Trucking: The hardest job you'll ever love

By Dick Larsen, senior editor | 6/3/2002
Someone said the more things change, the more they stay the same. That's true of the trucking industry, once mostly regulated by the states, and now regulated by just about everyone, including the states. "A separate plate for each state was once required and it was a jumbled confusing mess of tags, stickers and permits," said Jim Johnston, president, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). "Truck size and weight limits were another state-by state morass." Johnston spoke May 31 in Kansas City, MO, at the American Truck Historical Society's Annual Convention and Antique Truck Show. The speech's theme, "Then and Now - The Trucker's Perspective," centered on efforts beginning in 1963 to convince regulators of the need for uniform standards, and new challenges truckdrivers face in 2002 as regulation continues to balloon. "Few are aware of the work done those early days to get the regulations changed to uniform standards," Johnston said. "Those guys didn't know who independent truckers were -- they thought they were gypsies." Nowadays, it seems little has changed. For example, hours of service regulations put in place years ago continue to be an "aberration," Johnston said. "This rule causes more trouble than it corrects. You've got the feds telling truckdrivers to rest when they're not tired, and work when their bodies say they need to rest. Non-truckers making these decisions are causing us a great deal of concern." Other problems include the need to develop reliable braking systems; a change in the attitude that "an army of enforcement personnel" is needed; doing away with random testing to prove a trucker isn't a drug taker; and reform of predatory competitive policies that have damaged the industry. In addition, new proposals in Washington to allow heavier and longer trucks on the nation's highways amount to a study in "stupidity, ignorance and greed," Johnston said. At least one thing hasn't changed, Johnston said: "For real truckers, trucking isn't just a job, it's a way of life. When they're on the road, they can't wait to get home. And when they're at home, they can't wait to get on the road. It's the hardest job you'll ever love. After 27 years, I still miss it." To read the complete speech, click here.