/Rahall amendment that NO taxpayer money could be used to fund the making of the regulation for mandatory EOBRs, there was no way that anyone could fund the mandate.  The very personnel needed are paid by taxpayer money, the studies needed would have to be funded thru the FMCSA/DOT and those entities are funded by taxpayer money, and finally, even publishing the rule in the public register would cost taxpayer money.  Therefore, the Landry/Rahall amendment would effectively stop the mandatory EOBR regulation at least thru 2013.  The rumor was false.

This means that we all need to contact our senators and demand that they vote yes on the Landry/Rahall amendment; the amendment has passed in the House of Representatives.  We need to tell our senators that making mandatory the use of EOBRs will take away a company’s right to choose how to do business and even the FMCSA admits to no return on investment for small carriers and owner operators.  This will not only put companies out of business, but people out of work.

You can find your senator here: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm or call (202) 224-3121, give them your zip code and they can connect you to the proper representative.