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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An Industry in Chaos

By Sandy Long
At one time, it was a proud thing to be a trucker, no more though. Due to adverse media attention, (sensationalism sells), companies not supporting their drivers and hiring just anyone, and the drivers losing perspective and going into defensive/aggressive modes, trucking has gone down into chaos.  It is common to see headlines or news blurbs saying a ‘truck’ caused a wreck. If you care to listen, it is often a pickup truck. If you hear of a large crash, it is common to hear of a semi truck being involved, even if it did not cause the crash itself, yet the semi truck being involved is highlighted.

Of course, there are times when a truck did cause a crash, about 21% of the time according to national statistics. This means that 79% of the time, the trucker was not at fault other than being in the wrong place with the wrong folk around him. However, according to most media outside of the industry, they blame the trucker. How does this affect trucking?
People outside of the industry have great influence in our government to start with. They are the ones who, out of fear of trucks, push their legislators to pass more laws and regulations on truckers so they feel safer. With overwhelming media sensationalism, the natural fear of interacting with something so much larger in close quarters is intensified; the result being more restrictive regulations concerning trucks and their drivers.

Truckers are people too, and bring their biases with them if they enter the trucking industry. With the overwhelming attention and comments on how unsafe trucks and truckers are, it is not uncommon for a new driver to believe the sensationalism. The driver will not stand up for themselves against abuse or pending regulations if safety is mentioned. If the new person goes into a trucking office in any capacity, they do not respect truckers due to the perceived carelessness of them and will be difficult to deal with or put in too restrictive of policies.

Companies talk about driver shortage and driver retention in almost every trade magazine and social media group. Company officials wring their hands about how to either attract new drivers or how to keep the ones they have. Yet look at how a driver is treated by the companies they work for. They cannot get home on a regular basis for any true length of time, entry level drivers have to survive on substandard wages until they prove themselves (hard to do when they do not have the skills yet to be really productive), and drivers are not given the tools to meet regulations and are expected to deal with them. A good example of the latter is not being allowed to idle their trucks for comfort and safety, yet the company does not provide APU units.

Companies live in fear of not keeping their equipment running or not meeting freight contracts due to not being able to keep drivers. They tend to think that a hot dog or hamburger, a ball cap and an ink pen once a year shows their appreciation and respect. By treating the driver as a respected professional and allowing the driver to do their job, they would stand a much better chance of retaining and attracting drivers. Average pay for a trucker is just $40k a year, this for being away from home for weeks at a time, living in an 8×8 box and risking their lives every minute of every day. Companies should raise pay commiserate with experience and make hometime a priority. They should also provide a supportive, respectful office staff for the drivers though teaching respect is hard, it can be done.

How is the above creating chaos; it is within the drivers themselves. Truckers have felt for decades that they have little or no voice with their companies or the government. Therefore, drivers become nomads and instead of working through company issues, cut and go to another company. Let any sort of new regulation be proposed and it soon is blown up tremendously; yet truckers only look at how something will affect them, not other drivers and they do bring in their own biases as mentioned above.

Truckers have lost pride in their job or just look at it as a job, gone is the pride and independence that used to be a feature of being a trucker. Truckers used to be neatly dressed, looked at as the white knights and ladies of the road, and conducted themselves while driving as the professionals they were. In today’s world, we have drivers who could give a flip how they look and companies who no longer require dress codes. One rarely sees a line of trucks on the shoulder to assist another driver, or in a truck stop checking with someone in trouble if they need help. It is common to see truckers tailgating, acting aggressively, being vulgar in public view and having a not caring attitude. Courtesy, as it was once known, is gone for the most part. With the new social media, truckers who have developed a bad and/or cynical attitude towards everything from new truckers to the companies, have turned their angst and anger into public entertainment.

