Line One
Dashboard Confidential
Hours of slavery

By Dave Sweetman


Once again the hours-of-slavery – oops, sorry – I meant hours-of-service regulations are up for change. Special interest groups keep hammering away on what we thought were the last of the changes from six years ago.

In my humble opinion, a few lawyers and political activists seem hell-bent on once again muddying the waters of what is keeping the trucks rolling safely. The key word is safely. But I question the motives and the impending decisions that may not ensure any more highway safety than before the changes were made.

What I see is more hand wringing and opportunities for fines for revenue enhancement, rather than bringing the laws and regulations into the 21st century. Personally, I have witnessed that from enforcement officers who were not clear on the rule changes the last time around. But once again we are caught up in a race to fix what is not really broken.

What I also see is the complete disregard of the root of the real evil behind truck safety. Uncompensated time at loading docks, which “forces” a driver to wait for eight to 10 hours to be loaded or unloaded, logging it “off-duty” to save logbook hours. The key word of evil is “uncompensated” as most drivers do not receive delay time pay and fear being punished or fired for rocking the boat.

Where else but trucking can you be heavily fined for working too hard. The end result is that the hard-working driver is reduced to being a liar and a cheat to make a few more bucks or to hold onto a job.

The liability, should an accident happen, falls on the driver – not the shipper or company pushing the driver to fudge the rules. We have to have the ability to say no when the interest is safety, not only for us but for those around us. Some drivers fear the coming of on-board recorders or black boxes.

I have news for you, friends. If you have an electronic engine, you already have one. That electronic control module plug under your dash holds the truth to when you started and stopped and to many of your other sins should a lawyer want to see it. It’s not a matter of if we get black boxes, rather a matter of when.

And considering the state of our government and its intent on meddling with all of our lives, loss of privacy and the compounding of more rules and regulations limiting truck idling, emissions, parking, driving hours and more, it has only just started. But, with all of those regulations and upcoming law changes, what I see is harassment of truck drivers trying to make a living.

The end result is that many very safe, experienced drivers will bail out. Many have already done so, partly out of economics, partly out of being tired of being the cash cow for local governments trying to pad the budget, partly out of being fed up with the BS. And that, dear friends, is what it has become: pure unadulterated BS.

Looking at safety statistics that show truck-involved accidents are continually on the decline tells me we are being safer drivers, which should mean something. When statistics show that 72 percent of accidents are not caused by the trucker, that tells me we should be teaching the car drivers safe driving practices instead of punishing the trucker.

Don’t mistake my bitching here on these pages as anything more than just that, but you can count on several things. I will actively participate in the hours-of-service comments sessions, offering my opinions. I will also be in attendance at the Mid-America Trucking Show this month in Louisville trying to absorb every piece of information I can glean to stay informed on all levels.

In the long-term vision of things, we are about to get change whether we want it or not. In my opinion, stop lying, run it legal, log it legal and toe the line. Give ’em what they want but not over the 11-hour driving limit.

What’s that you say? Can’t make a living running legal? Pal, if you’re that close to going under, you are already done. Trust me when I say I have been there, done it and have learned the hard way. So I’m not preaching, just calling it as I see it. LL