By Bob "Cowpoke" Martin, Columnist
The debate continues on hours of service, a rule that is back on the table again. Imagine that. They keep tweaking and tweaking, for what? They aren't going to make everybody happy and make compliance rules to fit everyone and every operation.
You know the feds didn't come up with this out of the blue. This time it's because of a lawsuit by the safety campers trying to get the rules changed. Maybe we should call them safety-happy campers. Then a court sent it back to the feds because of "procedural" issues with the way they came up with the current rules. All this just proves what we all know: Some people won't give up on a bad idea.
I would like to be on the feds' task force or rules committee that helps draw up the new compliance rules. I would be the one standing up for the older drivers – because I would like to see us seasoned hands get a little respect. It doesn't matter if we've had 20, 30 or 40-plus years out there doing millions of safe miles. We operate under the same parameters as a rookie right out of a six-week driving school and running with a trainer for a month.
Compare that to the building trades. I think they all pretty much have a four-year program to work up from apprentice to journeyman status. Not us. Just get that basic CDL; then, it's just a paperwork thing and you can be qualified to handle hazmat loads, pull doubles and triples and tankers. Oversize, high, wide, long and heavy – no problem, your CDL covers that.
In our business there's not a lot of chance for advancement, but a lot of us wouldn't care to go "up" the ladder anyway. We are truckers, so what would we do? Sales, safety? I think nearly all of us believe we would be a good dispatcher. In fact, very few could handle it. I certainly couldn't. It's been my experience in 40 years plus that I would rather work with a dispatcher who's never put a foot in a truck than work with an "in off the road" trucker.
So what else would reward those of us with many years and millions of safe miles behind us? The building trades have a format of working through the system in four years. That might be a little short in our case. But I think if a trucker could document 10 years and a million safe OTR miles, have a clean or nearly clean MVR, and a satisfactory record with the DOT – it would prove one thing: He survived that first million miles. He's doing something right.
I think the FMCSA should give these cream-of-the-crop driving professionals a pass on the logbooks, maybe a card identifying them as trusted safe drivers or something like that. This would let the driver do what he's obviously been doing all along: sleep when he needs to sleep and not have to worry about how to fit it into the logbook. That's the single biggest issue in my book.
Manage your own time, not go by a graph on a log sheet – I think a track record of a million safe miles proves the driver is capable of doing that. I personally have nearly 4 million behind me, but I can say without a doubt that first million is where you get your education.
This "honor system" for super drivers is not as off the wall as some might first think. And I am not the first to think of it. Seriously, think what an incentive this would be to younger career truckers out there rolling off the miles. By the time they reach that million miles, they will have had a belly full of logs and will be looking forward to this goal.
In my opinion, a select level of topnotch drivers not having to keep a log would have little or no effect on most of our trucking operations. But, as always, some people just can't appreciate a gift.
About law enforcement, it kind of snuck up on me but somewhere along the line as I got older I realized the cops were showing me a lot more respect. With a few exceptions it was across the board, be it a traffic stop, DOT inspection, at a scale house, etc. Nothing said, of course, but you could just feel it.
The cops show us seasoned geezers a measure of respect. Why can't our own industry do the same? LL