Unintended Consequences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

 

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.

Freedom of the Road

For over 30 years, I have heard drivers speak of the freedom of the road and drivers likened to the old time cowboy.  Asking one of those drivers to tell me what he/she was talking about, I would hear, “it is about working in the wide open spaces” or “I don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder.”  I didn’t think too much about it, but never fully understood what they meant.

In 2008, while working out my two-week notice, I got talking to a driver for a company I was interested in.  When he asked me why I was leaving the company I was with, I told him I didn’t like being micromanaged.  I was an experienced driver and didn’t need dispatch holding my hand, and I just wanted to be told where to pick up the load, where and when to deliver it, and then be left alone to do my job.  He got a phone call and I had an epiphany, I finally understood.  The concept of freedom of the road means different things to different people depending on when they started trucking.

“Liberty is not merely a privilege to be conferred; it is a habit to be acquired.”
– David Lloyd George

To a driver who started in the industry in the last 15 years or so, freedom of the road means living with satellite communications, no daily phone call to dispatch and even on board computers that tell the driver when he/she needs to stop for the day.  The computer monitors their speed, their location, gives them their dispatch, routes them and tells them where to fuel and how many gallons to put on.  To these drivers, freedom of the road is freedom from having to really think about the run or do much more than get the load picked up and delivered safely and on time.

Old hand drivers have a very different concept of freedom of the road, and yes, some like me don’t really understand that freedom until we lose it.   Our freedom of the road consisted of being told where to pick up a load, where to take it and what time to be there, and then left alone other than a daily check call to dispatch and perhaps the broker.  We were treated like professionals who knew how to route ourselves, figure out for ourselves where to stop to fuel within the company policies, when we needed to stop to take a nap, and we got the job done without being constantly monitored.

Understanding the differences between the different concepts of freedom of the road helped me to understand why old time truckers have been likened to the old time cowboy.  The old time cowboy was told by his boss to go check fence or round up cattle, and then he went out and did it without being checked on to see if he actually did the job.  The cowboy’s boss just knew he would do the job and do it well; it was a point of cowboy honor.  They didn’t have to be monitored constantly just like truckers didn’t used to be monitored; it was a point of trucker‘s honor.

Is there one freedom of the road concept better than the other concept?  Perhaps not, but it depends on your perspective.  To me, with my more liberal concept of freedom of the road, trying to adapt into a company who monitors their drivers constantly makes me feel smothered and off balance, while to a newer driver they would feel protected and free.

“When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw a breath of self-respect.” –

Adlai Stevenson

Freedom of the road is how one perceives one’s self and how one looks at life.  To me, freedom of the road is how I do my job to the best of my ability without total supervision, and in that lays my self-respect and my downfall.  With the epiphany came the realization that I do not fit easily into the new concept of freedom of the road the newer drivers have and the companies now define.  In trying to do so, I lost my inner light where freedom lives, my self-respect and my joy in trucking became dim.

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.

“Free people, remember this maxim: We may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.”
– Jean Jacques Rousseau

Ya’ll be safe out there!

It is OK to Discriminate…

By Sandy Long

I can hear you now, “What?  Sandy Long, who preaches against bigotry and discrimination, is saying it is ok to discriminate now?  What’s up with that?”  NO, I personally do not agree with discrimination, but it appears that some people, including those in government,t do agree with it, in matter of fact, promotes it.  Yep, I can hear those wheels turning in your minds, “there are laws against discrimination, people do not discriminate too much these days, what in the world is she talking about.”

There are two areas that are fashionable to discriminate about against people; I am only going to talk about one of them, obesity.  Have you been paying attention to not only what is going on in the trucking industry, but throughout the business world?  Company after company is either not hiring people above a certain body weight or making them enter weight loss programs.  In trucking, companies are blatantly discriminating with saying if you are above a certain body weight; do not bother to fill out an application.  If they said outright, as they are about obese folk, if you are black or brown, gay, a Christian, then do not bother to apply, my gosh, they would be in court in a Minnesota second!  But they get away with it about obese folk.

