Training Regulations…Safety or Something Else

By Sandy Long
Back in the 1990’s Congress instructed the Department of Transportation to come up with training regulations for new entry-level truck drivers. The FMCSA, a division of the DOT looked into it and decided that the CDL process was adequate and no further training regulations were needed. Since then, advocacy groups, trucking organizations and others have pushed for the FMCSA to set standard training regulations to no avail. The FMCSA keeps whispering about this issue and even has done a few ‘listening sessions’ but there has been no real movement.

Since most of the focus for the new regulation is safety, many drivers who came into the business twenty or thirty years ago do not see the need. These drivers came into trucking during a time when there was less traffic, lighter freight and fewer regulations. Furthermore, the demographics of where drivers came from back then are different than today. Back then most drivers came from agriculture, the military or trucking families, they had some sort of background in heavy equipment usage; it was easier for them to just be ‘thrown the keys’ and told to go drive that truck with little or no training.

Of course mentioning safety sells so this is why safety is focused on as the need for strong training regulations. Most of the groups calling for training regulations cite safety as the main reason for the need of the new regulation. While to a degree they are right, there are other reasons more viable and sensible.
Trucking schools are expensive to go to, $3-10,000 for the course, only 2-4 weeks usually. Fraud abounds in the schools with many just in it for the money. Of course, one does not have to go to school to get a CDL, but to get hired by most companies, some sort of school is required. To fill this need, there are even some so-called schools that guarantee a CDL in 24 hours; one is basically renting a truck. In any trucking school situation, the dropout rate is approximately 50%. Even if the student drops out, the tuition is owed and will have to be paid by the student or company who prehired them, usually the student though.

Once the student goes out with a trainer for 2-8 weeks, the dropout rate is again approximately 50% due to lack of knowledge of the actual job of truck driving, poor trainers and not being able to adapt to the trucking lifestyle. If a student gets through the training time, again approximately 50% will quit trucking in the first year. Most of the new drivers are not taught regulations beyond what is required in the written tests for the CDL, little about safety either highway or personal and nothing at all about how to adapt to the lifestyle. Furthermore, the new driver knows nothing about the business side of trucking, how to communicate with the public and support staff and little if nothing beyond the pretrip about the mechanics of their equipment. Basically they are thrown the keys and told to go drive the truck with just a little training at a high cost.

Stronger training regulations that equalize and standardize the training process for both schools and companies would assist the new driver in making the decision to become a driver from the onset easier and give them the structure to remain instead of dropping out throughout the first year and school. Stronger training regulations would also push out the unscrupulous schools that are just out to make a dollar. New drivers would have a better chance of being successful in their new profession and would make more productive drivers. Stronger training regulations would also hopefully set standards for trainers to have experience instead of the habit of having an inexperienced driver training a student, the baby teaching the baby so to speak.

With the current situation of not many looking to the trucking industry to enter as a career, stronger training regulations would start to make the trucking industry look like it does want professionals who are well trained instead of meat in the seat. Driver retention would be easier as new drivers would know how to cope with the job instead of just quitting so quickly or job jumping.

Finally, yes, with stronger training regulations things might be safer, though in my opinion that is not the main focus. With properly trained drivers, fewer breakdowns might occur, fewer mistakes in judgment might occur and a few less accidents might occur. However, no matter how well trained a driver is, stuff happens in the some cases, but at least with proper training, the new driver stands a chance to avoid bad situations thru training, not just luck.

An Industry in Chaos

By Sandy Long
At one time, it was a proud thing to be a trucker, no more though. Due to adverse media attention, (sensationalism sells), companies not supporting their drivers and hiring just anyone, and the drivers losing perspective and going into defensive/aggressive modes, trucking has gone down into chaos.  It is common to see headlines or news blurbs saying a ‘truck’ caused a wreck. If you care to listen, it is often a pickup truck. If you hear of a large crash, it is common to hear of a semi truck being involved, even if it did not cause the crash itself, yet the semi truck being involved is highlighted.

Of course, there are times when a truck did cause a crash, about 21% of the time according to national statistics. This means that 79% of the time, the trucker was not at fault other than being in the wrong place with the wrong folk around him. However, according to most media outside of the industry, they blame the trucker. How does this affect trucking?
People outside of the industry have great influence in our government to start with. They are the ones who, out of fear of trucks, push their legislators to pass more laws and regulations on truckers so they feel safer. With overwhelming media sensationalism, the natural fear of interacting with something so much larger in close quarters is intensified; the result being more restrictive regulations concerning trucks and their drivers.

