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The system must be changed

On Nov. 1, 2002, the board of directors of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association voted unanimously to promote and sponsor The OOIDA Truck Safety Month, scheduled for June of 2003. OOIDA President Jim Johnston first discussed sponsoring a collective effort of strict compliance with the regs in his “Issues and Positions” columns in the November and December-January issues of Land Line.

During June, all drivers will be encouraged to take a stand and operate in strict compliance with all laws and commercial vehicle safety regulations. OOIDA will provide information in advance on how to respond to pressures or intimidation drivers may face in attempting to operate in strict compliance, and will have a team of attorneys on standby to deal with retaliatory actions. Next issue, Land Line will bring readers more information on OOIDA’s plan of action.

The initiative has spurred considerable buzz among truckers in the field, and many have shared their thoughts with Land Line. Here’s a sampling of comments that have crossed our desks since the initiative was announced:

From George Voigt, Columbia, CA
“What If” clearly addressed the almost universal problems related to trying to stay legal without retribution from shippers and receivers.

When I read your article, I smacked up against my forehead with the palm of my hand and exclaimed, “Finally, someone has put it in writing.”

The answer lies in a concerted effort by enough dedicated drivers to do what is suggested in “What If.”

In reality, it would be a thinly veiled strike, but there will be no change in behavior of those who supply the loads without such a difficult effort on the parts of enough drivers who dearly wish for such simple pleasures as eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, and who will be allowed to log “on duty” while waiting endless hours to be loaded or unloaded only to pay a thick chunk of under-the-table cash to lumpers.

From Gerald Lee Stull, Houtzdale, PA
I agree with Jim Johnston 100 percent. Sudden strict compliance would be disastrous to American shippers. Only the dedication of truckers to this country keeps it from happening ... and various examples of force, threats and coercion to the labor pools, of course.

I don’t know of any trucker who really wants to break the law, but it looks like a matter of situational ethics, and our ethics cannot possibly be above what it takes to circumvent the system in order to make a living.

This isn’t about ethics; it’s about survival.

From Dale Parkes, Los Alamitos, CA
I’ve been a company driver for a number of motor carriers for over six years and am one of the few who follows regulations pretty strictly. The article asks questions, and I’d like to answer them as best as I can:

• I do log all time at a shipper/receiver as line 4 on duty unless I am at liberty to pursue my own interests.
• I do log driving time accurately; therefore, I had a day where I did 369 hub miles in a full 10 hours and another day when I did 205 miles on the hub in 6.5 hours thanks to Chicago traffic.
• I do log actual time fueling and paying for fuel, including all waiting time both for the pump as well as to sign the receipt at the fuel desk.
• There have been numerous occasions when loads have been swapped or repowered or appointment times changed due to me not having enough hours to complete a load in the original time constraints given.

A net result of doing everything or nearly everything legal and truthful is that you will be able to do less miles.

A lot of drivers say they cannot live with that. And more than one motor carrier has sacked me for not doing enough miles.

From Dwight Gresham, Elizabeth, IN
I think this is a great idea. I back it 100 percent, and I will spread the word. We need not be disruptive, just get a little attention.

We did just what you talked about and, believe it or not, got a waiting issue resolved. We had to wait up to 5 hours at a stop we have. We all started logging it “on duty not driving.” It took just one week; we went from 5 down to a 1-hour maximum wait time. Now that’s an improvement.

From Roger Forgit, Rumford, ME
One of many problems with this industry is that we can’t get together.

Have you driven all night to meet an impossible schedule because if you miss the gate for your backhaul, you get to sit for 48 hours when the logbook says you can move?

Here in Maine, years ago, they staggered all the lunch breaks so the workers couldn’t get together. It didn’t work.

You folks have got “them” scurrying for cover, and it’s about time. We have to get together.

From Richard Appleby, Harrisburg, PA
I refuse to deliver to states that are overly restrictive, or zealous in their persecution — or prosecution — of truckdrivers. I refuse to haul for certain shippers or receivers unless there is a clear understanding as to detention, payment of unloading charges, layover, etc. I also boycott various commercial establishments due to poor attitudes or service.

My point is, we do not have to accept things the way they are. We can change this industry for the better.

If on any given day, just 10,000 drivers were to make an individual decision to boycott a shipper, receiver, state, or just run legally, all these individual decisions would become a collective voice. And there would be no way to counteract the effects.

