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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