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News From the Front Line

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posted on Aug, 28 2010 @ 01:48 PM
I just had a very interesting phone call.

Most of you who have been here a while know that for many years I made my living as a cross-country (OTR) truck driver. I still have friends in the field who I talk to as much as I can. One just called me and we had a very nice and informative conversation. It seems that while I have been at home, there have been a few changes happening:
  • There has been a new points system implemented. Drivers and companies accrue points based on safety violations, and these points determine how tightly they are inspected or audited by the USDOT, and can lead to the pulling of their authority (translation: illegal for them to operate trucks) if the points accrue to a high enough level. Obviously, this means that companies will be very hesitant to hire drivers who have accrued too many points.

    Now, this sounds like a good idea, but the implementation is where the problem lies. A good example is accidents. There are two types: preventable and non-preventable, established both by the company the driver drives for and the DOT (any tickets equal preventable, for instance). But 50 points are automatically accrued for any fatal accident regardless of whether the driver could have prevented it. In other words, if someone decides to commit suicide by driving into a parked truck, the parked driver just got 50 points, even if he was asleep in the bunk at the time.

    Also, any out-of-service order carries mandatory points. That again sounds reasonable, but the implementation tells a different story. I was invovled in a fatal accident once, in Tennessee. I was stopped in traffic at a construction zone when a SUV hit me at upwards of 70 mph from the rear. After the clean-up and the drug test (mandatory in such a case), the investigating DOT officer escorted me to a safe place to park for an inspection. He wrote me an out-of-service order for the following:
    • Broken taillight from the collision.
    • A distorted rim from the accident.
    • A piece of wood that was not tied down. It was removed to help pry the victim from his car after the accident.

    Now that didn't really bother me at the time. there was no money involved; I just was not able to move the truck until road service (or me, in the case of the wood blocking) had corrected the problem. Had this same incident happened today, I would be charged points for being involved in the accident and for each out-of-service violation. All for being the last truck stopped in a line of traffic!

  • Fuel prices are still high. Sure, there is now a fuel surcharge, but it is not always paid to the driver. When I left the road, there was legislation pending that forced a 'fuel surcharge' to be paid to whoever paid for the fuel, be it a company or a driver. That has still not passed into law, and many brokers do not send that fuel surcharge (at least not all of it) to the fuel buyer. Many times it simply helps line their pockets.

  • A few states tried to implement a 'fatigue analysis' test. This was a checklist completed during an inspection that gave a score supposedly representative of how fatigued the driver was. Some of the indicators of fatigue?
    • The driver has a TV in the truck.
    • The driver didn't make his bed that morning.
    • The driver has a laptop computer.
    • The driver has magazines in the truck.

    There have actually been drivers who were placed out of service for failing this test.

  • The environmental regulations for 2010 are making trucks more expensive by a large factor, decreasing their fuel economy substantially, and costing drivers downtime while their trucks 'regenerate'. The more complex systems are also increasing maintenance costs as they become more and more complex to work on, and are experiencing a greater number of malfunctions causing downtime in a shop.

  • There are new proposed rules for the hours of service (HOS) regulations. The present 11 hours of maximum uninterrupted driving are rumored to be cut back to 10, and the restart provision (where a driver gets full hours back after a break) is reported to be either removed or increased from 34 to 48 hours.

    Now some might think this is a good thing, because driving too long too often can lead to fatigue. That is true, but one must also remember that drivers are not paid by the hour, but by the mile driven (and usually not by every mile driven; there are several methods used to calculate mileage pay and none of them actually pay for the total miles driven). Drivers also have a definite schedule to keep to make delivery on time. So what this does is to make the drivers earn less because they can drive less, or make them speed to try and compensate. The old restart provision was actually calculated as one rest period (10 hours), one day off (14 hours), and another rest period (10 hours) for a grand total of 34. If this is increased to 48, the driver will be starting off about the time his biological clock is screaming for sleep.

  • Brokered loads are still notorious for shorting the drivers who actually haul them. In addition to pocketing the fuel surcharges as mentioned above, brokers sometimes 'double-broker' loads (it goes through two brokers, and each gets a cut of the pay), lie about the actual charges to the drivers, giving them less than their cut woud have been had they gotten what they were promised, or just broker 50 loads and close their offices so no one gets paid but them. They can re-open a week later under a different name and no one knows about their last business.

