Ta Ta Mr. LaHood

By Sandy Long

Ray LaHood, current Secretary of Transportation, has announced he will step down from his post after serving for the last four years.  Most truckers are not sorry to see him go.

Under LaHood’s administration, we have seen the Mexican Border opened though fought strongly against by both truckers and many congressional representatives.  We have seen trucker’s rights taken away to use cell phones, so far only without headsets, but the writing is on the wall that the use of cell phones will soon end completely; this even though a study done financed by the DOT/FMCSA found no increased risk in hands free cell phone use.  Further efforts of Mr. LaHood to end all forms of distracted driving includes stopping truckers from changing cds, eating snacks while driving, or taking a drink of water.

We have also seen total discrimination put forth in the name of safety in the issue of BMI and the loss of ADA rights to protest unfair hiring/firing/testing using the BMI of drivers.  “Safety trumps the ADA” has been heard; though there are no valid facts about fatter drivers being less safe than skinny ones.

The issue of driver fatigue too has taken away a driver’s rights.  Under LaHood, the FMCSA developed the CSA program and put all log book violations under the heading of ‘driver fatigue’ even if the violation was miscounting the hours, putting the wrong date on the log or forgetting to sign the log.  This made all drivers look like they were always driving fatigued…worked for the DOT and FMCSA’s agendas though.

Because of the slanted statistics done through studies funded by the DOT/FMCSA under LaHood, EOBRs have become a given at some point in the near future even though their value beyond a management tool remains unfounded.  The promotion of the ‘driver cam’ by the DOT/FMSCA under LaHood will surely come to pass if things remain the same with LaHood’s successor.

Mr. LaHood states no plans in place for his future.  It will be interesting to see whom he consults for though.  It could be the manufacturers of EOBRs, C-pap machines, sleep study clinics, driver-monitoring cams, anti rollover devices or any number of other so-called technology to make the highways safer supposedly that he has allowed to be promoted under his watch.

Good luck to you Mr. LaHood, wish I could say thanks for the memories and the effects of your reign.

 

 

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Balderdash?

By Sandy Long

Two years ago, Steven Burks, a former trucker now a behavior economist at the University of Minnesota, decided to do a study on obese truckers to see if there was a correlation between obesity and truck crashes.  Working with Schneider International, Burk chose 744 rookie drivers with two years or less experience to participate in the study.  Using BMI as a baseline, those with a BMI higher than 25 were considered overweight, while those with a BMI greater than 30 were considered obese.  Burk then checked crash statistics on this set of drivers.

From TruckingInfo.com. “During their first two years on the road, drivers with a BMI higher than 35 (“severely obese”) were 43% to 55% more likely to crash than were drivers with a normal BMI, the team reports in the November issue of Accident Analysis & Prevention.”

When I first glanced at this article, I immediately went up in arms due to the first paragraph.  “That there’s a direct connection between a truck driver’s crash risk and his or her body mass index.  Obese truckers, during their first two years on the road, are 43% to 55% more likely to be involved in a crash when compared against those truckers with a normal BMI.”  “Balderdash,” I thought.

After sleeping on it, and rereading the article, there might be just a glimmer of truth in this study, though I still think it is propaganda to further the agendas of both the FMCSA and the medical device manufacturers.  I have seen drivers so obese, that they cannot fit behind the wheel without tucking their bellies down below the steering wheel by hand and cannot turn the wheel easily.  Now these sizes of drivers might be unsafe, but other than that, no, I do not agree with the findings.

The study cites that “some ideas behind the increased risk may include sleep apnea, limited agility, or fatigue associated with obesity.”  Sleep apnea affects many non-obese people and there are no studies or facts at all that correlate sleep apnea with truck crashes, just suppositions.  It takes little agility to drive a truck down the road safely other than being able to get one’s feet to the pedals and use the steering wheel freely.  While it is true that some diseases associated with obesity such as diabetes or thyroid issues may cause fatigue in obese people, I know of no studies saying that obesity alone causes fatigue.

So what is the deal here?  While Schneider has one of the most comprehensive training programs in the industry, the drivers studied were still rookies with two years or less behind the wheel.  Though the FMCSA has blinders on in regards to the correlation between student or rookie drivers and crashes, we drivers can attest to the fact that these training companies are usually the ones in the ditch or in trouble somehow.