Why should a trucker be proud of their profession, they are monitored to the max down to cameras aimed at them while driving, they are overwhelmingly regulated and under paid. While companies say they want to keep drivers, they treat drivers as ‘meat in the seat’ and as if they are a ‘dime a dozen’. Law enforcement is no longer on the driver’s side and neither is the government. People are handed the keys to a truck they are little trained to drive in the intense traffic and regulation of today.

Chaos, yes, the definition of chaos is a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order. Instead of the respect for truckers and the industry, the acknowledgement of the importance to every citizen of the country of truckers and the industry; trucking and truckers are vilified and criminalized from almost every direction outside of the industry. No one knows which way to jump anymore, or how to be professional outside of their own biases and perceptions due to lack of caring by most and too swiftly changing regulations.

Slow down on the changing of regulations, give companies time to think things out and drivers to learn how to adapt to changes and work with the media to stop the sensationalism and the hate mongering. In a short time, the chaos will subside to tolerable levels and once again perhaps trucking and truckers will not be going down into chaos and be respected once again.

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.

Shame on You Driver!

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Odessa MO truck parking area

99% of the time, I do not go along with all the finger pointing done towards truck drivers; not for most accidents, being fatigued from not sleeping, or most of anything else one can think of.  However, in one area, I lay the blame directly on truckers; that is for damaging and trashing where we park.  I am not talking about along the traveled part of the highways for the most part, but the truck stop parking lots, rest area truck parking areas, on ramps and other areas commonly used by truckers for parking.

Recently, Werner Robbins Georgia banned trucks from parking over two hours on city lots, truckers stood up in force and the mayor and city council rethought their initial decision and rescinded the ban.  However, when the story first broke about the ban, a city council member from Werner Robbins cited that trash left behind by truckers was one of the reasons for the ban.  I can believe that.

Brookfield Missouri’s Walmart allowed overnight parking for truckers for years.  This was a good thing because there are no major truck parking areas from Cameron to Hannibal Missouri along Hwy 36, a matter of roughly 150 miles.  The parking problem is so bad along this stretch that when on and off ramps were built at a couple of exits about midway along; they were built with shoulders wide enough for a semi to fit nicely to park.  Within the last 6 months or so, Brookfield’s Walmart has put up signs saying ‘no overnight truck parking’.  Why; because someone knocked down a light pole with their truck and then took off.

It does not stop there, towns and cities all over the country are putting truck bans in place, we see the stories time after time.  Can you blame them?  I have seen the residual left from trucks, both trash and damage done to asphalt and light poles.  The damage done is sheer inconsiderate behavior or stupidity, someone not knowing not to turn too sharp in warm weather that causes a plowing effect on the asphalt, or how to turn wide enough to get around a pole.  The trash is just shear laziness or not caring.

Truck Parking AreaMO I-35 SB

Truck Parking Area
MO I-35 SB

The trash problem is not limited to public places either; it has traveled to terminals and drop yards.  The company I work for has instituted a $100 fine for anyone seen throwing trash on the ground at either our office/car/bobtail parking lot or our drop yard.  Both places have dumpsters provided by the company yet, our office staff had to go out and pick up 12 pee bottles from one place in the office lot, it was obvious that it was one driver who left them there.  At our drop yard, the poo bags got so bad that the trailer mechanic was starting to get worried about getting under a trailer.  While there are no facilities at our drop yard, the Quik Trip with truck parking is ¼ mile from the lot and again, there is a dumpster at the lot itself.

Being a 40+-year trucker/traveler I understand very well that sometimes Mother Nature calls and there is no place to stop and go, or one does not have time to find someplace.  Anyone who has driven any time at all should know this too and figure out a way to take care of it in the truck when necessary.  They also should know how to deal with the bottles or bags too without throwing them out the window.  Triple bag the poo bags if you have to use that way, put a spritz of Lysol or window cleaner in it and tie each bag up tight, this will keep the smell down until one can find a trash dumpster.  Bottles should be thrown away in the dumpster or trash can too…yes, I can hear you now, both might be distasteful to do, but it is better to have these things contained in a trash reciprocal rather than laying in the ditch.

