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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Backfire

By Sandy Long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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!

 

 

 

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!

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.