Life on the Dock Just Got a Little More Complicated

Just when you think the loading and unloading issues couldn't get much more confusing, we get another regulation that throws more sand into the u-joint.

For the past 27 years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration required powered industrial truck (forklift, slip-sheet loader, electric pallet jack, etc.) operators be trained, but left the form and content of those training methods up to each employer's judgment. While the training of shipper/receiver employees was likely more comprehensive, many truckers learned to operate a forklift or electric pallet jack when dock personnel pointed at one and indicated "it's okay to use it."

All that changed on Dec. 1, 1998, when OSHA issued their final rule on "Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training." The new guidelines mandate that operators must be trained in the employer's policies at a specific site, trained for the operating conditions at a specific site, and trained on each specific make and model of equipment he/she will be operating. In other words, an individual trained to operate a brand-x forklift in his/her employer's Warehouse A cannot cross the parking lot to operate a brand-x forklift in Warehouse B or operate a brand-z forklift in either warehouse without further training. No person may operate a powered industrial truck anywhere unless he/she is an employee there.

There is no grandfather clause – all operators will be trained regardless of previous training or experience. The regulations go on to say that training will be combine classroom and hands-on skills training, and that re-training will be required every three years, or after every accident, or near miss. Employers are required to maintain a record of each employee's initial and continuing training.

So, a shipper or receiver would be in violation of these OSHA regulations if they let a trucker use one of their powered industrial trucks to load, unload, or re-palletize freight. Of course this also means that non-employee lumpers will be in the same boat. This regulation does not affect a driver's ability to use a manual pallet jack, but they may be hard to come by on some docks since both drivers and lumpers will be competing for their use. Owning and carrying your own pallet jack may become desirable in the near future to expedite your dock time, since it's unlikely that shippers and receivers will see the new regulations as a mandate to load/unload their own freight. LL

Supreme Court Sets Limit on Searches in Iowa

A Nov. 3 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police may not conduct a full search of drivers and their vehicles if they have only been stopped and ticketed for a traffic violation. The ruling was the result of a case involving Patrick Knowles, a motorist who was stopped for speeding in Newton, IA, in March, 1996. After Knowles was ticketed, police searched his vehicle without his permission and without suspicion that a crime had been committed. The search turned up a quantity of marijuana and a "pot pipe." Knowles was later convicted of possession and sentenced to 90 days in jail. He appealed his conviction on the grounds that the search was illegal.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist delivered the court's unanimous decision stating, "Once Knowles was stopped for speeding and issued a citation, all the evidence necessary to prosecute that offense had been obtained. No further evidence of excessive speed was going to be found either on the person of the offender or in the passenger compartment of the car."

The decision is likely to have little effect outside Iowa, as it is the only state with a law on the books allowing searches in conjunction with traffic stops. Nor is it likely to have much effect on roadside inspections of commercial motor vehicles, since these are usually done with a driver's permission. However, the decision could be viewed by some as positive anyway. According to Todd Spencer, OOIDA spokesman, "it's nice to see judges set a standard for what's permissible by law enforcement. Now and then, we all need to be reminded where the line is."