The nation’s professional truckdrivers have begun a month-long initiative to highlight their growing industry safety concerns caused by rapidly deteriorating working and economic conditions, reports the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
The OOIDA board of directors declared June 2003 as National Truck Safety Month at its November 2002 board meetings. During June, many of the nation’s truckdrivers are collectively taking a stand to resist economic and coercive pressures from motor carriers, shippers, receivers and brokers to violate existing commercial vehicle safety regulations in order to increase productivity. Truckers are being encouraged to maintain strict compliance with all trucking safety rules.
OOIDA President Jim Johnston said, "June Safety Month is an effort to gain the participation of as many professional drivers as possible in calling attention to and addressing the serious safety problems that exist because of the pressures, demands and expectations for unreasonable performance. For nearly 65 years, shippers and carriers have coerced drivers to break state and federal regulations and falsify logbooks to make unrealistic or impractical delivery schedules.
"Truckers are spending an average of 30 to 40 hours per week in unnecessary delays waiting to load and unload," Johnston said. "This contributes to fatigue and stress and pushes many drivers to exceed their own limits, ultimately putting themselves and overall highway safety at risk."
Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao recently cited figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that truckdrivers continue to suffer high rates of injuries and illness in their workplace. Moreover, the death rate among truckdrivers is higher than any other profession.
June Safety Month has gained congressional support in Washington. A congressional resolution to heighten awareness about the contributions, needs and safety-related issues of America's truckdrivers has been sponsored by Missouri Rep. Sam Graves. A growing number of states, including Nebraska, Kansas and Texas, have passed special resolutions backing OOIDA’s safety initiative.
The June campaign coincides with the annual nationwide commercial vehicle inspection week administered by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). Commenting on the timing of June Safety Month, Johnston said, "Increased law enforcement targeting truckers is not the solution to highway safety. The core problem rests with the self-serving industry practices of intimidating drivers to violate existing regulations as the way to increase the productivity of drivers and boost the companies’ profits."
While June Safety Month has been many months in planning, it happens to also coincide with the recent release of the new hours-of-service regulations by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. OOIDA has already stated publicly that it believes these new rules will have minimal impact on driver fatigue until appropriate measures are put in place to eliminate the economic and coercive pressures faced by truckers to operate in violation of safety regulations.