I refused to accept things the way they were, and found a way to make a decent living, spend time with my family, work with good people and run legally. It can be done.

From Gregory M. Nuspl, Imperial, MO
As a dispatcher, I watched as upper management coerced my drivers into illegal operation for the benefit of the customers’ “on-time delivery.” When I was informed that this coercion was my responsibility, I quickly gave notice and left the industry entirely.

Make this “30-day run legal program” hit home.

Give the drivers the protection they need in their employment. Give the drivers the opportunity to make their dispatchers and all other company officials aware of their exact intentions before the month even starts. Let them tell fellow drivers where to post their name and company to become a part of an action that changes an entire industry.

You good folks at OOIDA have opened a can of worms that will mushroom into the biggest industry-changing event in the history of the trucking industry — if you get buy-in from all team members, those individuals who move the nation’s goods across this great country.

Spend the dollars to give drivers a place to say to the world that “Yes, I am buying into this one month of legal activity, and I dare my company to reprimand me in any way, shape or form for my intended actions during the ‘OOIDA Legal 30.’”

And then watch as an industry changes for the better, and OOIDA made it happen.

From Bill Moore, Clarkston, WA
It’s obvious that most drivers are so indoctrinated they don’t have a clue of what logging legal is. We just sit here and take it without compensation.

How about asking the ones who say they run legal what they put on Line 4, “on duty not driving”?

I’m not being smart, but for the purpose of the June demonstration, they should be logging the following: New hire orientation, testing and hazmat certification, CDL licensing, physicals, telephone time with dispatch or brokers (including on hold time), fueling and waiting in fuel lines, maintenance and cleaning trucks, waiting in truck wash lines, waiting to go into shop and all the other obvious dock and waiting time.

Even the electronic logs and “Yoda’s” prepass box don’t take into consideration the non-driving truck-related duties we just take on and accept as part of the job. There needs to be a shift in thinking here.

From Norman Gilbert, Taylors, SC
Jim Johnston’s thoughtful exposition titled “Imagine if we were one” in the December-January issue is encouraging and inspirational.

His discussion of the fruitlessness of individual attempts to effect change in institutionalized exploitation of dependent and methodically ill-informed entrepreneurs, and of the forces arrayed against us … confirm his insight and comprehension of the realities of our lives since the depredations of the Reagan administration.

The action of the OOIDA board of directors to follow President Johnston in designating June 2003 as “Truck Safety Month” deserves the support of every trucker who pulls a wagon for a living.

From David Gaibis, New Castle, PA
Truckdrivers need to start controlling their destiny. The alternative is going broke, like many before us.

Of course, we must now consider the foreign drivers, brought to you by our politicians and corporate America through NAFTA.

It is a shame the trucking industry is not in the same classification as planes, trains or boats. They always get the emergency, bipartisan, monetary legislation they say they require to make a profit. So where’s our mandatory fuel surcharge we’ve been promised for so long? Remember, this industry, like every other industry, is only as strong as the intelligent people who work in it.

United we stand, divided we go broke.

From Paul Sasso, Edgewater, FL
I cannot tell you how much fun it is to dispel the many myths about why it is not feasible to run legal. Thank you for giving me, and many others, the ammunition to fight this war on ignorance.

It will definitely be an uphill battle, not because of the powers that be, but because of the many in our industry who refuse to see the light.

Amazing how many live by that overused credo, “Without Trucks America Stops,” and yet will not stand behind it when it comes down to their very survival. Sort of like a drowning man being thrown a life preserver and insisting that he can tread water forever to prove his machismo.

Thank you for throwing us that lifeline.

From Charles Wescott, Grand Rapids, MI
As a company driver, I’m all for Run Legal month in June. Company drivers stand more of a chance to be harassed, fired or severely reprimanded. Frankly I don’t care if this happens to me, so long as the effort has a positive impact for the professional drivers of today and tomorrow.

I am sick and tired of being treated as a nobody in this profession and am willing to put my own career on the line in order to make this industry what it used to be and what it should be.

From Dennis Stotts, Akron, OH
You should include some sort of sign a driver could use to show he is participating, such as hanging an American flag off of the driver’s side mirror. This would make the participation more visible and would inspire more drivers to participate.

Aug/Sept Digital Edition