Unintended Consequences

Usually, when anything changes supposedly for the better, there are unintended consequences that show up, often times unexpectedly.  For instance, the US allows people to immigrate here from all over both legally and illegally.  Everyone knew that this would affect jobs for Americans, nobody thought about the return of and increase in communicable diseases like polio, TB and small pox, unintended consequence.  At least hopefully, this was unintended to be sure.

Some truckers, companies and safety groups griped about the hours of service that had worked for decades.  Therefore, the FMCSA got in on it, and after much argument, came up with a new set in 2004.  While most of the dire predictions of the new hours of service regulations did not happen, one did that few talk about.  The 34-hour restart segment of the new regulation allowed companies to start monitoring the amount of hometime a driver took; many companies started only allowing the driver to be home for that 34-hour period, unintended consequence.

The other unintended consequence from the new hours of service was a lack of parking.  Prior to the new regulations, a driver could split up his break time thereby utilizing available parking in a better fashion.  Since trucker’s days usually start in the mornings when warehouses and businesses open, usually between 4-7 am, it put truckers into the truck stops between 6-9 pm, a 14-hour day demanded by the new regulations.  This intensified the lack of parking issue found especially near large cities and both coastal areas; unintended consequences again.

Once again, the trucking industry is on the threshold of new hours of service regulations.  While most of the changes are minimal, there are a couple that will have unintended consequences, or maybe not so unintended.  The first is the restart provision that is changing to include two 1 am to 5 am periods.  Many are talking about how this will put more traffic into early morning rush hours, and it will, no matter how much the FMCSA thinks it will not.  What few have noticed is that with the 14-hour clock starting at 5 am on Monday, and will continue for those restarting drivers for a few days, parking at 7 pm is going to be nonexistent, not just hard to find, but nonexistent.

Another factor in the new restart demands will be that truckers, instead of taking the 34-hour restart, will start working their available hours like in the old days.  This will not increase safety; it will make drivers more mentally, if not physically, fatigued.  Is this an unintended consequence, probably not unintended.  If drivers  become more fatigued, where accident rates go up, the FMCSA will have no recourse but to further regulate drivers which seems to be their sole purpose.

Second is the 30-minute break that will have to be taken in 8 hours or whatever it is.  This is in response to the many drivers who told the FMCSA that they needed some flexibility in the working day to have lunch, take a shower or a nap, or wait for rush hour to cease.  Either the FMCSA did not listen very well or none of those drivers explained themselves well enough.  The mandatory 8-hour break is for 30 minutes and does not stop the clock.  This effectively cuts a driver’s workday to 13 ½ hours a day.  Is this an unintended consequence, again, most likely not unintended.  The safety advocacy groups have been pushing for a shorter workday for truckers, with this it is the first step.

Training regulations are next up with the FMCSA having listening sessions and asking for comments.  While training regulations have long needed strengthened, the unintended consequences may end up being a multitude.  Without the FMCSA changing what the schools do and the companies do together at the same time, it is very possible that the companies will shorten training time if the schools lengthen theirs.  A balanced approach is needed addressing both schools and companies in their training policies.

Another perceived unintended consequence with training regulations may be a loss, if one can call it that, of training schools that run on a small shoestring.  Already, some trucking school associations are citing greater expense in becoming accredited and/or certified.  If there are greater costs involved, then the student will have to absorb it paying more for tuition.  This may cause the unintended consequence of fewer people being able to fund truck driver school.  With this causing fewer drivers to enter the industry, the so-called driver shortage may increase allowing more foreign workers brought in to fill the seats.

Driver retention is a huge issue in the trucking industry with driver turnover running around 100%.  If a person learns more about the industry during truck driving school, will they stay with a company that is not on the up and up, most likely not for long.  This unintended consequence is no secret and is one of the reasons so many trucking schools do not teach more than how to pass the CDL tests.  The companies do not want the students to know too much so they can be indoctrinated into the company line, so the companies direct or influence the schools into not going beyond the basics.  Unintended or not, this consequence needs to occur so that the companies start treating their drivers in a better, more humane manner.

Be careful what you ask for is talking about the unintended consequences involved in changes a person wishes or works for.  There are always ramifications for someone in anything, some good, some bad, especially with the FMCSA involved.

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Shame on You Driver!