Truckers are people too, and bring their biases with them if they enter the trucking industry. With the overwhelming attention and comments on how unsafe trucks and truckers are, it is not uncommon for a new driver to believe the sensationalism. The driver will not stand up for themselves against abuse or pending regulations if safety is mentioned. If the new person goes into a trucking office in any capacity, they do not respect truckers due to the perceived carelessness of them and will be difficult to deal with or put in too restrictive of policies.

Companies talk about driver shortage and driver retention in almost every trade magazine and social media group. Company officials wring their hands about how to either attract new drivers or how to keep the ones they have. Yet look at how a driver is treated by the companies they work for. They cannot get home on a regular basis for any true length of time, entry level drivers have to survive on substandard wages until they prove themselves (hard to do when they do not have the skills yet to be really productive), and drivers are not given the tools to meet regulations and are expected to deal with them. A good example of the latter is not being allowed to idle their trucks for comfort and safety, yet the company does not provide APU units.

Companies live in fear of not keeping their equipment running or not meeting freight contracts due to not being able to keep drivers. They tend to think that a hot dog or hamburger, a ball cap and an ink pen once a year shows their appreciation and respect. By treating the driver as a respected professional and allowing the driver to do their job, they would stand a much better chance of retaining and attracting drivers. Average pay for a trucker is just $40k a year, this for being away from home for weeks at a time, living in an 8×8 box and risking their lives every minute of every day. Companies should raise pay commiserate with experience and make hometime a priority. They should also provide a supportive, respectful office staff for the drivers though teaching respect is hard, it can be done.

How is the above creating chaos; it is within the drivers themselves. Truckers have felt for decades that they have little or no voice with their companies or the government. Therefore, drivers become nomads and instead of working through company issues, cut and go to another company. Let any sort of new regulation be proposed and it soon is blown up tremendously; yet truckers only look at how something will affect them, not other drivers and they do bring in their own biases as mentioned above.

Truckers have lost pride in their job or just look at it as a job, gone is the pride and independence that used to be a feature of being a trucker. Truckers used to be neatly dressed, looked at as the white knights and ladies of the road, and conducted themselves while driving as the professionals they were. In today’s world, we have drivers who could give a flip how they look and companies who no longer require dress codes. One rarely sees a line of trucks on the shoulder to assist another driver, or in a truck stop checking with someone in trouble if they need help. It is common to see truckers tailgating, acting aggressively, being vulgar in public view and having a not caring attitude. Courtesy, as it was once known, is gone for the most part. With the new social media, truckers who have developed a bad and/or cynical attitude towards everything from new truckers to the companies, have turned their angst and anger into public entertainment.

Why should a trucker be proud of their profession, they are monitored to the max down to cameras aimed at them while driving, they are overwhelmingly regulated and under paid. While companies say they want to keep drivers, they treat drivers as ‘meat in the seat’ and as if they are a ‘dime a dozen’. Law enforcement is no longer on the driver’s side and neither is the government. People are handed the keys to a truck they are little trained to drive in the intense traffic and regulation of today.

Chaos, yes, the definition of chaos is a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order. Instead of the respect for truckers and the industry, the acknowledgement of the importance to every citizen of the country of truckers and the industry; trucking and truckers are vilified and criminalized from almost every direction outside of the industry. No one knows which way to jump anymore, or how to be professional outside of their own biases and perceptions due to lack of caring by most and too swiftly changing regulations.

Slow down on the changing of regulations, give companies time to think things out and drivers to learn how to adapt to changes and work with the media to stop the sensationalism and the hate mongering. In a short time, the chaos will subside to tolerable levels and once again perhaps trucking and truckers will not be going down into chaos and be respected once again.

Drivers Get Defensive

By Sandy Long

Recently the question was asked, “Why do drivers get so defensive?”  The thread where this was asked was about how some in social networking pages and forums get hot under the collar so quickly during discussions.  This question struck me as funny in a way because the asker should know the answer.  So, I decided to answer the question publically.

Truck drivers are most likely some of the most opinionated, strong willed people in the world.  We put our lives on the line daily by the minute and just in that, we cannot be anything other than strong both physically and mentally.  We are isolated in our jobs for the most part and many of us, over time, lose some of the social niceties required in polite society.

