US Senate Bill S.659
introduced in the US Senate March 10, 2021.
AKA: the DRIVE Safe Act (Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy Act).
And, as usual, the bill does the exact opposite of what the title purports.
In essence, S.659 is a bill to lower the legal Interstate CDL age from 21 to 18, using an apprentice program. That sounds sorta OK on the surface, but
dig a little deeper like I did this morning, and it all starts to unravel. Now, let me add here at the beginning that I know I'm a little late on
this, but most news just sickens me now-a-days. I'd much rather watch re-runs of the Beverly HIllbillies
or Gilligan's Island
re-watching Star Trek: Voyager
now. No news on my TV since last November. It's 99% poppycock anyway.
Landline Now magazine (which I still get and read), which is one of the few organizations actually lobbying for the drivers, alerted me to this story.
You can access it at their website
, but be warned they do require a
free subscription. I'll be speaking from the magazine article itself, written in ink on this thing some of you might be familiar with: it's called
Seems there has been a running complaint about a so-called driver shortage. The article in Landline mentions a story a while back about a company
called Sisu Energy who was offering experienced drivers $14,000 per week. That sounds pretty much ridiculous! Trucking pays between $40 and $50k on
average per year.
Well, turns out, that's not exactly true. You see, Sisu Energy doesn't even hire employee drivers. They use Owner-Ops exclusively and their ad
specifies up to
$14,000 per week. Now, as someone with over a million OTR miles under my belt, preventable accident free, let me clue you in on
what that means: if you own your own truck and tanker trailer outright, which will set you back to the tune of a few thousand dollars a month, and if
you have your own fuel permits and associated government requirements, and if you happen to have an exceptionally good week where you worked 80+ hours
along with a team driver, the two of you might... might
... make $14,000 that week. Chances are, you won't, though, and even if you do you will
see a very low check for the week before and the week after.
That's how the industry works. Loads are paid upon delivery. Let's say Sisu pay weeks run from Sunday to Saturday. So you drove a couple days to get
unloaded Sunday morning, then finished up your last load Saturday evening... that's really a week and a half of work, and yes, you get paid for that
week and a half of work, but it's all considered to be one week's pay. Forget about the fact that the previous week you only got paid for three days
and DOT regs will shut you down for a couple days the next week... the company still sees it as one week.
OK, with that out of the way, who is behind this? According to Landline/OOIDA (Owner-Operator's Independent Driver Association), it's the ATA
(American Trucking Association), which is made up primarily of large fleet owners and retailers. Not drivers. Who would this bill help? Large fleet
owners and retailers, by lowering transportation costs at the cost of public safety and the new teenage drivers.
One thing I caught looking through S.659 was that much of the apprentice program was to be implemented and managed not by any regulatory agency, but
by the trucking companies themselves. Now, anyone who has spent any time as a driver knows that the most corrupt, unscrupulous aspect of the trucking
industry is the trucking companies themselves. One of the reasons I left is I found out that the driver is nothing more to the companies than a
steering wheel holder required by law, and their own personal safety is of little concern compared to the well-being of the equipment, loads, and
customers. Many have been caught red-handed falsifying government records to get unqualified drivers a shiny new CDL. Swift in particular was caught
doing this in their driver training program while I was driving, and the pattern continues.
CDL examiner and owner of trucking
school sentenced for fraud scheme
Driving school owner convicted of CDL
Former Owner of Lee
County Truck Driving School Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Pay Bribes to CDL Examiner
Three Plead Guilty in CDL Scam
These are the people who are to administer the apprentice program for young drivers according to S.659.
Now let's get real for a minute about safety. There's a reason insurance rates drop for drivers when they turn 25 years old: the insurance companies
knew long before science proved it that the human brain continues developing until about age 25. After that age, when the final sections of the brain
that control foresight and anticipation mature, accident rates drop off sharply. As it is now, we allow drivers to operate that 40-ton behemoth of
death 4 years earlier than that; so what could go wrong with allowing it 7 years earlier? Exactly how is that considered "safe"?
I'll also bring up the issue of the 18 year old drivers as well. Most of them in this generation can't even show up for work on time. So what
happens when they have little to no supervision? Sure, an experienced driver is required to be with them, but that won't be the case 24/7 and OTR
trucking is a 24/7 job. You pick up a load and you are on the road for sometimes days at a time until the load is delivered, then you have to do it
all over again to get back within range of home. The better trucking jobs allow the required 34-hour break at home most weekends. The harder ones will
keep you out on the road for months at a time. A few drivers I have known don't even have a home; their home is their truck. They use a friend's
address for mail and stop by once every few months to pick up their mail. They literally live on the road.
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