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.

Advertisements

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!

E41A0292

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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!

Thousands of Regulations Except Where Needed

by Sandy Long

Entering the trucking industry presents many problems in adapting to the lifestyle and the difficulty of the job itself.  These problems are compounded by there being no clear-cut training regulations in place in the FMCSA, the attitude of many training companies towards their students, the lack of real training done by many so-called trucking schools and the lack of quality trainers or trainers who abuse their positions.

The only current FMCSA training regulations for semi-truck drivers are that one passes the cdl test and for entry-level drivers:  § 380.503 Entry-level driver-training requirements.

Entry-level driver training must include instruction addressing the following four areas:

(a) Driver qualification requirements. The Federal rules on medical certification, medical examination procedures, general qualifications, responsibilities, and disqualifications based on various offenses, orders, and loss of driving privileges (

part 391, subparts B and E of this subchapter).

(b) Hours of service of drivers. The limitations on driving hours, the requirement to be off-duty for certain periods of time, record of duty status preparation, and exceptions (part 395 of this subchapter). Fatigue countermeasures as a means to avoid crashes.

(c) Driver wellness. Basic health maintenance including diet and exercise. The importance of avoiding excessive use of alcohol.

(d) Whistleblower protection. The right of an employee to question the safety practices of an employer without the employee’s risk of losing a job or being subject to reprisals simply for stating a safety concern (29 CFR part 1978).

[69 FR 29404, May 21, 2004]

So technically, if you can pass a road test, you can go to work driving a tractor trailer.  The rub comes in where insurance companies have requirements, though minimal, for training to be provided for entry-level drivers.  Without regulations from the FMCSA, these training periods may be with another student without an on-board trainer or be with an on-board trainer for 2-8 weeks at times with another student along too.  Some companies with team operations will put two people just out of training together in a team situation, kind of a blind leading the blind situation.

Two organizations are pushing for enhanced training regulations.  The Women In Trucking Association is addressing the issue of women who are coerced into having intimate relations by their male trainers, being discriminated against, or intimidated out of the trucking industry by their trainers or even the companies that have initially hired them.

Student WIT members are reporting this type of alleged behavior repeatedly.  One woman was allegedly physically attacked last summer by her trainer who had become convinced that he was in love with her.  Another woman was allegedly propositioned on the second day of training by her trainer being told she would have to submit to him to continue training.  Still another woman had a female trainer who was allegedly taking excessive over the counter drugs and was out of it most of the time, got off of the trainer’s truck early only to allegedly find problems with the company due to her objection to running with a stoned trainer.  Many women are subjected to lewd jokes and behavior by their male trainers.  Unfortunately, there are not enough women trainers to go around and we have seen above that even women trainers are not at times, the quality they should be.

Women are not the only ones affected by bad trainers and training schools.  A young man from Wyoming went all the way through school and was taking his tests before finding out there were such things as log books and then when he asked, the school refused to teach him the HOS regulations.  Another man’s trainer had such a bad attitude that the student feared for his safety.   The trainer yelled and cussed at him and then took a swing at the student…just because the student scraped a gear on his first day.

OOIDA is pushing Washington D. C. to increase training regulations.  Todd Spencer, Executive Vice President of OOIDA had this to say about the regulations and why they need to be addressed.  “Training is something we have been working on for a long time and believe it will have significant impact on the value of drivers’ time, and more importantly, on safety for all highway users. It is a matter of raising the level of professionalism of our industry and seeing the correlation between that and highway safety…Drivers are held responsible for almost everything that can go wrong. It only makes sense that the training required should correspond with the responsibilities of the job. Obviously, the qualifications of the trainer are crucial to quality training. FMCSA says they will be releasing a driver training proposal by mid-January. I’m sure it will be an improvement over the non-existent requirement we have now, but I’m also sure we and others will need to point out areas that need improvement.”

It makes no sense to regulate trucking into the ground on the issue of safety while leaving the basics of trucking safety, that of the training of drivers, to remain inadequate or not addressed at all.  One would think that companies, who pay tremendous amounts for insurance would want to train their entry-level drivers adequately, instead they push them through their system quickly for the most part to keep the trucks moving.  The companies seem to be working on the percentage idea of training, if they hire ten students and only two kill themselves due to inadequate training, then the other eight are still making money for the company.  The only way to get companies to adequately train is by getting the FMCSA to put in place comprehensive training requirements for schools and for the companies and their trainers, and then enforce those regulations rigorously.  Let us hope it happens sooner than later!

Ya’ll be safe!

Cookie Cutter Trucking

by Sandy Long 2008

Trucking has sure changed radically since I started otr over 26 years ago.  Back then a driver was told where to pick up a load, when to deliver it and was basically left alone to get the job done…and took pride in doing it too.

Nowadays, a driver is told where to pick up the load, when to deliver it, how many miles to do in a day, where to stop, where to fuel and how much to put in, when to sleep, when it is comfortable so he/she can sleep, how many hours they have to run in a day and how many miles to log according to computer averages, and questioned when they take a pit stop to pee because the satellite marked them as stopped for X amount of minutes.  Appointments too are set up according to computer formulas…never mind you have a castrated 65 mph truck, with 45k in the box and going over the mountains…”computer says it is only 18 hours driving time…so do it.  Appointments cannot be changed unless the truck breaks down and even then you might hear…no, YOU HAVE TO BE THERE!!!

MAXIMIZE YOUR HOURS!!!, is the new battle cry of companies instead of “if you get tired, take a nap”.  “We expect you to run 600+ miles a day no matter what…and do 150,000 miles a year!, but we are turning the trucks back to even slower speeds”

Satellites track us down to the foot, keep track of our speed, stops, and can send truck information for the asking…such as idle time, mpg, hours moving etc.  (wonder how long it will be before the dammed things drive the truck too???)

Dispatch uses the satellites for dispatching and supposedly answering questions…but they rarely reply unless it suits them.  Dispatchers now manage a driver’s log book and tell them how to log…the other day, I got hung up at a receivers for 6 hours and was going to miss my reload…dispatcher proceeded to tell me that I could show the 6 hours in the bunk and drive over my 14 legally…lol…said DUH, I FORGOT, when I pointed out that it took 8 to stop the clock.

Safety on the other hand, uses the satellite system to also keep track of the driver’s logs…and can fire someone or make them go to electronic logs if the paper logs don’t match down to the minute…of course dispatch says, don’t worry about the safety department…call us and we will finagle the system.  Safety plays ‘safety bingo’ with big prizes for the winners to make the drivers more safe…while dispatch pushes the driver past their limits.

Individual drivers are no longer celebrated for their abilities…held up to the computer model, we are now expected to be clones and all run the same miles in the same way, need the same hometime, never get sick or tired, never get held up in construction or traffic jams or shippers/receivers, and are supposed to be able to sleep anywhere, anytime we are told to.

Trucking has become cookie cutter trucking with all of us being like gingerbread men and women with only the outer decorations being different.  Where is the flipping pride in that???