Our lifestyle and our financial living hang on the mood of the officer stopping us, the actions of those around us and our companies who are running scared in the increasing regulatory world of trucking.  Companies have not lost the idea that drivers are a dime a dozen while talking about driver retention and driver shortage yet not getting us home for regular hometime, setting up road blocks to our receiving fuel and safety bonuses and getting enough miles to survive.  On the other hand, companies expect for us to deliver just in time freight while under the microscope of e-logs or screaming about ‘running legal’ after sitting for 6 hours at a shippers pulling the rabbit out of the proverbial hat to make sure ‘contractual agreements’ are met.

Because of the lack of good training regulations, companies have jumped on the bandwagon of the training companies, read the mega companies, and taken everything down to the lowest common denominator no matter what the driver’s experience level is; they treat even safe, experienced drivers as if they are the newest student drivers who need to be micromanaged.  Satellite tracking, electronic logs, micromanagement of time and maximization of hours all combine to a driver having to account for every minute of their workday down to explaining why they stopped for four minutes to urinate.

Truck drivers have become so hated by the general public through sensationalistic reporting by the media and misstating of statistics by the government that the trucker while in a truck stop has to hear people saying things like a friend related.  She was in the restroom and heard a mother say to her child, “Now you make sure you don’t touch anything, those nasty truck drivers use this bathroom.”

I have been waiting in line at truck stops and hear non-trucking people complain about us truckers being there in the first place, at a Pilot a lady said, “I do not know why you allow those dangerous truckers in here!”  At a Flying J a man said, “I wish these ‘effin’ truckers would go someplace else!”  My favorite from a fuel desk manager at the J in Des Moines, “I would rather deal with 100 tour buses than you truckers any time, this is a travel plaza not a truck stop!”  Gives you a warm fuzzy feeling doesn’t it.

Even though we do a public service for our country by delivering goods needed by all, our own country is out to get us through overwhelming regulations even though statistics show that we are the safest drivers on the road.  Part of the reason for this is the impact of special interest groups who have the sympathetic stand of losing someone in an accident with a truck no matter who was at fault.  Part of the reason for this is the need for more money to flow into municipal, state and federal coffers and the rest is to improve big business’s bottom line.

Through increasing regulation, the government appears to expect us to be robots who do not need any contact with anyone while driving, do not need to eat or drink, use the bathroom, or do anything other than sit in the seat, look straight ahead yet have total control over the actions of every other vehicle around us.  God forbid someone else screws up and causes an accident anywhere in our vicinity, we will be blamed for it, chased down and ticketed, then sued by the people at fault who will win.  We are not humans any longer, but just meat in the seat.

Compare prices of food in a truck stop against food in other comparable restaurants.  Truck stops will charge more for a fast food burger than non-trucking stores.  You notice I do not use a different type of food, no, truck stop chains have figured out that they can make more money renting space than having restaurants themselves so we can get a sit down meal.  Yet we are blamed for being fat and lazy because we gain weight as truckers due to the prevalence of fast food and pre-packaged meals.  That brings up another factor…our health.

Trucking is hard on the body being the ninth most dangerous job in the country.  Occupational hazards include stress related issues such as heart problems, digestive problems, hypertension, diabetes and mental health issues.  Then there are the structural issues such as hearing and vision problems, bad backs, arthritis and limps caused by hours of using the same leg to push in the fuel pedal.  Let’s not forget those injuries received from falls, kidney problems and skin infections from both sun exposure and sitting on vinyl for too long.  All of these issues happen to truckers after awhile, now there are plans afoot to take away our livelihood if we have these types of issues.

So, why do truck drivers get defensive so easily?  It might be because we are under attack from all sides, by people with special agendas, even by our companies, which are only to our detriment.  It might be because we are totally off balance due to our jobs, the ways we are treated and the economy.  It might be because by the time we have time to get online to try to relax, we get fed up quickly with finding the same sort of attitudes against us even there, where we are in control and can express ourselves freely.  It is a safety valve of sorts in some ways and in other ways, the only way we can feel we can fight back.

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.

What is Going On?

The killing of 27 people is the latest in a long list of atrocities that people are doing against others.  We are hearing that it is because of taking God out of public usage or that it that guns are readily available; but is that really the causes?  I do not think so; the problem goes deeper and is more complex.

