The wheels continue to turn as OOIDA gears up its promotion of OOIDA Truck Safety Month in June 2003. At present, a lot of people in the OOIDA offices and many OOIDA members are busy contacting truckers and interested parties, spreading the word and generating discussion on Web sites and in truckstops.
We already have seen some early excitement on The Truckin’ Bozo radio show, especially after Jim Johnston’s call-in to Bozo’s show Dec. 12. In fact, truckers have used a fair amount of Bozo’s airtime since Christmas to express their opinions on the effort.
As Jim Johnston and the OOIDA board have been saying since the subject was first introduced, participation of the greatest number of truckers possible is the key to creating the kind of impact that we believe can be achieved.
There is no greater way to encourage that participation than for all of you to spread the word to your fellow truckers — members and non-members alike. This is a chance to demonstrate that professional truckers are capable of coming together as one to address a common problem.
All of you who have followed Jim Johnston’s editorials on the subject or who have participated in the discussion on the OOIDA Web site should be familiar with the issues and motivation to participate. It is important when speaking to other truckers that these are communicated.
What can be achieved by a collective effort of strict compliance with the regulations?
It is obvious to all who are intimately familiar with how the industry operates that there are strong disincentives to strict compliance with some of the regulations intended to improve commercial vehicle safety. Several factors contribute to the ongoing culture of noncompliance, a culture that has become so ingrained in the industry that it is expected of drivers in general as a condition of continuing employment or as a necessity for economic survival.
One factor is the impracticality of some of those regulations themselves, particularly the hours-of-service regulations. It is estimated that strict compliance with hours-of-service regulations would slow the movement of commerce by as much as 30 percent. The true effect and therefore the impracticality of those regulations remains hidden because of the willingness of professional drivers to do whatever it takes to deliver that load on time.
Strict compliance will bring to light the true impact of those regulations and aid in the development of more practical and reasonable standards.
Another factor is the outrageous amount of unproductive and uncompensated time lost by drivers as a result of antiquated loading and unloading systems. Studies show this system costs drivers as much as 30 to 40 hours a week in lost productivity and income potential.
If this time is recorded in strict compliance with the regulations, the burden will no longer be born exclusively by drivers. The burden of lost productivity will be shared by the industry that has and will continue to tolerate this outrageous system for as long as it continues to cost them very little. The burden also will be felt very quickly by those who perpetuate this system. Shippers and receivers will see a sudden shrinkage in transportation capacity and delayed deliveries.
Another major factor is a deregulated industry that has become so fiercely competitive that it has lost control of the ability to maintain profitable rates. Driver compensation is the primary casualty in this ongoing war of predatory pricing. The need for economic survival in this atmosphere places added pressure on drivers to resort to extreme measures to increase their productivity. The willingness to do this, however, only serves to perpetuate the problem.
Compensation levels are reduced or held back when the supply of drivers exceeds the demand. If the estimate of 30 percent of extra productivity generated by the existing driver force is correct, then strict compliance will have a significant impact on the supply and demand situation. Why hire two when one is willing to do the work of two?
If all of those regulations are practical and beneficial and if the majority of drivers support and participate in the effort, then June 2003 should turn out to be the safest period on record for the trucking industry.
If, on the other hand, there is little or no significant improvement in accident statistics then maybe, just maybe, there will be some incentive to revise the regulations and redirect some of those huge enforcement resources in more productive directions.
Finally, June 2003 could show the public and ourselves that truckers can unite and make a stand in order to defend their profession and way of life.
The effects of this demonstrated unity have far-reaching implications in addressing industry problems with lawmakers.
This final item is probably the most important of all, especially in response to those truckers who are reluctant to participate out of fear of retribution or intimidation by their carriers. Remember, we are not promoting any trucker to do anything illegal. On the contrary, our plan is to encourage truckers to be completely legal and in compliance with the regulations. But for Truck Safety Month to make its desired point, as many truckers as possible need to commit themselves to participating. A summary of what strict compliance means can be found in the Members’ Supplement section of this issue.
Spreading the word
To help spread the word, a variety of printed materials are available to help you promote and discuss the issues involved.
June 2003 will dominate OOIDA’s presence at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville. OOIDA executive officers Jim Johnston, Todd Spencer and Rick Craig, along with a number of OOIDA board members, will be at OOIDA’s display booth (No. 117 in the East Wing) and out at the OOIDA display truck to discuss Truck Safety Month and answer questions.
Flyers, large truck decals (28” x 17”) and smaller bumper and window stickers have been produced and will be available for members to distribute. These can be obtained by calling OOIDA’s membership department. A large quantity of items will be at MATS for truckers to take with them. This month’s Members’ Edition of Land Line contains a mini-poster that we encourage members to place on bulletin boards in truckstops. Those truckers with access to the Internet can download and print some of these items directly from the link on OOIDA’s Web site, www.ooida.com. For those members with their own Web sites, a banner link is available at www.ooida.com that can be downloaded and linked to the June information page.
There are also several efforts going on behind the scenes related to June 2003.
OOIDA is using its media contacts within the industry as well as the national press to encourage editorial coverage of the project. Press releases, including joint press releases with some of the groups and agencies from which we will seek endorsement, will be issued during the upcoming weeks. We intend to place ads in the Capitol Hill publications that are distributed to members of Congress.
Jim Johnston is scheduled to be in The Truckin’ Bozo’s studio for a call-in session during the first week in March to discuss the Truck Safety Month and take listeners’ calls. This will be an opportunity for Jim to reiterate the key elements and expectations of the June safety month and help convince those truckers who are unsure of their participation about the importance of truckers standing together.
OOIDA is communicating with the Department of Transportation, FMCSA and CVSA to gain their endorsement of the program. OOIDA’s executive officers are personally spearheading this effort in meetings and phone conversations with representatives at the different agencies. In those discussions, OOIDA is outlining the objectives of the safety month and making them aware of the potential effects that strict compliance by a large number of truckers might produce to the flow of the nation’s transportation system. It is being suggested that the DOT hotline (1-888-DOT-SAFT, 1-888-368-7238) be used for truckers to report incidents of intimidation or coercion to disregard federal safety regulations.
Todd Spencer is contacting advocacy groups and related associations such as PATT, CRASH, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), the Teamsters, Truckload Carriers Association, and ATA. Again, the intention here is to garner a broad base of public groups to support the safety compliance.
By April 1, letters will be going out to all motor carriers describing the OOIDA Truck Safety Month Project and requesting their endorsement of this safety exercise. The letters will also communicate our intention to pursue all appropriate remedies against any individual or company that attempts to intimidate or force drivers to violate the regulations.
Again, the success of this effort will mostly depend upon professional truckers like you to convince other truckers that this is an opportunity for us to demonstrate the strength of our combined resources. Let’s not waste this opportunity!