The government is supporting mandatory sleep apnea testing, not for every driver, but for those over a body mass index of 35…so called obese folk.  This in the face that many people diagnosed with sleep apnea are of ‘normal’ body weight.  If the government said that it would require every black truck driver to be tested for sickle cell anemia, which is only found in darker skinned races, Jesse Jackson would be making a flight to DC and organizing a protest!

This discrimination against obese people goes further and for some reason promoted by the federal government.  From ObesityMyths.com, “It’s not just the official category of obesity that has been affected by numerical hocus-pocus.  Thirty-five million Americans went to sleep one night in 1998 at a government-approved weight (I never knew there were government ‘approved’ weights for people, when did that happen!–SL) and woke up “overweight” the next morning, thanks to a change in the government’s definition.  That group includes currently “overweight” celebrities like Will Smith and Pierce Brosnan, as well as NBA stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.  It even includes George W. Bush, considered the most fit president in U.S. history.  “Overweight” had previously been defined as a BMI of 27.8 for men and 27.3 for women; in 1998 it was lowered to a BMI of 25 for both genders.”

“The 1998 redefinition prompted a group of researchers to criticize the new threshold in The American Journal of Public Health. They wrote: “Current interpretations of the revised guidelines stigmatize too many people as overweight, fail to account for sex, race/ethnicity, age, and other differences; and ignore the serious health risks associated with low weight and efforts to maintain an unrealistically lean body mass.  This seeming rush to lower the standard for overweight to such a level that 55% of American adults find themselves being declared overweight or obese raises serious concerns.”

The discrimination against obese people started about 150 years ago when the only people who were fat were those rich enough to afford to eat regularly and who had sedentary jobs.  These ‘fat cats’ were considered to be dishonest and lazy.  (Three of our presidents were obese according to statistics, and many were considered overweight by today’s standards.)  Somehow, this perception of those rich folk was transferred to the common population, about the time that the diet and pharmaceutical industries got started in the late 1800’s.  This perception has increased to the extent that obese people are made articles of fun and are discriminated against routinely in the workplace these days.

While it is true that people have become increasingly overweight, perhaps that is more a symptom than what is really the ‘disease’.  In his article, ‘I Hate Fate People’ in MensHealth.com, Richard Conniff cites facts and figures about obesity and people’s perception of ‘fat’ people including the statement that he ‘hated fat people’.

As I was reading his article, getting more angrily frustrated the more I read, I was surprised to see, “So after all this, do I still hate fat people?  I don’t.  The world is already full of stupid bigotry, and what fat people endure is stupider than most. “Every fat person I know has a ‘mooing’ story,” says one fat activist. (That is, some jackass has mooed at them in a public place.)  Giving them a harder time than they already have is like being a grade school bully who zeroes in on the obvious target, sometimes with horrible consequences.  Adolescents who are teased for being overweight are two to three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or behaviors, says psychologist Rebecca Puhl, Ph.D., the research director for Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.  And yet even health-care providers commonly—and mistakenly—believe that a strong dose of disapproval encourages people to lose weight.”

Conniff continued, “Instead, the social stigma just keeps fat people away from the doctor, out of the gym, and afraid to do anything other than stay home—and eat.  When a doctor sends a patient away with the vague admonition to lose weight, the advice often just discourages a return visit, in part because those words alone generally produce no results.  Ignoring the weight issue entirely might actually work better.  For instance, a program at the University of Nevada simply taught people how to handle the social stigma and distress that came with obesity.  Weight loss followed almost incidentally, perhaps because the program taught people coping mechanisms that didn’t involve food.  A focus on health rather than weight also seems to help.  Research suggests that when doctors issue “walking prescriptions,” patients are more likely to increase their activity levels. “Walk 1 mile. Take 6 days weekly. Increase dosage at will.”

Imagine that, give people some tools to use to deal with their size other than eating and they lose weight, amazing concept!  Along with that, how about treating obese people like how you, who are so perfect, want to be treated.  As far as our government and companies promoting discrimination against obese people, well I imagine that will take a few lawsuits to change and they will happen.  There are now support groups for obese folk who will encourage them to sue for their rights under the Constitution.

While you may get a kick out of laughing at that obese person, just remember, there but for the grace of God go you…and you ain’t dead yet friend, who knows what your body changes may bring you as you age.  Remember that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.