Our society has gotten more violent over the last decades.  This shows not only in the movies and TV programs we see now to how our government resorts to violence to solve political disputes overseas.  When I was a kid, you did not see cartoons where people were killing people or hurting them, you saw animals doing it, ie: wiley coyote, mighty mouse, heckle and jeckle.  Yes, Batman and other super heroes were around, but their foes were clearly bad guys. Our heroes back then were the guys who wore white hats; Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and others.  Today, our heroes are drug taking, dog beating athletes or music recorders who promote violence, not to drink milk.

Gang activity was left to the mafia for the most part when I was young, though there were some ethnic gangs in the big cities.  You never heard of gangs in small towns like in today’s world.

Our government has gone from diplomacy to buying friends and sending in bombs if another country disagrees with us too strongly.  While we used to be known as a good country willing to help others, now we are the international bully.

Kids in my generation might have guns at home to hunt with and had imitation guns to play cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers.  We were taught not to point a real gun at anyone.  Nowdays, though those toys are still available, many parents do not want their kids to have them, so kids are not learning about gun safety at home.

Our society has become such that the nuclear family is no more for the most part.  Spouses are disposable and having kids has become a way to obtain unconditional love for our teenagers.  Single parents, stretched to breaking points due to the high cost of living, no longer have time to teach kids the basics of societal living.  Furthermore, our society has become so dangerous that kids are not allowed to play outside, who is there to monitor them, mom and dad are working to try to afford houses and cars that they really do not need or can pay for.

Civility has gone out the window in today’s society.  If you do not agree with someone, you are stupid, ignorant, a liberal, radical, or just a jerk.  Flaming abounds on social networking sites as does pornographic photos and sayings where women are disrespected openly.  Even our politicians are not to be looked up too with safety; they are having affairs, taking bribes or promoting violence as a way to solve problems.  Strangely, people have become depersonalized to other people; they are an avatar on a website or just a line of text.

People with mental illnesses are given silver bullet pills and sent on their way do to budget cuts for mental health care.  People are not held to any sort of responsibility for their actions; oh poor Johnny, he had ADD so cannot control himself, give him a pill not give him a swat and make him mind.  When Johnny grows up, he is an out of control adult with some real mental health issues; no one cares until he picks up a gun and kills people.

Is it because God is not in the public any more or less than before?  Where are the parents and preachers who should be teaching kids at home and church the lessons about societal living found in the Bible or other religious works.  Are the preachers teaching love thy neighbor or kill those who do not believe the way they do.  Are parents so busy keeping up with the latest trends in goods that they cannot teach their kids to behave without calling in The Nanny then televising it as a reality show?

Finally, guns do not kill people people kill people.  Remove guns and other ways will be found to do carnage unless the underlying problem is solved.  The same day as the shootings in CT, in China, someone took a knife and stabbed 22 kids and one adult, no one died.  Pundits covering the CT shooting used this as a good thing to happen, because a gun was not used so, according to them, no one died; they could have.  Mcvey took down the Murry building in Oklahoma with fertilizer and diesel fuel, the 9/11 terrorists used planes and box cutters, the fire in Bengazi was started with a molitov cocktail it is thought.

If people want to kill other people, they will find a way.  What we need to do is correct the underlying problems to stop this type of thing from happening.  We need to start taking responsibility for our own actions and teach the youngsters we come in contact with to do the same.  We need to look at our kids and our family and friends objectively and watch for signs of possibility to do violence then intervene.  Furthermore, we need to force our government to start using diplomacy instead of bombs to correct political issues saving the bombs only to protect our own borders.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost children to violence…and to those poor souls who are so tormented that they take those precious lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Over 100% Turnover Rates Once Again

By Sandy Long

Recent reports say that driver turnover that was as low as 86% is now at 106% for companies with $30 million dollar revenues or more, the biggest turnover rate in four years.  Imagine that!  This means that drivers at those companies are changing companies every 343 days according to the ATA.  They act surprised by this.

With freight picking up slightly, attrition due to retirement, CSA and other regulations running drivers out of the industry, there is now a true driver shortage.  Of course there is.  What makes a driver though go from one company to another so often though?  Treatment for starters; while companies are picking and choosing so called quality drivers, they still treat those drivers like meat in the seat…a part of the equipment.  They take a 25-year driver with a safe record and then try to micromanage them like a new student.  Run this route, fuel here and only put this amount of fuel in, do not run in any other lane than the right one, stop here, sleep now, do not talk to us, you do not know anything…you get the picture.  This is not new, just happening in greater numbers to drivers as companies try to get their CSA scores in line fearing litigation, harassment by the FMCSA and loss of customers.

