Safety……. Safety, Safety, Safety. That is the one theme that has been consistent throughout my working life. From growing up on a farm to working in the oil fields of Alaska and continuing on into my trucking career. There is no doubt that safety is important and one of the foremost concerns of labor and the government alike. Safety always seemed to be more about common sense and awareness then much anything else. That is, until I started to become involved in trucking advocacy.
There are many government agencies that are supposed to be about safety in the workplace. The ones that are the most prominent in the trucking world are DOT, FMCSA, FHWA and, NHTSA. There are also many private safety organizations and coalitions of trucking companies and trucking associations like Road Safe America, First Student, Inc., Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH),Truck Safety Coalition, Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), American Trucking Association (ATA) and, National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC) just to name some of the more active players.
The problem I have is that issues of safety today no longer seem to be based in common sense. The idea of safety seems to be decided by economic or emotional influences in today’s world. When you look at who each of these very vocal groups are and what they represent, you start to see the problem. In almost every case, there is a special interest involved in each opinion that is being heard or voiced at the table of rule making today. Not that all of the positions are bad. It is simply important to understand the origin of their opinions.
Some of these entities have suffered loss of family members in truck involved crashes. Some are motivated by financial gains. Others are motivated to give the people they represent a greater advantage in the market place. There is only one association that represents the individual driver’s point of view on safety. That is OOIDA. Each of the others have agendas that are good for their group but not necessarily for safety in general.
I would like to touch on a few things that I think should be considered.
How about I start with one of the oldest mandates, Driver Training. There has been a congressional mandate for over 20 years to establish training standards but only in the last year has any real movement been made and that is, in large part, thanks to OOIDA’s constant call for responsible rules and the creation of TruckersForSafety.com. This to me is common sense.
HOS is a big one. Where do I start? The hours of service are a perfect example of what happens when emotion and the opportunity to make money collide. Any reasonable person would agree that we need rules to prevent exploitation of drivers by insensitive employers and to limit over zealous drivers. With that said, none of the rules put control of a schedule in the hands of properly trained and proven safe drivers. If you try to apply the same logic to your personal schedule it doesn’t really work so well. For example, the 14 hour on duty limit sounds reasonable for a truck driver but not with the different scenarios in your own life. Likewise, a trucker needs to be able to work when it is safest for all involved. Yet, in times of disaster the FMCSA will temporarily revoke the HOS rules to get people some much needed aid. There has been no public study to show ANY diminished safety to the public by allowing these drivers to operate on their own best judgment. Without going in depth about the HOS rules, that is the point! There have been no studies that show diminished safety when experienced truckers work on their own best judgments.
ELDs (electronic logging devices) are touted to be for safety. Please refer to my previous post to see the reality of ELDs. They can only record place and time somewhat accurately. All other duty statuses can be falsified. They also remove all flexibility from a driver sometimes causing them to be in violation while attempting to reach safe haven in situations that are beyond the drivers control.
Speed limiters have been proposed as a mandatory item on CMVs. Any evidence to show a safety benefit can just as easily be countered with evidence to the opposite. Yet the band plays on.
One of the latest scams on safety is the proposed increase of minimum liability being introduced into congress by Rep. Cartwright. His family made their fortune suing trucking companies. Conflict of interest? I guess not if you are a U.S. Representative. The current minimum liability limit for a trucking company is $750,000. Most companies carry $1 mil. in coverage. This representative wants to put minimums at $4.4 million! That would put many small business truckers out of business and force them to go to work for a company that is self insured just to stay in trucking. Many of our experienced drivers today are choosing to get off the road because of regulations like this. Those very experienced drivers are being replaced by entry level drivers that still have no driver training standards by the companies that don’t have to purchase insurance because of their influences in government rule making.
There is so much more to this subject that would turn this blog into a novel if I were to address all the characters and issues involved. My simple request is to research a little bit about the players involved in our so called safety programs and their recommendations. If its not really about bringing greater safety to the public at a reasonable cost, I ask you to get involved and let your voice be heard by your representatives.