Why does this matter to you? Because, the one thing that impressed me the most when I was driving was how everything, and I do mean everything that you buy comes by a truck. The food you buy, the electronic gadgets you own, the car you drive, the appliances in your home, the fuel you use in the car, all comes by truck. If there are no trucks, there is no food, no new cars, appliances, electronics, and no fuel.

The trucker is perhaps the hardest hit during this recession already. For years now I have watched large companies closing their doors and owner-operators either losing everything they had or retiring to do something else. Now it appears another blow is coming to the world of the truck driver. When there are not enough drivers to deliver the freight, the result will be shortages. There will be empty shelves in the grocery stores, waiting lists for appliances and electronics, and rationing of fuel. There is no other alternative. The typical city has less than one week's supplies at any one time.

I am predicting this recession is about to turn even more dire than it has been so far. Thank you, Obama.


posted on Aug, 28 2010 @ 04:07 PM
Wow, if this gets fully implemented it will essentially criple the North Slope oil production here in Alaska. The Dalton Highway (watch Ice Road Truckers and you'll see what I'm refering to) is the only means of getting supplies to and from Deadhorse & Prudhoe. Having visited with several drivers for Carlisle trucking I can tell you that on the Dalton accidents are not an "if" they are a "when." At the very least you'll get out-of-service orders purely due to the nature of the conditions you're driving in. Problems like frozen tires, ice buildup on the truck itself, and oftentimes stress cracks in the frame of the truck because of insane sub zero temps. If they start nailing those drivers with points because of this, I don't see how any of them will be able to stay on the road long enough to break even, let alone make a living.

posted on Aug, 28 2010 @ 05:35 PM
reply to post by TheRedneck

I like the point system. There are to many eftards driving trucks, and too many jerks. If the point system helps eliminate some of them, GOOD.

The rest I can agree with you on.. from when I moved across the country I had to deal with a "broker" .. in my opinion the "broker" system is nothing short than organized crime/mobster extortion. Even the actual drivers I spoke with despised the "broker".

posted on Aug, 28 2010 @ 06:47 PM

Originally posted by Rockpuck
I like the point system. There are to many eftards driving trucks, and too many jerks. If the point system helps eliminate some of them, GOOD.

By that logic, the drivers of Texas, California, and British Columbia all need to institute an even more rigorous point system. I have driven some of the busiest interstate coridoors in the nation on a daily basis. I drove I-10 to and from college for 5 years, lived in Tucson for 5 years and spent half of that time working in Phoenix, and lived 4 years in the western Cascades driving into work in Seattle daily (actually used a Park & Ride just outside the city... but still drove the main interstates daily). I have very rarely found commercial truck drivers to be the dangerous ones. Almost without fail it is the truck drivers who drive the safe speed, stay in their lane, and usually even will make an effort to let you merge... all of which is far more than I can say for the majority of normal drivers.

Truckers are the only cargo transport in the US that doesn't have the benefit of the doubt or the right of way. Railroad, air transport, ocean transport, all hold massive right of way over civilian traffic. Truckers, sadly for them, must generally yield the right of way and operate under even more stringent rules than the average motorist does. I mean seriously, who is the bigger danger... some dipcrap driving his F-350 10 MPH over the speedlimit fiddling with the radio aafter a long day of work or the professionally trained, tested, and licensed truck driver who makes his entire living behind the wheel of his truck? That F-350 will likely kill anybody just as quickly as the semi will, and the individual driving it is statistically far more likely to cause an accident than the CDL carrying trucker is.

posted on Aug, 28 2010 @ 09:50 PM
The flavor of more and more of these types of regulations to make trucking less profitable and more difficult smacks of the PTB trying to force deisel trucks off the road. I've heard many on the left proclaim that we need to do away with trucking and move goods around on freight trains again (I'm sure it would be "clean" trains that run on unicorn pooh)

posted on Aug, 28 2010 @ 10:05 PM
reply to post by burdman30ott6

I know, and I imagine being a truck driver is a hard job, I had a hell of a time a few years ago driving a small (compared to a semi) Chevy 7500 with a 15ft trailer. People cutting you off when you have no stopping power, slow acceleration and so on, massive blind spots..