The companies seem to think that it is all about money and are starting to throw cash around like they have printing presses in their offices.  Cents per mile rates are rising, but the real kicker is the sign on bonuses.  One small company had a sign in front of their terminal offering $6,000 for owner operators to come sign on there.  A company advertised on the radio that they were offering a $10,000 sign on bonus to teams.  A company in Iowa pays $5,000 for solo drivers to hire on.  This is not limited to the trucking companies either.  A major used truck dealer is offering huge matching down payment bonuses to anyone with good credit to come buy their trucks.

In this economy, is it any wonder that drivers are leaving one company to follow the money to another?  A $6,000 sign on bonus would make a huge difference to an owner operator, as would a $5,000 bonus to a solo driver.  Contrary to common belief, truckers are not stupid; they are going to go where the easy money is and what is easier than a sign on bonus?

To find good drivers and keep them, companies are going to have to change the way they treat the drivers first and foremost.  Then they are going to have to step up recruiting efforts to bring new drivers into the industry, this will be hard to do with the bad rep truckers and trucking has.  In addition, as more experienced drivers leave both the companies and the industry, training has to be overhauled so entry level drivers have more knowledge starting out than just passing the CDL tests to compensate for the lack of experience found in the trainers.  Throwing money at the problem of driver shortage is just intensifying the problem not solving it.

 

 

 

 

Accumulative Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

By Sandy Long

Coming across I-72 westbound yesterday morning, I saw emergency vehicles on the eastbound side ahead.  When I got up next to them, there in the middle of the lanes was a sheet-covered body.   It was not a good way to start the day to see this in the dawn’s early light.

PTSD used to be called combat fatigue and came to be understood most in soldiers returning home during WWII and then Korea.  It is the residual from traumatic incidents or occurrences that one suffers such as battle, abuse, abject fear  or accidents where one feels out of control.  The easiest explained example of PTSD symptoms is someone being gun shy; one jumps or over reacts adversely to a loud noise after say, being shot at another time.  Physical symptoms are increased heartbeat, anxiety, nausea, sweats, flashbacks to what caused the PTSD in the first place, nightmares, high stress levels and depression.

PTSD may be caused by accumulative incidences; this is what affects truck drivers the most.  Added to the constant stress caused by traffic and tight schedules, seeing horrendous accidents or assisting as first on the scene to accidents or seeing the sheet covered bodies can cause accumulative PTSD.  Because of the isolation of the job, the trucker may not be able to talk about whatever it was they witnessed to work thru the emotions.   If truckers have been in a serious accident themselves, PTSD may kick in if they see a similar accident.

People can show some strange behaviors that are caused by PTSD.  My late brother would tell me of seeing a horrendous wreck with dead bodies and then laugh.  He had PTSD for years after serving three tours in Viet Nam and being a trucker added to it.  Laughing after relating something terrible he had seen was his way of coping, it was a release for him, but if you did not know him, you would think him callous or hard hearted…he was not.  If he heard a helicopter too closely or a jet would go over too low, he would hit the dirt or go into defensive mode, classic examples of PTSD.

I was in a major wreck in 2000 where I was pinned in the sleeper for a couple of hours in the dark.  I still to this day do not know exactly what my position was when I pulled myself up, I could look down at my ex pinned behind the steering wheel.  When I am tired or stressed, if I think about that, my mind goes into a loop reliving that wreck…and I get scared all over again.

Some PTSD is normal after an incident where you are scared or feel out of control and normal PTSD will ease with a little time.  However, PTSD that stays around or shows up years after the event can be hard to deal with; but it can be dealt with.

Treating PTSD takes dealing with the emotions that you did not feel at the time, this might take seeing a professional.  Talk therapy is the most common form of treatment for PTSD, using anger management, depression strategies and coping techniques.  For truckers, the need to talk about what they see during the day that affects them adversely is very important, for instance, my writing about seeing the sheet covered body is a way for me to deal with seeing it so it does not build up in my mind and turn into PTSD.

