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.

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Unintended Consequences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Training Standards

By Sandy Long

There are regulations coming down the pike to rectify driver error, EOBRs and anti-rollover devices.  These regulations will cost billions of dollars for the trucking industry along with the cost of the regulatory process the taxpayer will pay.  Will these devices do anything to improve safety, not really.  The problem is not lack of technology; it is lack of good solid training and poor company attitudes.

The training required for entry level drivers is minimal, 148 hours of behind the wheel.  This is what the FMCSA stated in their proposed rulemaking 12/2007.

“In 1986, the motor carrier, truck driver training school, and insurance industries created the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) to certify high-quality training programs offered by training institutions. The PTDI used the truck driver Model Curriculum as the basis for its certification criteria. On January 24, 1999, the PTDI approved revisions to the curriculum and published three separate standards:

“Skill Standards for Entry-Level Tractor-Trailer Drivers;”

“Curriculum Standard Guidelines for Entry-Level Tractor-Trailer Driver Courses”; and

“Certification Standards and Requirements for Entry-Level Tractor-Trailer Driver Courses.”

As of December 2006, PTDI-certified courses are offered at 61 schools in 28 States and Canada, according to PTDI’s Web site (http://www.ptdi.org ).  PTDI estimates that approximately 10,000 students graduate from its certified courses annually.”

“The CDL standards require tests for knowledge and skills, but neither the CMVSA nor the FMCSRs requires driver training.  The private sector, with guidance from FMCSA, has attempted to promote effective training.  Formal, supervised training is available from private truck driver training schools, public institutions, and in-house motor carrier programs.  Many drivers take some sort of private-sector training at their own expense.  These courses vary in quality. Some provide only enough training to pass the skills test. (italics mine)  Generally, however, with or without formal training, drivers individually prepare for the CDL test by studying such areas as vehicle inspection procedures, off-road vehicle maneuvers, and operating a CMV in traffic.”

This proposed rulemaking was dropped due to no return on investment decisions for the companies and the thought that it was unnecessary to strengthen training regulations, it is obvious to anyone who works with new and prospective drivers that the FMCSA was wrong in their thinking.

Recently, Anne Ferro, director of the FMCSA stated that there was no indication that training companies had any more accidents than non-training companies did.  I would like to invite Ms Ferro to come out and ride with me for a week to see just how wrong she is.

The incidents, accidents and just plain getting into trouble that a driver sees training company drivers involved in during a week is tremendous.  Add to that the trainers that are having students back into tight places while the trainer is 100 yards away talking on their cell phones or playing games.  Then there is the dangerous behavior exhibited by these same company’s drivers; speeding through construction zones, truck stops and warehouse parking lots.

There are no real training standards in my opinion nor are there training standards or requirements for a driver to become a trainer.  Some companies allow a driver to become a trainer right after they leave their own trainer, others will allow a driver to become a trainer after the driver gets as little as three months experience.  Newbees training newbees is not good for them or the public.

A real horror that is allowed under the current regulations is that of the 24 hour guaranteed Cdl school.  There is one close to where I live and I see them ‘teaching’ often.  They use a class 7 single axle tractor and a 20-foot flatbed for both instruction and testing at the testing facility down the road.  Sure enough, a cdl is obtained, but can you imagine the quality of the driver?

Instead of requiring companies to install technology to fill the training gap found in drivers, the FMCSA would be better off setting standards to properly train the new drivers coming into the industry.  This would not only be cheaper for all involved, but also improve safety to a great degree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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???