Hours of Service Rules On the Agenda In the Senate. Here We Go Again

Drivers

Back in 2013, the FMCSA changed and updated one of the affects of the hours Of Service to affect when and how truckers would be required to conduct the 34 hour reset. That change made it mandatory that when the reset was taken, it could (1) only be taken One time per week, and (2) required the driver to take said reset break with Two 1 A.M. To 5 A.M., periods prior to being able to go back on duty to conduct any further work. The problem with that, is that there are those drivers who prefer, and have adjusted their personal working times (body clocks) to run during the midnight periods in an effort to avoid the heavy traffic and congestion that is involved with daylight running. In requiring this mandatory rest period to be conducted in such a way, those drivers would have to change their circadian rhythms to run during the day again, or,…. wait until later in the second days evening to once again begin moving, and keep to their preferred running times, which would involve further delaying the delivery and pickups of loads.

There have been others in the industry who have raised their voices to the FMCSA in an attempt to get them to understand the problems associated with this particular rule, along with additional problems encountered with how this rule was implemented. Then, Congress intervened and ordered a halt to that particular part of the rule in 2013, and returned trucking to the point where the driver could take a 34 hour reset whenever he or she needed to, or when the driver was forced to stop for an undetermined amount of time, due to loads not being available, weather conditions that preempted safe movement, extended breakdown repairs, and any other number of circumstances that prevented the driver from working. Instead, the driver was Forced to have to wait to do a reset until a specified number of hours were completed before a reset could be conducted. Once again, this brought the driver to the point of Not being able to operate, and/or complete a run, making loads late, and thereby costing companies and owner operators both time, productivity, possibly customers, and money.

Now, back in December of 2014, the House stepped in, and ordered the reset rule to be set back to the 2011 requirement that we are currently operating under, where, if a driver stops for 34 hours or more, even if they had already been running for less than the 70 hours (lets just say, for convenience,….. 49 hours worth of running) then the driver could get a reset, without it being mandatory, thereby resetting the clock, And, not having to wait til he or she had reached 168 hours of on duty time prior to taking a reset (which has been a Huge gripe in the trucking community).

Right now, though, the House is looking at tossing the 2013 rule out altogether, and allowing us to Stay with the 2011 rule, which the majority favors, and preventing the FMCSA from changing the rule further. BUT… The Senate has come up with something different, along with ADDing 3 hours to the 70 hour rule, with the downside of wanting to stick to the FMCSA’s (cough, cough) “Study” saying that going by the 2013 rule would prevent truckers from being “fatigued” more easily, thereby putting us back into the quagmire that we have been fighting going back to, for the reasons mentioned earlier.

Right now, unless the Senate agrees to back down from this decision, which I doubt, and the House decides that their idea is the better course, then the House and senate would have to sit down together and debate which way would “be best for truckers”, thereby leaving Us in the lurch having to make whatever changes need to be made, and suffer with it if that change is the wrong idea, Annnd, leaving us with once again having to raise our voices to get Big Brother to pay attention.

 

The way it has been, and is right now, If those of us in the trucking community do not stand up, and raise our voices with our respective Senators and Congressmen, and raise your voices Loudly, then everything is going to continue to change for the negative, and every trucker out there is going to continue the pointless and endless whining on the CB, and in the truck stops about how Big Daddy keeps screwing with our livelihoods, and how “we just cant catch a decent break”. It’s kinda like this,…. if you had a tumor on your brain, that was gonna cost you your life, would you want a cook with a fork and serrated knife in his hands to do the surgery on you?? or would you want a fully knowledgeable (and experienced) brain surgeon to do the work, and bring you out safe and alive, with all the gunk removed so you could carry on a normal and happy life?

Drivers need to get on the horn and contact your respective legislator, and Make them Listen. Phone calls, email, messages and posts on their facebook pages, Linkedin, Twitter accounts, anything you can find that they use to communicate with to get their attention! Tell them to leave us with the 2011 version of the 34 hour reset, so we can do our jobs. THEY don’t know how to do it, WE DO! We’re the ones who have the training, knowledge, and Experience in doing this kind of work. They push paperwork, kiss babies butts and make them cry, and make themselves look good to the public!

If you don’t speak up now, And from now on, then you may just as well go bury your head under a rock and say, To Heck with this world.