PTSD is a very treatable mental illness and nothing to be ashamed of.  If you think that you might be suffering from it by having continued nightmares, anxiety, depression or stress when you see or remember bad things, then by all means do not hesitate to see someone to get some help with this disorder.  As with any mental illness, there is no shame in having it, only shame, in this day and age, if you do not get help with it.

 

 

 

 

Backfire

By Sandy Long

An old proverb reads, ‘you reap what you sow’; too bad some companies and the government did not read proverbs 30 years ago before they started the systematic destruction of the American truck driver’s image.  What they sowed is sure coming back to bite them in the backside.

Article after article tells of a serious driver shortage in the trucking industry.  Even the general media got into the act with stories about thousands of trucking jobs going unfilled because Americans no longer want to enter trucking to drive truck.  There are studies being done saying that young people do not want to drive cars much less become truck drivers though anyone who looks at the traffic on the roads would have to question that supposition.  Companies are running around wringing their hands wondering how they are going to meet their contractual agreements if they cannot hire drivers.  There is already some talk about future shortages if drivers are not found to keep things moving.  Well, just what did they expect?

Truck drivers are made out to be the most ignorant, dirtiest, nastiest, foul-mouthed people in the country and unsafe to boot.  In addition, truck drivers are said to be pedophiles, serial killers, rapists, predators, thugs, whoremongers, thieves, and every other evil negative thing one can imagine.  These labels are advertised by lawyers, public safety groups, and the government and yes, even an association that supposedly supports the trucking industry and its companies.

The above must be true due to the government passing regulation after regulation spinning statistics and studies to support the above claims of a truck drivers terrible behavior; at least one has to infer that from the newspaper articles and such stating the government’s position that  truckers are the cause of so many deaths a year.  If the government says so, it must be true.

The general public has fallen for the rhetoric about truckers being such bad people.  Mothers guide their kids away from being near drivers in truck stops and it is not unusual to hear them tell their kids not to touch anything because ‘those nasty truck drivers come in here.’  Truck drivers get more single finger salutes now than a kid pumping their arm to hear the air horn toot.  A new warehouse wants to come to town; the citizens come out to state they do not want all of the truckers in town; and reporter after reporter are amazed that people do not want to become truck drivers?

Those citizens are raising the next workforce, it would not compute for them to encourage their kids to become truck drivers.  Today’s kids want a good paying job, where they can have a life and have some pride in their job choice; not to be looked down on from the government to the companies they work for.  Kids from trucking families might know differently, but not kids in general; they read the papers and listen to the news too.

Truckers have watched this occur for decades and while it hurts because truck drivers are basically good human beings; some have turned to humor to deal with the negative connotations that go with the job.  Several years ago, a bumper sticker was seen on trucks that said, ‘if you meet my parents, tell them I am a piano player in a whorehouse, not a trucker.’  Bet everyone thought they were joking.

Between the disrespect, the overwhelming unfair regulations and attrition, experienced truck drivers are leaving the industry in droves.  One has to laugh a little when the companies scratch their heads and cannot seem to understand why their trucks are sitting empty…uh duh, what just exactly did you expect?  You can only beat a dog until it dies and you can only demonize a workforce for so long before no one wants to be in that workforce.  Another old proverb the companies and the government should have heeded, ‘be careful what you wish for, it can backfire and bite you in the arse.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Looking Back at a Bad Couple of Weeks…and the lessons learned

By Sandy Long (written in 2010)

The last couple of weeks have been strange to say the least…too much stuff going on…this happens with truckers though; bad things happen at home and we are hundreds of miles away scrambling trying to take care of whatever it is on the phone.

When you end up with several bad things going on at the same time or within the same couple of weeks; you end up feeling like you are juggling swords while doing that Russian dance….something ends up giving and you can become distracted; then all the swords fall and you end up on your arse.

I am going to share with you what has been going on this summer in my life…not for sympathy, but to show you newbees and wannabees the really hard part of trucking…juggling home and the road, and how a trucker can end up messin’ up.

I am single and live in a small truck friendly town.  My house that I am buying has another little house on the property…sounds fancy, it is not.  My 87 year old mom lives in the little house and I assist her when she needs it.  She is still fairly active and can take care of most of her business, but is starting to get a little fuzzy in her thoughts…not remembering everything precisely.