This makes me wonder, with the discrimination shown to obese people, if the severely obese students did not get the quality of training the other drivers did; I would hate to think so.  Trucking has always attracted people who did not fit into other professions, in the last decade or so, many obese people have entered the industry.  Some have been openly discriminated against to the point that they have filed suit against companies and won.  http://www.slaterross.com/McDuffy.htm

In my opinion, I think that the elephant in the room in this regard is not how big the elephant is, but in how well they were trained.  This study would have much more merit if experienced drivers, five years or more, had been studied instead of rookies.  That would have taken out the possibility of slanting the statistics to make the point in the agenda by using inexperienced drivers.  Since I have well over 4 million miles to my credit with no accidents, and have been obese to some extent or another for all of them, I think that this study for the most part is total balderdash; and I am sticking to that.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fatigue

by Sandy Long

We are hearing more and more about driver fatigue as being epidemic in the trucking industry.  Sleep apnea is the disease de jour that is being blamed for our so-called fatigue and there is a current push to make more regulations addressing our health due to fatigue beyond the HOS.  This even though fatigue is not listed as causing accidents except in very rare cases.  Fatigue has many causes.

MedlinePlus Medical Dictionary defines fatigue as; “Fatigue is different from drowsiness. In general, drowsiness is feeling the need to sleep, while fatigue is a lack of energy and motivation. Drowsiness and apathy (a feeling of indifference or not caring about what happens) can be symptoms of fatigue.  Fatigue can be a normal and important response to physical exertion, emotional stress, boredom, or lack of sleep. However, it can also be a nonspecific sign of a more serious psychological or physical disorder.”

“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.” Dale Carnegie (1888-1955).

Truck drivers are faced with great worry due to the dangerousness of our jobs, stress added from family, shippers, receivers, and traffic.  We are commonly frustrated by traffic jams, road construction, and unreasonable appointment times and hold ups due to weather.  We often resent not only all of the above fatigue causers, but also dispatchers and brokers, waiting unpaid at docks or for loads and because we are not home when we want to be.  Is it any wonder we are fatigued?

“Men weary as much of not doing the things they want to do as of doing the things they do not want to do.”  Eric Hoffer (1902-1983).

We might get fatigued from doing things we enjoy.  We all know the feeling of fatigue that we feel after a long day enjoying our favorite hobbies, sports or exercise.   We might be fatigued after these things, but it is a happy, contented fatigue.  On the other hand, we all also know the fatigue that we feel in doing our job.  Having to sit and wait for a call on the cb radio for a door assignment for hours and not being able to take a nap or leave the truck even to use the facilities if they are even provided where we are can lead to major fatigue.  Then the fatigue leaves a bad taste and we exhibit irritability or a ‘don’t give a dern’ attitude.

People in any job or situation can experience fatigue, not only truckers.  How often have you taken a trip with your family where the kids are cranky, the spouse/partner left something at the house and the traffic is heavy.  When you arrive where you are going, you are no longer fatigued if everyone calms down.  Those of you who are not drivers most likely experience fatigue after a long day at the office only to find renewed energy when you walk out the door. It is the same with truckers, after we get away from that slow shipper or out of rush hour traffic, we find our second wind and energy….usually.

Some diseases can cause fatigue.  Medline Medical Dictionary cites the following as causing fatigue:  There are many possible physical and psychological causes of fatigue. Some of the more common are:

An allergy that leads to hay fever or asthma

Anemia (including iron deficiency anemia)

Depression or grief

Persistent pain

Sleep disorders such as ongoing insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, or narcolepsy

Underactive thyroid or overactive thyroid

Use of alcohol or illegal drugs like cocaine, especially with regular use

Fatigue can also accompany the following illnesses:

Addison’s disease

Anorexia or other eating disorders

Arthritis, including juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

Autoimmune diseases such as lupus

Cancer

Chronic liver or kidney disease

Congestive heart failure

Diabetes

Infection, especially one that takes a long time to recover from or treat such as

bacterial endocarditis (infection of the heart muscle or valves), parasitic infections, AIDS, tuberculosis, and mononucleosis

Malnutrition

Certain medications may also cause drowsiness or fatigue, including antihistamines for allergies, blood pressure medicines, sleeping pills, steroids, and diuretics.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that starts with flu-like symptoms and lasts for 6 months or more. All other possible causes of fatigue are eliminated before this diagnosis is made. Little relieves CFS, including rest.