 

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What is Happening With Americas Rest Areas?

rest areas uncedr construction

For years now, truck parking around this country has been at a premium, and getting worse, instead of better. With the growing number of trucks on the road, and the demand for more drivers for trucks, it makes finding truck parking harder and harder. The problem being, is that many states have closed rest areas for the purpose of “scheduled Maintenance, or repair”  yet when drivers pass these areas by that are closed, there is no one around doing anything even remotely related to maintenance, leaving travelers wondering why this is so.  Plus add that drivers traveling through one or two of these states are finding that some of these rest areas are posted with signs stating that there is a limit as to how many hours they are allowed to stop and rest.

For truckers held under Federal DOT standards, this is a huge problem.  Some have pulled into these rest areas to try to get their required 10 hour rest break, only to be awakened by state police or sheriffs, and be handed tickets for overstaying their Locally allotted limit of time, which falls far short of the  Federally required amount of time, putting drivers into direct violation of FMCSA rules. Plus, many travelers that use the highways for commutes, or business on a regular basis that also use the rest areas are wondering what the holdup is on getting these places back up and running again, with responses that the state is “lacking in funding” to keep the rest areas open, or “cannot afford the trash removal fees” as their reason for closing down these much needed places.

Jason’s Law, which was spearheaded by his widowed wife Joan Rivenberg, was supposed to be one that was to provide funding and incentive to get the problem of much needed parking for the nations tractor trailer drivers adequate spaces and places to get safely parked, and has been several years in the making for anything to take place.  Not only have the states been slow to respond to the truck parking issue, but even several communities around the country are fighting and taking a hard stance against some truck stops trying to make improvements and expansions to their current facilities, or in adding additional truck stops, in an effort to help alleviate the parking situation that truckers face. And one state in particular (Florida) has a couple of communities (along the east end of Interstate 4 and the junction of interstates 4 and 95) that are practically Demanding that the state either shut down, or move a pair of rest areas because they think that the trucks make too much noise, cause pollution, and the most far fetched of ideas,….. that “trucks bring crime to their communities”,…..and that “cars have plenty of exit ramps that they can utilize”.  I shake my head at that one. I’ve never seen a bill of lading in a truck drivers possession that stated under the product line,…. “criminal contents.”

Another person who has been going around the country attending meetings related to safe truck parking, is Desiree Wood of Real Women in Trucking and the Truck parking Coalition, which can be found on Facebook and the web, has also been pushing for more accountability and education in the country in the need for additional safe truck parking which is in dire need, and her efforts have not gone un-noticed. She along with several others, have been taking the issue to a number of states around the country, and have been well recieved.

Anyway, I digress!  One state in the country, namely Missouri,  has taken positive steps toward improving on their rest areas, and have taken old unused weigh stations and turned them into Truck Parking Only, parking areas. And even Texas has been taking some steps towards improving some of their rest areas as well, yet they still leave some areas where you can barely squeeze several trucks into them, as they are mainly “picnic areas, or just old, outdated rest areas that could use improvement. Now granted, those areas have little if any facilities, but they DO provide truckers with a place to park and get some rest, without interference. More states need to follow this example.  The only thing I would request for these truck parking areas, is that the state at least include facilities that drivers can use in the event mother nature comes calling,… suddenly.  Even if it is something as simple as the concrete buildings created for use as outhouses, that can be very easily maintained, and very cost effectively, plus simple hand wash stations as well.

Regardless what is done, these rest areas are direct areas that many drivers will go to, if they have to, in order to find a parking place to Hopefully get the rest they need, and the states need to get on the ball to complete their maintenance or upgrades as soon as possible.  At the least, don’t close the rest areas until they have the work force they need directly on hand to begin the work as soon as they “temporarily” close them down. Then start and finish the project in an appropriate amount of time, instead of dragging the project on, and on.

 

Truck Driver Training, Will Driver Quality Improvements Take Place?

 

safe

Experienced truckers in the industry today have seen, far better than those in bureaucratic positions and even those that run many of the carriers in the country today, just how bad the quality of today’s truck driver has actually become.  With many feeling that there is little, if any, hope that improvements will take place. Even with the advent of last years FMCSA sponsored meetings of what needs to be done to improve upon the training of new Entry Level drivers (by way of the Entry Level Driver Training Advisory Committee meetings) which was put together to offer ways for the FMCSA to enact legislation to make stronger improvements of how new drivers coming into the industry are to be properly trained so that our nations roadways might become safer, and so that companies will have a higher degree of more competent and capable truck drivers.