Last year, I bought the adjoining lot next to mine.  There is an old house on it and a garage.  This spring, my mom started yelling at kids cutting the corner across that property.  In April or May someone started stealing little stuff from my place; a wind chime, a milk crate, a rose trellis and other little stuff.  About 6 weeks ago, someone vandalized the garage…broke in and spray painted everything in it.  This week, someone took off the top to the old oil tank fill pipe on my house…tank is empty in basement, but still.  I am scared for my house now while I am on the road.

Some of you might know that mom was in a wreck and her car was totaled…not her fault, woman ran a stop sign and hit her.  So I have been dealing with insurance agents and adjustors.

Now add in that my car broke down, my computer died, we are running hard right now…3000-3500 miles in 5 days, my dog has been sick, and I have workmen in tearing down the old house on the property I bought…along with the normal things that we all deal with and to say that I am a little distracted is an understatement.  It is starting to show too, my head is not in the game of trucking right now.

Last week, I overslept and missed a pick up appointment by 30 minutes…it was ok, I still got loaded, but being late for a pick up or delivery unless for weather or break down is such a bad thing in my mind and such a rare occurrence for me, that I am still beating myself up for it…my boss wasn’t even mad, but surprised that it happened, it just isn’t like me to do that.

Sunday, I got talking on the phone to my brother’s widow who started talking a lot about him…got me distracted as I was leaving the truck stop after making a quick pit stop and I went west instead of east on the interstate…been in that truck stop a million times too.

Monday, I got lost twice by missing highways I wanted to turn on…now this happens to everyone, but usually not twice in the same day.

The last two weeks, I have been preplanning my trips badly making some bad fueling, for logbook purposes, decisions and stopping too soon to break out making me have to run to make a delivery instead of being there waiting…this causes log book problems as it eats up hours for the day.

This all culminated Thursday night when I was fueling while a relay driver waited on me to change out loads.  I was tired, rushed and stressed from trying to explain all the information from the insurance people to mom all day and from having to speak to the local police here at home about what has been going on here.  The nozzle on the driver side clicked off.  I went to the passenger side and lifted the nozzle a little bit to see if it was stopped yet…sometimes the lift thingy doesn’t click down when the fuel hits the nozzle in the tank.

The nozzle somehow twisted under the strap that I have there to hold it in the tank securely and I got hit in the face with a huge blast of diesel fuel.  Luckily, I wear glasses so it missed my eyes, but the rest of my face and hair got it.

Of course, the first thing I did was to look around to see if anyone had seen what had happened, you don’t want anyone to notice when you do dumb crap ya know.  Wiped off my face best I could and finished fueling, got my receipt and tried with baby wipes to clean myself off; changed trailers with the other driver then got a shower.

I took 10 minutes and looked at why this stupid thing had happened…it was because I was distracted by other things than normal; I had too many swords in the air and they were coming tumbling down causing me to not pay enough attention to any one thing, especially my job….I was distracted.

The little talk I had with myself resulted in yesterday calling some friends to ask for ideas on how to deal with the messing with my house problem…one of them came up with the perfect solution and I will be implementing that in the next couple of weeks.  Mom got her money from the insurance company yesterday for her car and now only has to deal with that woman’s insurance company for doctor’s check ups…so that is pretty much taken care of.  I also called my younger brothers and asked them to step in to help me work with mom, they do not live here, but they can help by talking to her on the phone.

I do not have much planned for today and will take a nap later on…I went to bed early last night for me at least and didn’t set the alarm…got a full 8 hours in my own bed.  Of course, only being home today and tonight, I have the usual stuff to do when home, but am not going to do a lot else…it is time to rest.

Someone, someplace else, asked me why I thought trucking was a lifestyle and not just a job…the above is one reason.  Truckers have to learn to deal with life in unique ways because we are not home to take care of things.  We have to spread ourselves thinly at times and find creative ways to attend to problems both on the road and at home…especially when we are not married/partnered up or have family who lives near to assist us.

Cars don’t break down for us when we have time to deal with it. People vandalize our home because of some BS reason when we are gone, because we are gone and they can without being caught. Parents get elderly and need our help when we don’t have the time or energy to do so; but we still have to help; and sometimes life at home and on the road combine to make us drop the swords we juggle while dancing that Russian dance and we fall on our arses making stupid mistakes. Sometimes it takes a face full of diesel fuel to make us wake up to see we are overwhelmed and distracted.  It is all part of being a truck driver.