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Odessa MO truck parking area

99% of the time, I do not go along with all the finger pointing done towards truck drivers; not for most accidents, being fatigued from not sleeping, or most of anything else one can think of.  However, in one area, I lay the blame directly on truckers; that is for damaging and trashing where we park.  I am not talking about along the traveled part of the highways for the most part, but the truck stop parking lots, rest area truck parking areas, on ramps and other areas commonly used by truckers for parking.

Recently, Werner Robbins Georgia banned trucks from parking over two hours on city lots, truckers stood up in force and the mayor and city council rethought their initial decision and rescinded the ban.  However, when the story first broke about the ban, a city council member from Werner Robbins cited that trash left behind by truckers was one of the reasons for the ban.  I can believe that.

Brookfield Missouri’s Walmart allowed overnight parking for truckers for years.  This was a good thing because there are no major truck parking areas from Cameron to Hannibal Missouri along Hwy 36, a matter of roughly 150 miles.  The parking problem is so bad along this stretch that when on and off ramps were built at a couple of exits about midway along; they were built with shoulders wide enough for a semi to fit nicely to park.  Within the last 6 months or so, Brookfield’s Walmart has put up signs saying ‘no overnight truck parking’.  Why; because someone knocked down a light pole with their truck and then took off.

It does not stop there, towns and cities all over the country are putting truck bans in place, we see the stories time after time.  Can you blame them?  I have seen the residual left from trucks, both trash and damage done to asphalt and light poles.  The damage done is sheer inconsiderate behavior or stupidity, someone not knowing not to turn too sharp in warm weather that causes a plowing effect on the asphalt, or how to turn wide enough to get around a pole.  The trash is just shear laziness or not caring.

Truck Parking AreaMO I-35 SB

Truck Parking Area
MO I-35 SB

The trash problem is not limited to public places either; it has traveled to terminals and drop yards.  The company I work for has instituted a $100 fine for anyone seen throwing trash on the ground at either our office/car/bobtail parking lot or our drop yard.  Both places have dumpsters provided by the company yet, our office staff had to go out and pick up 12 pee bottles from one place in the office lot, it was obvious that it was one driver who left them there.  At our drop yard, the poo bags got so bad that the trailer mechanic was starting to get worried about getting under a trailer.  While there are no facilities at our drop yard, the Quik Trip with truck parking is ¼ mile from the lot and again, there is a dumpster at the lot itself.

Being a 40+-year trucker/traveler I understand very well that sometimes Mother Nature calls and there is no place to stop and go, or one does not have time to find someplace.  Anyone who has driven any time at all should know this too and figure out a way to take care of it in the truck when necessary.  They also should know how to deal with the bottles or bags too without throwing them out the window.  Triple bag the poo bags if you have to use that way, put a spritz of Lysol or window cleaner in it and tie each bag up tight, this will keep the smell down until one can find a trash dumpster.  Bottles should be thrown away in the dumpster or trash can too…yes, I can hear you now, both might be distasteful to do, but it is better to have these things contained in a trash reciprocal rather than laying in the ditch.

Trash is easily gotten rid of, every truck stop/fuel stop/rest area has trash cans somewhere close by if not actual dumpsters.  Trash includes sweeping your trailer out onto the ground or throwing blown tires or pallets in the ditch or back of the lot.  Recently, I got nails in two tires due to someone sweeping their trailer out onto the staging area at a warehouse.  While trash is easily gotten rid of, the blown tires cost money for the tire shop to take away, I understand that, yet, one can pile them neatly by a dumpster; same with pallets.  The other scrap, dust, nails and dirt from the trailer should be put into bags or a can then put in the dumpster or trash can.

Kingdom City MOPetro

Kingdom City MO
Petro

There is no call for the trashing of where we have to work and/or park.  Not only does it create issues with our being allowed to park, but it also hurts our image.  So what, you might ask, why should you worry about what John Q Public thinks of you?  Who do you think is pushing for stronger regulations against us?  Who do you think is pushing these truck parking bans?  Who do you think makes up those safety advocate groups?  John Q Public is who.  If you have not figured that out yet, then shame on you driver for not only throwing your trash out on the side of the road and in truck parking lots, but also not paying attention to the industry.  I for one am tired of looking at your trash, so is John Q Public.