But at the same time, truckers are in such demand that anyone with the time to get a license can get behind the wheel.. a point system for driving violations would take the worst of the worst off the road, no?

And I always supported "truck only" highways.. express lanes blocked off from the rest of the highway exclusively for trucks between major cities.

posted on Aug, 28 2010 @ 10:06 PM
My boss just recently purchased 20 brand new Tri-axles and 15 new Oshkosh Mixers with the new 500 Cummings and automatics. In the last 6 months we have had more down time because of the fuel problems and the damned re-generators failing. If they don't work while driving you must shut down for 20 minutes, restart, and wait another 10 till you have enough power to haul your load to the destination. When your trying to keep 5 Concrete plants running with enough sand, stone and cement and your trucks are losing 3 hours a day in faulty regeneration time, you are,

1: pissing off your customers because of late deliveries

2: causing problems with correct concrete temperatures and cold joints in structural setups.

3: your bottom line and your customer base is shrinking because of the screwups.

It's no wonder Caterpillar stopped making engines for over the road trucks with all the damned EPA regs that do not do anything in actuality but cost everybody else more of their hard earned money!


[edit on 8/28/2010 by ZindoDoone]

posted on Aug, 28 2010 @ 10:13 PM
With NAFTA thousands of Mexican trucks come onto US highways and roads I wonder if these drivers and trucks are subject to similar regulation.

posted on Aug, 29 2010 @ 01:04 PM
reply to post by Rockpuck

I like the point system. There are to many eftards driving trucks, and too many jerks. If the point system helps eliminate some of them, GOOD.

I liked it too when I first heard of it. But that was when I thought points would be awarded for violations within a driver's control. What good does it do to assign points for things a driver cannot control? What good does it do to force a driver into unemployment when his/her only fault was being stopped in traffic in front of a drunk (Yes, the guy who committed suicide in my tandems was drunk)? Instead of being a method of identifying bad drivers as opposed to good ones, it has become a way to punish drivers for simply driving, safe or no.

I admit I share your concern about drivers who should not be behind the wheel; I have seen far too many for my taste. The real problem is training. As it stands, anyone with a CDL and some cash can open up a driver training school, train drivers, send them to a company with a grand total of less than 10 hours actual road experience, and the company can then send them out with another trainee to drive the truck full-time for on-the job training!

OOIDA has already proposed new guidelines that require a specific number of hours behind the wheel in training, as well as a specific number of hours with a certified trainer, before a driver can cross state lines. That would eliminate the revolving door of mediocrity we have in the industry. All these regulations do is convince the older more experienced drivers that maybe it's time to retire and let the rookies have a turn at the wheel.

Incidentally, read on to find out where a good number of the really bad drivers are coming from...


posted on Aug, 29 2010 @ 01:07 PM
reply to post by ZindoDoone

Being a little familiar with the concrete industry as well, I can appreciate everything you just said. Concrete cannot just sit in the mixer indefinitely; Florida I know has strict times for delivery, after which you just dump the load wherever you can and go back for more.

Mechanical problems with the regenerator is not an excuse to accept a load of concrete, either.

I don't blame CAT for not making engines either, but I have to admit I never liked a CAT for road trucks. Now Cummings...


posted on Aug, 29 2010 @ 01:13 PM
reply to post by anglodemonicmatrix

According to NAFTA, yes and no. They do not have to be in compliance with US regulations, but they do have to have similar regulations in their home country. At the present time, Mexico has no regulations to speak of on trucks.

Yet, that doesn't seem to prevent certain PTB from trying to get Mexican trucks/drivers allowed on US highways.

One day after signing the $410 billion omnibus funding bill into law, along with provisions ending the Department of Transportation's Mexican truck demonstration project, the Obama administration has announced intentions to restart the program as soon as possible.

