Truck Safety Month Report
OOIDA to truckers: Resist forced noncompliance
Shippers, brokers and receivers are beginning to change practices that for decades have pressured truckdrivers to skirt federal safety laws; however, some ‘business-as-usual’ companies in the months to come need to continue getting the message — the days of forced noncompliance must come to an end.

by Dick Larsen, senior editor

By strictly following all state laws, speed limits and federal safety regulations, professional truckdrivers participating in OOIDA’s ongoing safety initiative began to influence some carriers, shippers, receivers and brokers who put the squeeze on truckers to drive when federal law says they must rest.

OOIDA President Jim Johnston said, “We achieved significant positive effects in just the first couple weeks of June, but many companies continue to coerce drivers into giving away their time for free. What happens next or how we proceed forward from here to continue addressing this problem will be determined by the input we receive from professional truckers themselves.”

For more than 60 years, federal and state enforcement efforts have centered on truckers, who are sandwiched between unrealistic regulations and on-time delivery demands. Meanwhile, there’s inadequate oversight of carriers. Moreover, there’s little or no federal attention given to shady business practices of those receivers, brokers and shippers who escalate pressures on professional truckers who refuse to meet impossible and illegal drive-time demands.

“For years, drivers have been pressured to ignore, fudge or work around federal safety regulations to satisfy sometimes the most impossible demands of others,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice president. “Our effort is beginning to change all that by shedding light on these irresponsible practices.”

Change became evident when many truckers across the country started to log as on-duty all time spent at shipping and receiving facilities; time during traffic slowdowns; actual time spent doing required paperwork, fueling and truck servicing.

Truckers have provided evidence that the “run compliant” doomsayers were wrong. They have reported in significant numbers shorter waiting times at shipping docks, more money for hauling freight, fewer citations and more cooperation between shippers and carriers.

“Many truckers took control of their own lives — they just said ‘no’ — we’re not going to take it anymore’,” Gary Green of OOIDA’s Business Services said. “And look what happened — the sky didn’t fall on them, they didn’t get fired or busted — in fact, they took a significant step to turn around the rather dismal conditions of today’s trucking industry.”

Pocketbook payoff
Meanwhile, OOIDA member Fred Heard, Rydal, GA, says there’s clear evidence that when professional drivers take a stand, there’s a pocketbook payoff.

“It’s looking up. From Georgia to Pennsylvania, I got paid $2.96 a mile one way for a no-touch load, $2.50 from Georgia to DC, no-touch one way,” Rydal said. “I haven’t seen rates like this for years.”

Heard says he’s just not playing the game anymore, and others must be doing the same, because he’s hearing it from shippers and brokers.

Ray Kasicki, OOIDA member and board member from Cleveland, OH, agrees, saying he’s running to the letter of the law, and the good loads are keeping his wheels rollin’.

“I called my wife and said I wanted to come home, but I couldn’t turn down the good paying loads. I don’t haul cheap loads, and they know it,” he said. “Still, they keep calling me.”

Patrick Holzemer, member from Thackerville, OK, described the support he’s seeing on the road, especially on the dock.

“I was in Hutchins, TX, at an air filter plant to pick up at my scheduled time, which was 7 a.m.,” he says. “I was told when I went to check in that I probably would not be loaded until around noon.”

To his surprise, upper management had different ideas. Holzemer overheard an order to get his truck loaded and “get him on his way.” The manager said, “We’ll not detain this driver.” He offered Holzemer a cup of coffee. In an hour, the truck was on its way.

Carriers, others seeing the light
Truckers are not the only ones beginning to see the wisdom of resisting forced noncompliance — some carriers know too that in the long run, they’ll benefit.

A Texas trucker told Land Line: “Carriers will be the biggest beneficiaries of a system that doesn’t exploit the time of drivers in the loading and unloading environment. The lost productivity of drivers is also a lost opportunity for carriers that employ them — and is there any bigger issue when it comes to driver retention? Many of us don’t think so.”

Henry Albert, a trucker from Mooresville, NC, says brokers and carriers he does not know are calling “begging” him to take loads. One shipper said he needed Henry for a load because of the “truck shortage that is currently going on.”

OOIDA member Elmer Clawges, safety director of BC Transportation, Newark, NJ, said running compliant is good for truckers and good for his company. Clawges requested OOIDA “run compliant” decals for each of the company’s 200 leased owner-operators.

“We are really supporting this effort,” says Clawges. “We’re having safety meetings all this month - we’re basically stressing at all our terminals to run compliant. We’ve got signs up all over the place.”

Clawges noted some positive results for BC. For example, not having those ticket or out-of-service hang-ups makes everything run more smoothly.

“(In June), we saw a 50 percent reduction in citations over last year at this time. We think this is really important. We’re anxious to see how these numbers look at the end of the month. This really benefits everybody.