Trash is easily gotten rid of, every truck stop/fuel stop/rest area has trash cans somewhere close by if not actual dumpsters.  Trash includes sweeping your trailer out onto the ground or throwing blown tires or pallets in the ditch or back of the lot.  Recently, I got nails in two tires due to someone sweeping their trailer out onto the staging area at a warehouse.  While trash is easily gotten rid of, the blown tires cost money for the tire shop to take away, I understand that, yet, one can pile them neatly by a dumpster; same with pallets.  The other scrap, dust, nails and dirt from the trailer should be put into bags or a can then put in the dumpster or trash can.

Kingdom City MOPetro

Kingdom City MO
Petro

There is no call for the trashing of where we have to work and/or park.  Not only does it create issues with our being allowed to park, but it also hurts our image.  So what, you might ask, why should you worry about what John Q Public thinks of you?  Who do you think is pushing for stronger regulations against us?  Who do you think is pushing these truck parking bans?  Who do you think makes up those safety advocate groups?  John Q Public is who.  If you have not figured that out yet, then shame on you driver for not only throwing your trash out on the side of the road and in truck parking lots, but also not paying attention to the industry.  I for one am tired of looking at your trash, so is John Q Public.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backfire

By Sandy Long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

By Sandy Long

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

No Longer the Cow, but the Whole Herd

By Sandy Long

For many years, trucking provided the cash cow for states and the federal government to suck off of.  Tolls, fines, taxes, you name it, and the states or the federal government found ways to get it off trucking usually in $100.00 increments.  That has drastically changed in recent years, now it is in $1,000,000 dollar increments and gotten due to overwhelmingly expensive regulations.

One of the cheaper regulations pending is Sleep Apnea testing.  At roughly $6-8,000.00 per study and cpap machine if the driver is found to have sleep apnea, this is one of the cheaper, on the surface, regulations proposed.  On the surface because many drivers will be forced out of trucking both due to not being able to pay for the testing and machine, but because of companies not wanting to hire someone with higher BMI’s or who use cpap machines.  This will add to the driver shortage, costing companies in the end lost accounts and sitting equipment.  Furthermore, it is thought that approximately one-half of truck drivers are over the BMI rating suggested in the proposed regulation.  One-half of 4 million cmv drivers times $8,000.00= a lot of money for someone.

The regulation that has doctors/medical practioners who perform DOT physicals be DOT certified is another cheaper regulation on the surface.  The cost will be between $400.00 and $2,000.00 per medical person, depending on what the third party testing provider sets as price.  The FMCSA states that 40,000 certified medical providers will be needed throughout the country to provide DOT physicals.  This will surely raise the costs of the DOT physical.

Anti rollover devices, which is approaching regulation processes, will cost the industry $1 billion dollars over a five-year period for those buying new tractors according to estimates.  This regulation will add roughly $1600.00 per new truck prices.  This device will be able to sense when the trailer tilts beyond a certain point or if the driver maneuvers too quickly say to avoid someone cutting them off.  The device will automatically apply the brakes in those cases.  This device is touted as being able to save thousands of dollars in rollover accident losses.  Nothing is said about the amount of accidents potentially caused because the system is braking when the driver needs to accelerate or when the roads are bad.

Conservative estimates of the regulation proposed to place mandatory EOBRs in trucks is $2 billion dollars, however, those in the know in the industry suggest that the cost may run closer to $4 billion.  At $2,000.00 a unit plus monthly fees, this will effectively close the doors on small companies and owner operators in this economy where most companies and owner operators are hanging on by a thread.  While grants and tax breaks may be offered to those who need them; that money has to come from somewhere, perhaps the taxpayers?