Debbie Mesloh, a spokeswoman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, told the Associated Press Obama has asked the office to work with Congress, the DOT, the State Department and Mexican officials to come up with legislation to create "a new trucking project that will meet the legitimate concerns" of Congress and the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.

It makes some in the industry wonder if the tighter and tighter regulations on US trucks is simply to create a demand for foreign trucking...


posted on Aug, 29 2010 @ 01:20 PM
reply to post by Rockerchic4God

OK, I gotta comment on this post as well...

The problem with using freight trains is manyfold. First, the trains don't go everywhere. There is no depot or track behind my local WalMart or grocery stores; I checked. Second, the time factor makes trains useless for most goods. It can take up to two weeks for freight to move across the country on a train; an experienced team can move that same freight in three days, from NY to LA. Thirdly, trains are not typically refrigerated; they have some 'reefer' cars, but not many. Each reefer has to haul fuel as well as the freight in order to run the reefer unit. Trucks, on the other hand, can move that freight on the same fuel it takes to power the truck; you fill three tanks instead of two. Also, the difference in time makes it much easier to keep foods from spoiling on a truck.

Trains just won't do everything, and do precious little as well as trucks. That's just the hard fact, and it is a shame we have people in power who will ignore hard reality in favor of some utopian dream of not having to share the road with the trucks.


posted on Aug, 29 2010 @ 01:56 PM
OK, I get that regulations are meant to help.

And that over-regulation can kill an industry.

My question is: Why would the people who write and enforce the regulations not try to write GOOD regulations?

Where is the benefit in hurting the industry...whatever industry is involved?

Who benefits if all suffer?

It seems (to me) to be a simple question of logic. If you are charged with supervising and or regulating a certain group of people or a certain operation, you should be expert enough with the functions of that group or operation to do your job without harming your "charges".

And yet, time and time again, I see folks who are completly un-suited, inexperienced, and often just plain intellectually insufficient, to meet the demands of thier position, placed in positions of supervision and/or governence.

Why do we do this? Why do WE, the society at large, allow this obviously irrational behaviour to continue?

None of us benefit from having incompetents and fools "running the show"; yet we, as a people, seem all too willing to let them keep doing it. We even seem to encourage this irrationality by taking no action to stop it!

Are we just too lazy to stand up and say "Don't bother, I'll fix this, I know how."

Somebody must be making a real killing (literally!) off all this foolishness, because there is so much of it and it seems to have been going on for a very long time.

Now how do we stop it?

[edit on 29-8-2010 by Bhadhidar]

posted on Aug, 29 2010 @ 05:23 PM
reply to post by Bhadhidar

One reason is that most of the idiots that write these rules, write rules that pertain the little cocoon they live in or have no idea AT ALL what is entailed in the industry they are regulating. Like most bureaucrats, they have to do something even if its wrong to justify their jobs!


posted on Aug, 29 2010 @ 09:01 PM
reply to post by ZindoDoone

Excellent Point!!

Now, My question would be:

What would happen to them if they didn't write those ridiculous regulations?

They'd get fired, Right?

That won't do. Unemployment is too high already, right?

OK, so then what would happen if they took the time to learn about the field they're supposed to regulate before they try to write the regulations?

The regulations wouldn't be in force when they were needed, and they'd get fired, right?

So why don't their bosses just make sure that the people they supervise know how to do the job before they hire them?

Because the bosses are, themselves, under pressure from their bosses to "get the job done!"

And so on and so on, on up (and down) the line, in a vicious circle.

Until you have our present situation, where NOTHING! gets done right because everybody is too afraid to take the time to do the right thing because they might get fired if they take too long, or it might cost too much, or some other lame excuse.

We have, as a society, come to accept the premise that it is always better to do the wrong thing than to take the time to figure out what the right thing is.

What is the popular saying:

"It is better to ask for forgiveness, than permission"

A cop-out of responsibility that will, if it has not already, lead to the degredation and eventual collapse of society.

posted on Aug, 30 2010 @ 08:26 AM
reply to post by Bhadhidar

Then where would all those relatives of Senators and Congress and the staff and old college frat brothers of these folks get jobs?? I mean is it so hard to see that we have a system that can't or won't do what's right but keep the power in their hands and not in the citizens?


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