If you are experiencing fatigue without knowing why, check with your doctor and get it checked out.  It may just be dealing with our day-to-day work situations, or it may be something that can be corrected.  Either way, fatigue is a big issue now in trucking.

Ya’ll be safe!

 

 

 

Driver Retention, EOBRs and Freedom to be a Truck Driver

By Sandy Long

It has long been my contention that all of the micromanagement tools currently under consideration by the FMCSA and supported by the ATA are not about safety, but about driver retention and lack of training.  EOBRs lead that list, but the list also includes anti-rollover devices, directed at driver video cams, proximity detectors and electronic logs.

Turnover rates at the mega training companies run 200% for drivers; new drivers become fed up with the micromanagement techniques of those types of companies and have historically left after getting a year or two of experience.  The rookie driver then looks for companies where the trucks can run the speed limit; they receive more personal, respectful treatment and where they do not have to be told what to do every minute of their day.

In 2008, I wrote an article called ‘Freedom of the Road’ that was published by Layover.com initially and since then in the seven international trucking websites I write for.  Recently, I republished the article on my blog and on my facebook page.  Freedom of the Road talks about just that, the differing concepts of freedom that has long been associated with being  a truck driver and how it has changed over the years.  Perhaps though, after reading the responses on Facebook, I was wrong in my thoughts that the concept had changed so much over the years.  Follows is just one of those responses.

“I started driving in 2003 with a big company and a qualcomm that did everything except tell me when, where and how to use the toilet.  After about 2 years of that, and a year or so running local, I ended up with a small company that gave its drivers the freedom you’re talking about…”here’s when/where you pick, here’s when/where you drop, now figure out the rest and do your job” and I LOVED IT.  It was like I finally got to use my brain for something other than a space filler, and from that point on nothing could have gotten me back to a big company. I quit OTR about 3 yrs ago but Hubby still drives and he was lucky enough to find another company where we currently live, that more or less does the same thing.  He has the same idea of what freedom of the road means.”

From what this lady driver said, “It was like I finally got to use my brain for something other than a space filler, and from that point on nothing could have gotten me back to a big companymy contention that EOBRs and the other micromanagement tools are about driver retention is supported.  Why go back to a company where you are treated like a brain dead, meat in the seat driver when you can drive with some freedom to glory in being a respected truck driver.

If a company wants to retain drivers, they need to talk to those drivers who leave and find out exactly why they left.  Most assuredly would state that it was about being micromanaged and not being treated with the respect a truck driver is due.  None of the technology in the world can provide respect or freedom or pride in doing a job well and those concepts are what keep truckers trucking; that can only come from the head of the company down.

The final paragraph in Freedom of the Road says it all, “Guard your concept of freedom of the road; revel in it, enjoy it, love it, never let it go.  It is who you are and what you do.  It is the foundation of your career as a driver and a person; it is why you drive truck.”  That is why a driver leaves a company, to find their concept of freedom of the road and technology will not retain them.

Throwing Parts at It

By Sandy Long

Every truck driver and car owner understands the term “throwing parts” at a problem; when a mechanic cannot figure out what is wrong with a vehicle large or small, they just say, “might be this, I will replace it.”  Nevertheless, it does not fix the problem, only the mechanic or shop benefits.  We are seeing that attitude in trucking.

By now, the whole world knows of the efforts of the FMCSA and special interest groups to bring down the accident rates involving trucks to a zero level; this effort is featured in national news reports.  Because of the political power of groups such as Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT) FMCSA has focused on fatigue as being the major cause of accidents though statistics do not support this factor.  To fight this so-called fatigue factor, supposedly found in all truckers, FMCSA is literally throwing parts at driver’s fatigue without addressing the real issues behind most accidents.  Technological developers and device manufacturers who stand to make a financial killing off the ‘fatigue’ regulations are supplying the parts.

The technological parts are widespread.  Recently, in a discussion with a customer service engineer of a major truck manufacturer, he was touting the benefits of a device that will slow or stop a truck if it got to close to another vehicle ahead of it in case the driver falls asleep.  When I showed little appreciation for the device, he was surprised that I was not gung ho on it.  “But,” he said, “I thought you were all about safety.”  This is a common response of people due to propaganda from the special interest groups when someone does not jump on their bandwagon.

Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBRs) are being pushed to remove the ‘human’ factor from the hours of service equation along with being able to show what a truck driver was doing at the exact point of an accident ie, hard braking, speed, etc.  The plain EOBR system, without electronic logs, are already available thru the truck’s engine computer system in a slightly less sophisticated manner with hard braking incidents being recorded and can be set up to record speed.  The e-logs were not in place in the industry a month before both drivers and dispatchers figured out ways to get around them.  That old ‘human’ factor thing again as dispatchers can adjust a driver’s hours from the terminal if they want to and drivers can go off duty and keep driving though they take a chance in being caught.

The latest type of technological device touted is the anti roll-over system to alert the driver if the trailer is about to tip over.  This system is attached to the back of the truck and records deviation of the trailer from level.  If the trailer deviates past a certain point, an alarm goes off, supposedly to ‘wake’ up the driver to the problem.

Health enters in with sleep apnea at the forefront.  The dollar signs are in everyone’s eyes as even carriers jump on the bandwagon and open sleep clinics in their terminals and offer ‘lease purchase’ of cpap machines to drivers.  If a driver is overweight, Katey bar the door, because he/she is going to be sleep tested without recourse if they want to continue to drive.  The poor overweight driver is out several thousand dollars when it is over and the medical device manufacturers and the sleep study clinics keep the weight off running to the bank.

As far as the real causes of fatigue in truck drivers, no one wants to find the real problems involved.  Long delays at shippers and receivers, inadequate parking, anti-idling laws, being pushed beyond one’s limits by dispatchers and brokers who cannot/will not reschedule appointments to fit the driver’s schedule, maximize your hours attitudes by companies, lack of adequate hometime and a hundred other factors actually affect whether a driver gets fatigued or not.  Both and the government companies can easily solve most of these issues yet the issues are ignored or downplayed.

The real causes of most accidents are simple, going too fast for conditions and lack of good training for the entry-level drivers; the first could be solved by the last.  Is the FMCSA really looking at training regulations being strengthened?  No, they are not, citing that there is no data showing that entry-level drivers are less safe than experienced ones.

Wait though, could it be that there is not enough money to be made by making trucking schools and/or carriers properly train their newest drivers?  No benefit to manufacturers and inventors, just more time from the carrier to ensure that their drivers can do the job properly and safely is the obvious reason, costing them a little more money on the training end.

So, OK, let’s just throw some more parts at the problem, it won’t fix the problem at all, but it sure looks good on the bottom line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paranoia or Reality

By Sandy Long

A caller on a trucking radio show recently said that truck drivers have to lose the ‘us against them’ attitude that they have, that no one is against safe, professional truck drivers.  Do truck drivers have that type of attitude or is it just paranoia and a misunderstanding of what is going on between truck drivers and the government, or is it reality.

During the last 20 years or so, the government has added increasingly strict regulations on the trucking industry, drug testing, new hours of service (HOS), new medical standards, distracted driving reduction, all in the name of safety.  FMCSA developed so called listening sessions on some of these things saying they encouraged truckers to get involved and participate; that they wanted to ‘hear’ what truckers had to say.  Truckers spoke out, they attended those sessions and spoke, and they wrote letters and emails and called their representatives.  Did the Federal DOT or the FMCSA really listen to those truckers, no.  Very few in congress listened either.

For instance, over the new HOS, truckers in droves asked for more flexibility in the hours of service to wait out rush hours, sunrises/sunsets and inclement weather or backups.  Truckers also wanted flexibility to be able to take a lunch break or a shower during the workday.  What did the FMCSA come up with, a mandatory ½ hour break between the 3rd and 7th hour of the day…without stopping the clock, actually cutting a driver’s workday by a half hour.  This is not what little flexibility truckers asked for.

EOBRs are another area, the majority of truck drivers and small business truck owners do not want these EOBRs to become mandatory due to little return on investment and the lack of real need for them.  Reports have abounded about EOBRs being used to harass drivers to the point that OOIDA went to court against the using of EOBRs for non-compliant carriers, which was FMCSA’s first salvo to get EOBRs mandatory, and OOIDA won.  That did not stop the FMCSA, even though thousands of truckers are speaking out against EOBRs becoming mandatory, the FMCSA is proceeding at a fast pace to make them mandatory for all carriers.