Part of these “improvements”, which many experienced drivers hope to see, are how trucking companies that have their own training schools and curriculum’s, will be required to meet specific training standards for new drivers, well before they are allowed to step off training courses, and into the public realm, where the decisions they make and how they respond to driving conditions, can become more critical to themselves and the motoring public.

Another aspect is people who have a “business” of helping people get their CDL license with little, or no, hands on training in a certified school. I’m speaking of places that offer you how to get your CDL license within 1 day, without having to pay the price, and time, of going through a truck driving school.  Granted, there are those who can step behind the wheel of a “Big Rig” and safely operate it from point A to point B without incident, but the ongoing intricacies that can become involved in day-to-day operations, in differing climates and locales, can present circumstance that the novice will fail to see and respond to appropriately, and in time.

The comments and concerns of the experienced driver today, and still ongoing, and many of them feel that instead of seeing better drivers entering the market, we are seeing more dangerous drivers behind the wheel instead.  With many of today’s drivers not knowing when they have actually given sufficient room to another vehicle, whether another big rig or car when passing, before stepping back to the right lane. Failing to give room to drivers attempting to merge left to avoid emergency vehicles, or others that are parked on the shoulder. How to make turns safely.  Failing to keep safe following distances from vehicles they are behind. Maneuvering for parking spaces in tight spots. Speeding through parking lots packed with vehicles and people moving around. Not having the patience to wait while drivers are attempting to get backed into parking spaces. Knowing how to read a truck atlas and which routes they can and cannot use. And the list just continues to grow, and grow, and grow.

On top of the driving problems, many are not adequately trained in how to properly and safely secure loads, along with tarping loads on open trailers.  The same goes with closed trailer units in ensuring that the load is properly positioned inside so that weights are properly distributed for safe movement. Drivers also need to be required to have the presence of mind to dress appropriately when they are expected to meet customers.

Image and attitude can be Everything when dealing with customers. I’ve trained more drivers to meet customers in a professional manner that garnered them “By Name Requests” from customers wanting them to come back and haul loads, which meant that their companies were properly presented as having drivers that knew what they were doing.

Until the FMCSA listens to drivers with experience, (along with those who work in safety departments within the industry that show strong, positive results within their companies due to practices that work)  and come up with proper standards that training schools and self-teaching trucking companies will have to comply with, and positive results are seen, then there will continue to be concerns by experienced drivers as to whether or not it is worthwhile to stay behind the wheel themselves, or to bail from the industry in favor of work elsewhere that keeps them from being on the road with drivers who continue to show themselves to not be safe to operate around.

Driver Safety Becoming More of a Concern

truck crash

Over the years, Decades, actually, driver safety has been one of how they load and unload, and how they operate safely on the road. Both go hand-in-hand with one another. But, today, things have shown a greater need of change, and what in the military is called, Situational Awareness. The reason for this sudden need to change (?), given the last number of years where drivers have been killed by thugs for what little money they had on them when they parked for a nights rest, or been held up on a truck-stop parking lot after having gotten fuel and a cash advance, or had their loads and rigs high-jacked, we now have a new problem, that has occurred over the last several months.

Truckers, while traveling down the nations roads, are being shot and killed, and even having objects thrown at them from overpasses, or passing vehicles, which have ended up in numerous deaths and serious injuries that have contributed to truck crashes. Whether these incidents have been the result of aggressive driving on the part of one party or the other, truckers now need to be even aware of who, and what, is going on around them, and to take even more care as to how and when they react to different situations.

Aggressive driving is not just cause by one side of the driving spectrum, it happens on all sides, including truck drivers as well. It involves tailgating, which has involved numerous deaths due to driver inattentiveness, or just being in too big a hurry to get someplace. Making unsafe lane changes which result in cutting other drivers off and sometimes forcing the other driver to take evasive actions to avoid a collision. Failing to Yield to the right of way when entering the highway from another. Failing to use turn signals, properly or even not at all, to alert others following that you intend, or are going to make a lane change or turn. And even shouting at, or using “sign language” towards other drivers who may have committed the traffic offense, which often aggravates the situation even more, and very possibly, has led to more recent incidents of the shooting deaths of truckers while on the move.

