Board to FMCSA: 'Use us - use drivers as a resource'

FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling and the agency's Chief Safety Officer and Assistant Administrator Jack Van Steenberg made the trip to Missouri from D.C. to join the board in a roundtable discussion for several hours on Oct. 24.

It was not a debate nor a fierce question-and-answer session. President Jim Johnston stressed that he and the members of the OOIDA board wanted to help the agency understand the frustrations that drivers have with the FMCSA. With 800 years of collective experience as professional truck drivers, Johnston said few are qualified to explain it better than the OOIDA Board of Directors.

Terry Button, owner-operator and board member from Rushville, N.Y., said he stressed the necessity of having a savvy driver advisory panel or board on speed dial. Button said "please contact us, use us – use drivers as a resource." Button said he told Darling if there was one good piece of advice he could give the FMCSA, it would be to listen to actual drivers regularly.

Board Member Richard Pingel, Plover, Wis., said his message to the administrators on how to keep good drivers behind the wheel would be for FMCSA to change its adversarial attitude. Pingel said the agency needs a "culture of cooperation, not confrontation."

Board Member Tilden Curl of Olympia, Wash., said that the agency "needs to focus not only on keeping bad people off the road, but also on keeping good people on the road."

Board Member Johanne Couture, Brockville, Ontario, asked the agency administrators to realize the danger in speed limiters. "I am from Canada, and the 401 is a constant elephant race. This leads to very dangerous road rage activity. It encourages truckers to tailgate so they can be ready to pass the truck ahead of them as quickly as possible with their speed-limited truck. Even when holding back and not cruising at the maxed-out speed of the truck, this is still an issue."

Drivers are being required to wear safety vests when out of their trucks at truck stops because of the increasing frequency of drivers being run over by trucks in truck stops, said Couture, and that is because of speed-limited trucks causing drivers to be rushed.

Bob Esler, secretary of the OOIDA Board of Directors, agreed and spoke of the number of wrecks in truck-stop parking lots, many of them fatalities. "It's a constant game of beat the clock," he said. "Those accidents used to be unheard of; now they are common."

Board Member Monte Wiederhold of Lebanon, Ohio, spoke of ELDs and how they can also be manipulated, and they are regularly being manipulated with non-driving time. "There needs to be an incentive to be honest and to focus on just punishing rule breakers," he told Darling.

Keith Jibben, board member from Minnesota, told the agency administrators there was way "too much talk about leveling the playing field." Jibben made it clear he has no intention of lowering his standard to the playing field of large fleets.

OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth said after the meeting that he gives FMCSA its due for its driver wellness initiative, but said it's ironic that the very same agency is "also the agency which is causing drivers an ever-increasing amount of stress by overly prescribing their daily schedules and abilities to manage their time appropriately." LL