The Mexican Border Program required under NAFTA, was shot down initially when OOIDA and thousands of truckers wrote, called and emailed their representatives to protest about allowing Mexican trucks to come freely into the USA to haul freight.  For once, congress listened and the program was closed; but sadly, it was not a whipstitch of time before the border re-opened under the Obama administration.  This, even though truckers once again stood up and spoke out.

Truckers are not stupid contrary to public, and it seems government, opinion.  While the FMCSA touts safety and an unrealistic desire to see absolutely no accidents involving commercial vehicles, truckers know that they are the safest drivers on the road and for the most part, are not responsible for the accidents they are involved in with other vehicles.  Truckers also know that accidents are just that, accidents, and sometimes are unavoidable.  Yet, truckers are constantly under fire from not only the media, but the government and special interest groups who have never driven a truck, or have financial interests in more regulations against truckers.

Truckers also know that all of these regulations are treating the symptoms not the disease.  They know that the root of many accidents, violations and equipment failure or driver error is a lack of training and detention time.  Truckers, many of which have gone through training in recent years, have spoken out in huge numbers about the need for stronger training regulations and standardized training policies at companies.  Does the FMCSA show even an inclination to address these issues, no; instead, they say that there are no statistics showing a need for stronger regulations concerning training and they cannot address detention time.

Is it possible that truckers have an ‘us against them’ attitude, yes, rightly so.  The FMCSA continually ignores the specialists in trucking safety, those who drive the trucks, in their continued attack against those same truck drivers.  One cannot help believe that these attacks made through overwhelming, unnecessary regulations will not stop until all freight is hauled on rail cars.  In this day and age, it is a wise person who has a little paranoia when the reality may cost them their career, their business, their home and affect adversely their families; at least they can plan ahead to be unemployed.

 

 

 

Truck Driver’s Therapist: Buck Black

By Sandy Long

There are certain segments in the work force that travel for a living, the military, construction workers and truck drivers.  Being away from home for long periods can cause mental health issues such as depression and relationship issues.  While the military has built in mental health services that they can access and construction workers are usually in a town long enough to find a mental health provider, truckers are rarely in a town two days in a row so cannot utilize such assistance.  This is no longer so, there is now TruckerTherapy.com.

Buck Black, founder of TruckerTherapy.com, knew he wanted to become a therapist when he was in fifth grade.  Buck says about how he got started, “I have always enjoyed helping people and talking with people.  The more I studied psychology, the more interested I became.  Once I started volunteering at a crisis hotline, I was hooked.”

Buck’s educational background includes a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from Indiana University.  Buck adds, “I earned my Bachelor’s degree from Purdue University (Lafayette, Indiana campus), where I double majored in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Computer Technology.  In addition, I have received training on a variety of clinical subjects including anger management, anxiety, couples counseling, codependency, personality disorders, PTSD and various types of sexual issues.  I continue to learn more about counseling and therapy by participating in anger management workshops and various trainings, as well as reading and lecturing about various topics related to counseling and online coaching.”

Most therapists only work with their clients face to face; Buck did too for a while.  Then he had several truckers as clients and quickly learned that with their erratic schedules, they missed many appointments.  Buck knew the importance of those truckers continuing with their therapy so came up with the idea of offering phone and Skype counseling.  It worked so well for those driver clients that Buck started TruckerTherapy.com to offer those services to more drivers.

There is a difference though between face-to-face counseling and phone or Skype work.  “Services are a bit different over Skype.  I think the biggest challenge is the client’s quality of equipment (mike, camera, computer, and internet connection stability/speed) and the occasional unavoidable technical glitches.  Therefore, that is something you usually do not have to deal with in an office setting.  I always give my clients my phone number and keep my phone next to my computer when doing a session.  If the connection fails, the phone is a good backup.”  Buck relates.

“The phone obviously cuts out the body language, but is still quite effective.”  He adds.  “I encourage my clients to stop me if they disagree with what I am saying.  Sometimes, there is a miscommunication; maybe the phone broke up or I used the wrong choice of words.  This cannot be addressed if the client does not speak up.  I believe there is a good sense of relationship between the client and me when using Skype or phone; however, the client must want to use Skype or phone.  If the client does not like the technology, then the relationship would be very difficult to form.  I do continue my in-office practice for those truckers who can make it to Lafayette Indiana and of course, my non trucking clients.”

Truck drivers are under a tremendous amount of stress from the job and from being away from home so much, this can lead to mental health issues.  This is such a common problem that the FMCSA Medical Review Board has suggested regulations be enacted so that doctors performing DOT physicals look for signs of depression.