The most recent incidents have happened in the Chicago area, with at least two deaths happening on the beltways around the city, and the most recent having taken place in California, where the driver was found to have been shot and killed. Whether this was due to aggressive driving, gang violence, or just a chance happening, we may never know. But taking the proper steps to drive as safely as possible, and not bringing emotions into play if someone else does “The stupid” routine, could well keep something from happening.

Sadly, this article will not make it out to the eyes of everyone out there that drives any kind of vehicle, but hopefully, it will reach enough people to make a difference. Your life, and the lives of others are almost literally up for grabs right now, and in today’s society, where everyone is in a huge hurry to get someplace as fast as possible, with truckers being the “big, slow-moving, pile of junk” that’s in the way.

80,00 pounds of rolling truck cannot,… stop on a dime, turn on a dime, or take off or maneuver like a race car. They are huge machines that require concentration and effort to get them from place to place, all with the operator of the rig doing so as safely as possible. And everyone needs to more attentive and observant of what is going on around themselves, and give one another the space they need to get from point A to point B as safely as possible.

For the trucker, doing so is now an even higher need, as they are scrutinized more heavily than any other driver on the roadways, and increasing their vigilance while driving has become even more necessary today. So my advice is to slow down, and not get in the hurry that everyone else is in. Let the other vehicle get around you as safely as you can and even slow down to give yourself room between yourself and the passing vehicle. Do your best to keep your emotions in check so as not to bring greater risk into the situation. Hopefully, incidents can and will be avoided, but the responsibility may well rely on what You do, and not the “other guy.”

Trucker Shut-Down? Are You Kidding?

megatrucks-Semi-Trucks-Pa-002

Given what has been happening over the last 4 years or so, truckers are plenty upset over what is taking place in Washington, DC.  Truckers, including company drivers, Owner Operators, and possibly even union drivers are upset over rulings and proposals being presented by those in Congress and the Senate.   What with the ELD mandate that everyone and their uncle is fighting,

Then, add that Senator Richard Blumenthall (D) Conneticutt has proposed putting the 2013  version of the 34 hour reset back into action via the senate (again, another no go for the majority of truckers.  And another push going on about Sleep Apnea, Carrier fitness ratings, AND the ATA’s involvement in ways that does little-if-anything (no surprise there) to help truckers in the long run, among them the recent push to attempt to back and slip an amendment into several transportation bills that would prevent states from writing and enforcing laws that would ensure that drivers are PAID for any and all work they do, outside of driving their trucks from point A to point B.  And the years of stagnant pay that truckers have been under for decades.

And recently, someone posted on Facebook that truckers should go on strike, by shutting down in June of this year.  Uhhh, REALLY???  You have to be kidding!  To propose having truckers shut down for two days, with little, if any, notice, and expect that everyone will get the message and act, will not happen.  Why??   You need ALL truckers on board for such an action, which would include company drivers, Local operators, Container operators, Owner Operators, Unions, the whole gammut of truck drivers.  Plus, more time would have to be needed to prepare for such action, so drivers know where they will be, how they will conduct a shutdown, the finance that they will need at home, and on the road to compensate. How their individual companies will respond to their actions, AND, even more importantly, who is going to be the overall representative/s to stand up and speak for the drivers, and can they be trusted to push the subject, so that the bid-wigs in DC, along with every trucking company in the country is forced to listen.

If you have been listening to truckers at all, over the years, the standard (and correct) response to a shutdown in this day and age has been the same.  It’s hard enough to get two truckers to agree on some kind of strike, but get the entire country of truckers to stand together??  Not likely!

Yes, something needs to be done to get DC, the DOT, FMCSA, all the safety advocates, the ATA, Trucking Companies, and everyone else, out of the lives and livelihoods of truckers, and allow them to do their jobs, CORRECTLY, and with proper compensation, home-time, and less stress.  They wonder why truckers are overweight, have high blood pressure, poor family lives, face divorces, and many other problems that they would not have, if not for the BS that plays out every day in the industry.

Trucker shutdown?  If you want to do that, then work, (Hard) at getting every single trucker out there involved in agreeing, then set a solid date, contacts, and representatives that will be available to take action, until then,  Don’t bark up a tree, because only the birds will hear you, and they don’t care.

Being Responsible For Your Health on The Road

medical

For anyone who travels, health should be a top priority, Especially for the countries truckers.   Being health conscious should be one of the top things on the list, and being aware of how your body is acting is a must, in any situation.  Not being alert to even the most minor of changes can have a drastic effect.