“We are a container operation, and most cargo comes from the port of Newark. So this is difficult but not impossible. We are all together in this — by running compliant and not getting tickets, not worrying about being out of hours, it gives the drivers a sense of well being.

Clawges says BC Transportation will continue to support the strict compliance campaign.

In another example, one trucker said of his carrier: “The company will do everything to keep you legal. If you tell them that you have to shut down for eight hours, they understand. They will even schedule loads in conjunction with your remaining hours available. I am impressed with this company. I have been signed on for a little over a month now.”

The best sign of how well OOIDA’s ongoing safety initiative is being received may not be what is happening, but what’s not happening. Jeff McConnell and James Mennella of Road Law, a firm that handles trucking court cases across the country, get 15 to 20 calls every week from truckers fighting citations for violating out-of-service orders.

That is, until June 1. “We check the lines to make sure we’ve still got a dial tone,” McConnell said. The two attorneys think the drop in calls is directly linked to the number of truckers who started to run compliant as June approached.

“It appears that everybody really took it to heart and said ‘I will make a stand, I will try to comply, I will help out my fellow driver by complying with my rules and regs,’” McConnell said. “If they’re not (violating a law), it’s tough to get a ticket …”

Congress, radio broadcasts, CBs spreading the message
Meanwhile, OOIDA’s “run compliant” effort continues to enliven the airways via truckers communicating on CB radios and on trucking radio shows such as “Truckin’ Bozo.” Drivers also are calling their state representatives asking for support.

As a result, several states, including Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Virginia and Michigan, approved resolutions commending OOIDA’s effort.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jim Talent, R-MO, introduced in the U.S. Senate a resolution to declare every June as Truck Safety Month. The senator introduced the resolution, Senate Concurrent Resolution 50, on June 9. It is identical in wording to a House measure, HCR164, introduced by Rep. Sam Graves, R-MO.

The House version has picked up a number of cosponsors, including: Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-OR, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-MO, Rep. Danny Davis, D-IL, Rep. Dan Burton, R-IN, Rep. James Moran, D-VA, Rep. Lee Terry, R-NE, Rep. Mac Collins, R-GA, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-TX, Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-MN, Rep. Jerry Costello, D-IL, and Rep. Tom Osborne, R-NE.

Both resolutions ask President George W. Bush to issue a proclamation commending all truckers for their extra effort to comply with truck safety regulations and resist forced noncompliance.

“I believe we should establish a National Truck Safety Month to raise public awareness about the importance of highway safety and the contributions America’s truckdrivers are making to help keep our roads safe,” Sen. Talent said.

The resolution cited several reasons behind the need for a National Truck Safety Month. They include:

  • More than 2 million long-haul trucks and 138 million cars share the nation’s highways each day.
  • Truckdrivers, who experience more workplace fatalities than any other single occupation, are acutely aware of their responsibility to contribute to highway safety.
  • The U.S. economy depends upon the nation’s long-haul truckers, who deliver 71 percent of the dollar value of freight hauled in the United States.
  • Truck safety has become the highest priority of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the federal government invests nearly $200 million in truck safety enforcement activities each year.
  • Truckdrivers have committed themselves to make June a model month for compliance with all truck safety rules.

What’s next?
OOIDA is evaluating the participation level in its safety initiative.

“We know from hundreds of reports we’ve received from truckers that the delay time has been reduced for many,” Johnston said. “At this point, we want truckers to tell us how they want OOIDA to support them — many have suggested that June should be considered as just the starting point — that this needs to be an ongoing effort to continue building support to regain control of our future and to reverse the downward spiral of the trucking industry.”

Gary Green said, “OOIDA’s Business Services staffers continue to call all brokers, shippers and motor carriers when they hear of any driver under pressure to disregard or work around any federal or state regulation.

“For several months now, we’ve let it be known to everyone in the industry we are quite serious about any attempt to intimidate or coerce drivers into quitting or violating hours of service or any other regulation. We urge truckers to document their experience, stay on the job and to continue to let us know about their situation,” Green added.

The reviews are still coming into OOIDA headquarters. Here’s what one trucker and CDL examiner said: “I’m a company driver … I’ve been hearing some of the other company drivers complaining about long hours they experience on some days. I told them that I log my hours the way I run it …

“When the company person who audits our logs wants to know what’s going on, I’ll simply point out the hours-of-service rules. I really believe that the law is on our side; if we do our job the right way and let the law do its job, it should prove to make driving a little easier and much safer, even if the road gets a little bumpy at first. This isn’t only about the owner-operator. It’s about safety for all drivers and those we share the road with.”

Sometimes, heartening news comes in subtle ways.

The following comes from an OOIDA member who reported being pulled over for inspection. Once the inspector eyed the OOIDA Run Compliant decal, he simply said, “Drive on, Brother.”

Dick Larsen can be reached at dlarsen@landlinemag.com.