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.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

By Sandy Long

When someone decides to become active in issues whether by writing a representative, attending a listening session with the FMCSA or being interviewed by a reporter, they have to guard their words carefully and rein in their anger.  If someone does not get their point across clearly and concisely, or attacks the person they are trying to influence, two things happen; 1) what you are trying to accomplish will not be listened to correctly 2) the person who you are trying to influence will shut down due to going on the defensive or becoming angry.

Case in point, at one of the listening sessions with the FMCSA it was repeatedly stated by drivers that they could not make any money without running illegally.  Now you or I would understand as drivers that it is not about the money as much as about what is expected of us.  I doubt the FMCSA heard it like that though, they only heard run illegally.  In addition, the attitude of some of the drivers speaking was hostile towards Anne Ferro.  Now to be honest, I am as frustrated as the rest of you, but know that people do not pay attention to what is being said behind the anger or frustration, the message is lost.

While we are speaking about the listening sessions, the issue of flexibility kept coming up in regards to the HOS.  While being able to take a shower or nap during the day is important to us drivers; we drivers also know that it is more about safety than anything else, yet that did not come across clearly.  Few talked about how much safer we would be, and the highways would be, if we could park up and wait out rush hours, sunrises/sunsets, weather etc., since the FMCSA touts safety, that would have been a better way of approaching the issue of flexibility.

How to get your point across clearly is fairly simple; make a list of the main topics you want to cover in depth before you get to the event, listening session or interview…or write that letter.  Remember that most of the people you will be addressing might know a little about the industry as a whole, but have never driven a truck in their lives.  They are also not familiar with trucker speak, so you have to be totally clear and concise.  Be prepared to answer questions that someone might ask.

As far as the anger and frustration goes, take this little test.  Remember when someone, it might have been a parent, a spouse, significant other or boss, yelled at you about something.  Then remember how you felt and reacted.  You might have reacted with your own anger or you might have gotten emotional and cried or wanted to cry, but you did not listen to what they were saying beyond their angry words or attitude.  People do not learn in a hostile environment nor do they listen closely to the message you are trying to impart if they are negatively confronted.

Times are tough in the industry and there is a need for people to stand up and speak out, but to do so effectively, not to shoot themselves in the foot while doing so.  Those wounded foot types might get a pat on the back from other rambos, but in reality they do more harm than good.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.