Truckers, among others, can be a breed of people who prefer to “tough it out” until they get home, often times having the attitude that whatever it is that is bugging them will pass eventually, and they can just continue on as normal.  This attitude can easily become a major downfall, especially if the driver does not keep in contact with family, or their individual company.  Another part of the “excuse” is that the individual feels uncomfortable having to meet with medical personnel they are not familiar with, and thereby feel that they would rather make it home and see their personal physician to take care of the problem instead.  This can yet be another critical downfall.

Granted, medical costs are high everywhere in the US, and getting in to see a doctor in a pinch, even in Canada, isn’t easy unless going directly to an emergency room. And if the problem isn’t one of strong concern, then sitting in the waiting area at the emergency room can take an inordinately long amount of time before finally seeing a doctor. But not making the effort to seek medical help, can cost even more.

The thing is,….. if something doesn’t feel right, then taking the step to contact any medical professional, anywhere, can be just a phone call away, and making arrangements, with the understanding that you are on-the-road, could well be a life saving decision on your part. Taking a chance otherwise could lead to serious problems, or worse.

Making that 911 call if you are feeling ill should be imperative for your own safety and health.  Drive safe, Be safe, and be Health Safe.

Transportation Efforts Affect Truckers Lives

     Oh, the words that I Personally want to say! But, I will hold my tongue to a more reasonable tone. Now pay close attention to this. Transport Topics is owned and Controlled by the ATA, as you will see in the link.
     Now,…. remember that during the last few months, it was discovered how, a certain Senator from California attempted to introduce an amendment into the Federal Highway’s Surface Transportation Act. It was an amendment that would prevent ANY state from instituting laws that would affect trucking, this affect, that was attempted, very basically would have prevented any truck driver, regardless of where his or her company is based, from being able to collect on time spent in another state, whose laws specific, from their respective company to pay for time spent working loads, detention time, layover time, lumping loads, and so on. Now granted, many drivers have not applied to their companies for the compensation, but it would be within their rights to do so, according to that states laws, and the company would be required to comply.
    crap legislation Well, the November 2015 initiative was soundly defeated, yet was revived and attempted again, this time, in the FAA’s Air transportation bill, which took places, ) and was again defeated, only this time,….. The ATA (American Trucking Association) stepped in to back and push for VERY similar wording to be used in the air transportation act. (The wording, and it’s intent, were intended to have the exact same effect as was intended in the Surface transportation bill.
     Straight forward on this,… IF this amendment, or wording would have made it into either transportation bill, it would have been the catalyst for every trucking company, shipper, receiver, broker or other entity that works directly through the trucking industry, from having to pay truckers for the additional work or effects of work, that they have to do, and be restricted to only being paid for the miles they run, nothing more.
     In their latest posting on their website (Transport Topics)  They are still strongly focused on trying to push their agenda in preventing states from creating laws that ensure that drivers are fairly compensated for their time, yet the ATA is attempting to make it look as if it is about safety (or not about safety), thereby taking away states rights to govern in this way.  read the article at;  http://www.ttnews.com/articles/basetemplate.aspx?storyid=41577&page=2
     I have made NO small bones in stating that my opinion of the ATA and it’s efforts in the trucking industry, has done Very little, in the line of standing behind the truck driver. As a matter of fact, when the push to have the above mentioned amendment wording was attempted, they (the ATA and their associated heavy members) even went to the extent of putting together a program focused on the truck driver, to convince them that the wording was going to be a huge plus for drivers, and insure that they would be paid fairly.
     Give me a break,… please!
    

Poor wages in terms of peanuts.

Poor wages in terms of peanuts.

Truckers, for the last 30 plus years, have not seen their pay rise with the level of the economy, in such a way as to keep Pace with the economy, and have instead found themselves, in many cases, having to be left with the only option of staying on the road for a much longer period of time in an effort of insuring that the finances needed to pay bills is there for their families, and thereby sacrificing much wanted, and needed, time with their families.

     Senator Mike Denham (R) and Mike Shummer (R), along with the ATA and any other, will be very closely watched, as will any other legislation in the works, to ensure that any attempt at putting their efforts into effect in the industry, will be found and will be repeatedly brought to the attention of the trucking public, their families, and supporters, so that once again, we can fight to prevent such legislation, and ensure that trucking companies and customers will be made to understand that drivers want, and expect, to be fairly and properly paid for their efforts, and sacrifices on the road.