Buck says, “if you are having issues that you are not dealing well with, contact me or another licensed therapist to help you.  If the person is in emergency crisis and is suicidal or homicidal, or has a chronic mental illness, distant services probably are not the best options.  I screen each client to ensure his or her goals are attainable over the phone or with Skype.  If I feel there may need to be a need for emergency services or a high level of care, then I refer the client to face-to-face therapy, but either way, I will try to assist in getting a driver the help he or she needs.”

Buck Black’s appointments can be adjusted to accommodate a truck driver’s schedule.  “I take “call ins,” like “walk-ins” for lack of a better term, Monday through Friday; however, I’m usually booked all day long, so I cannot accommodate this very often.  I am able to guarantee an appointment within two business days or it is free except for when my voicemail and website states I am on vacation.  I work until 10pm ET and I am usually able to be talked into a Sunday evening appointment.”  He laughs.

Though Buck does accept some insurance plans, most insurance companies will not pay for phone or Skype counseling.  However, the cost per session is not exorbitant, only $50.00, not a great amount to spend per session for a driver to get their lives back on track.  Furthermore, by working on a cash basis, the only person who will see a driver’s file is Buck himself, no reporting to insurance companies or the driver’s carrier.

Buck invites every driver who is having mental health issues to visit TruckerTherapy.com and check out the site for more information.  He will tell anyone that truckers give so much of themselves to do their job that he feels that he should assist them when he can.  It is a novel concept, someone wanting to help truck drivers; Buck Black has come up with a way to do so.

 

 

Sexually Oriented Businesses? Oh Yeah! Truck Driver’s Clinics? Heck No!

By Sandy Long

“Dec 09, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — TravelCenters of America LLC (TravelCenters) has announced the opening of the first on-site Statcare medical clinic within the TA and Petro Stopping Centers branded travel center network.  The Statcare clinic, operated by Family Statcare of Northeast Ohio, LLC, is located at the TA travel center at 8834 Lake Rd., Seville, Ohio.”

That sounds great does it not.  It was great; a trucker’s clinic right in the middle of a major hub for trucking, but it did not last long though.  Shortly after the above press release, the Westfield Township zoning inspector visited the clinic and shut it down for not meeting the zoning code.  Come to find out, the area is zoned for eating places, motels, truck stops and repair shops, and even sexually oriented businesses, but not medical clinics!

Ken Filbert, the owner of Family Statcare, said that he met with a chiropractor who was located at the TA just before his clinic opened. When he asked the zonong inspector why the chiropractor was allowed to operate, but not the clinic, the zoning inspector informed him, “that he didn’t know the chiropractor was there, but we caught you.”

Filbert is well-intentioned concerning truckers, he says, “truckers do so much for this country, I wanted to start this clinic providing low cost, affordable, reachable medical services for the truckers in return, I wanted to give them something back. This clinic is close to home for my company, so we are in hopes of fine tuning it here, then expanding across the country to help truckers.”

Filbert reported that Westfield Township has not offered any quick solutions to the zoning issue.  “They did not offer a temporary zoning permit while we work in the paperwork, or to have a special session of the township to expedite the permit process, it will take three months or more to get the zoning changed once we get the paperwork done.”

Some of the services the clinic will offer are drug testing, DOT physicals, illness care, and minor wound care.  Filbert even arranged with a local pharmacy to deliver medications directly to the truck stop within an hour of calling the prescription in for truckers who needed them. “I understand both the difficulty of getting a 70 foot rig to a drug store and the problem of drivers getting home for doctor appointments with their own doctors so that many run out of medications.”  He said.

Tongue in cheek, Filbert quipped, “Here I am trying to help truckers and perhaps other travelers by providing fast access to healthcare, and rather than cooperation on the part of the city, I get closed down immediately. Yet, if I had opened adult video store or a strip club, Westfield Township would not mind a bit. Go figure!”

Filbert has a petition at the TA truck stop in Seville OH if you stop by there, or you can sign an online petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/re-open-the-truck-drivers-clinic/ .  By gathering signatures, Filbert hopes that Westfield Township will see how much people do care about trucker’s health and expedites the process or at least does something positive.  “This is the cold and flu season and trucker’s need medical care now!”  Filbert says, “We have to get this clinic open so we can provide those truckers that care.”