It appears that regulations are being passed to benefit manufacturers along with the government.  Someone designs a new technology, sells the idea to the FMCSA and voila! a new regulation appears to use that design in trucking to supposedly make trucks or their drivers safer.  Do they make trucking safer, or is it a case of greedy rustlers trying to steal other folks cows to make a profit off of?  One thing is sure true, it is no longer that trucking is a cash cow, it is a whole herd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Safety Revisited

By Sandy Long

In my work with new and prospective drivers, I talk to a lot of women who want to become truckers.  Almost everyone of them are concerned about being raped, robbed or killed, no, not by some psychopath from whatever town they are in or someone in a car, but by a brother driver.  This in a way bothers me.  Could a brother driver be a psychopath?  Certainly.  There have been male truckers that have raped women or even killed them though I have heard of very few victims that have been female drivers.  There probably have even been women drivers who have killed while out here though I haven’t heard of any specifically.

The reason that this idea bothers me is it makes me wonder if too many women considering trucking as a career buy into the stereotypical image of truckers in general.  Let’s face it, our reputation proceeds us even though it is based on a misunderstanding of the industry by the general population.  Male drivers are thought of as big burley guys who will fight at a drop of a hat, do drugs, drink heavily and use prostitutes while women drivers are thought of as big burley gals with tattoos who will fight at a drop of a hat and are either all lesbians, prostitutes or dominatrix.  One woman I spoke with several years ago who was wanting to enter the industry told me that, “I can scratch, spit and cuss as well as any man and kick anyone’s butt that don’t like it, that qualifies me to be a woman trucker.”  Oh my!

The reality is that we are all different.  Do some of us fit the above descriptions?  Yes, but so do people from other professions.  So, is there a reason for women to fear their brother drivers to the extent that they want to run out and purchase wasp spray that shoots spray 20 feet away to take to truck driving school and into the truck?  Not in my opinion; personal safety is about common sense, not about wasp spray.

Common sense is sound judgment not based on specialized knowledge; native good judgment and can be thought of as the ability to make sensible decisions:  wisdom.  Unfortunately, wisdom is gained by experience, and good judgment is an inherent trait and cannot be taught to any great degree.  The ability to make sensible decisions takes looking at all sides or factors of a situation.

In trucking, one must have good common sense.  Just like you wouldn’t park your truck without setting your brakes on a hill, you approach your personal safety thinking the same way.  For instance, you are delivering in the older section of downtown Los Angeles CA.  Common sense should tell you that the area may be dangerous, so even if you have never been there before, you should ask someone who has if it is safe for you to go into that area at midnight way before you get there.  This provides you with the wisdom to plan your arrival nearer to dawn than to midnight.

Most criminal activity, specially crimes against women, occur in open areas at night.  Therefore, common sense should tell you to limit your exposure to crime at night by staying in your truck or, if at all possible, getting out only if there is someone you can trust to walk with you or security personnel available.  At times neither is possible, so being aware of your surroundings is necessary and applying common sense to any activity in the area is a given.  If you see unusual movement, vehicles or people in the vicinity of your truck…get out of there!  Go back inside and tell the fuel desk person what is going on.  Only go back to your truck when the suspicious activity is over, with truck stop personnel or the police.

Knowledge that most crimes in truck stops against women are against prostitutes, should kick in your common sense so you use good judgment in your demeanor so that your clothes, makeup or behavior do not mimic those shown by prostitutes.  Furthermore, you shouldn’t be going up to or into a male driver’s truck.  This not only opens you to losing your reputation, but also could put you at risk of becoming a victim of violence if in the slim chance that the male driver is a predator.

Bottom line is that all the wasp spray in the world isn’t going to protect you against anyone if they are determined to harm or rob you.  Most criminals are not stupid and are not going to give you the chance to get out a weapon, they are going to jump out of hiding or blindside you.  Use the gift given you at birth, your brain, to develop common sense and gain wisdom by learning about what to look for in your surroundings, keep your doors locked, then have the good judgment to use what you have learned to avoid exposing yourself to criminal activity.  That way you can protect yourself from harm.

Ya’ll be safe out there!