SPECIAL REPORT: Truckers respond to pressure during OOIDA’s June Safety Month

| 6/10/2003

By complying with all state laws, including speed limits and federal safety regulations, truckdrivers this month are changing the practice of some carriers, shippers, receivers and brokers who routinely urge truckers to drive when they must rest.

As required by law, truckers across the country are logging as on-duty all time spent at shipping and receiving facilities; time during traffic slowdowns; actual time spent doing required paperwork, fueling and truck servicing, and time spent locating a parking space.

“For years, drivers have been pressured to ignore, fudge or work around federal safety regulations to satisfy sometimes the most impossible demands of others,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Drivers Association. “That’s about to change.”

Even prior to June Safety Month, OOIDA heard from several companies and truckers familiar with the effort. Here's what they had to say:

One OOIDA member reported how a shipper who regularly takes five to six hours to load trimmed the time to one hour so drivers could make on-time deliveries without being pressured to violate the rules.

Another reported that after he reached his destination, the receiver advised him he was off-duty and would be free to do what he wanted. The receiver said there was a restaurant across the street and the driver was free from all unloading obligations, including the count on the load.

Truckers spreading the word

Meanwhile, OOIDA’s “run compliant” effort is a hot topic among truckers communicating on CB radios and on trucking radio shows such as Truckin’ Bozo. Drivers are also calling their state representatives asking for support.

As a result, several states, including Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Virginia and Michigan, have approved resolutions commending OOIDA’s effort. Moreover, a resolution will soon be introduced in the U.S. Senate to recognize OOIDA’s safety initiative.

Many drivers tell of positive experiences – mostly involving carriers that have told their drivers they support OOIDA’s safety effort.

One trucker said of his carrier: “The company will do everything to keep you legal. If you tell them that you have to shut down for eight hours, they understand. They will even schedule loads in conjunction with your remaining hours available. I am impressed with this company. I have been signed on for a little over a month now.”

Still pressure to ‘run illegally’

However, some shippers and brokers continue to pressure drivers to “run illegally.”

For example, one driver who works for one of the nation’s largest carriers said he was told he’d receive a late-load notice that would be placed in his file, and he’d be subject to a 30-day performance review. The action came after the driver waited up to 10 hours before being loaded – and under federal law, was required to rest eight hours. The driver said he should have documented his time when he first arrived to be loaded.

Spencer said it’s important for drivers to write down “time in and time out” periods directly on the bill of lading to ensure there’s a written record of any abuse.

“When truckers tell us what’s happening on the road, whether it’s a positive or negative experience, OOIDA’s Business Services unit responds by calling company executives to advise them of the situation,” Spencer said.

For example, one driver told OOIDA he received a Qualcomm message stating: “When you are waiting to get loaded or unloaded, you are not supposed to be on line four (of the trucker’s log), you should be on line one or two. You do the math.” This tells the driver to violate federal hours-of-service rules, since line one of the daily log is to record off-duty time and line two is where the driver records sleeper-berth time.

In this case, OOIDA called the carrier and talked with the company’s director of safety. After the company verified the Qualcomm message, the director called OOIDA to report that any attempt to get drivers to log illegally “would not be tolerated.” The director also said the offending person would not be allowed to retire, but would be fired.

While there have been some positive experiences from brokers, many continue to pressure truckers to get freight delivered “at any cost.”

Here’s what one driver had to say: “One broker expected me to get a load delivered from Danville, VA, to Hebron, OH, in less then 7 hours … I informed the (broker) I only had 6.5 hours of drive time left.”

The broker told the driver to deliver the load “on time” at 7 a.m. The driver followed the law and delivered the load at 9 a.m.

“As it turns out, the receiver didn’t have a problem with my arrival time. The broker will tell you it needs to be there yesterday when it doesn’t.”

A driver in the Northeast said most older truckers were observing June Safety Month, but regretfully, some younger drivers, however, who are working for a grocery chain are doing “business as usual” for fear of losing their jobs.

One driver reports that no trucker passed him on the highway while he was observing the speed limit. The driver also noticed the rest stops were full, indicating drivers were taking required rest periods.

Industry support evident

Andy's Transfer & Storage (North American Van Lines), Glendale, CA, came out early, supporting OOIDA's initiative.

"The plan is to have all drivers operate strictly within the DOT and FMCSA rules and regulations," Joe Kroening, general manager, said in a directive to drivers. "We fully support this. We would like to add that we think each and every month should be safety month."

"OOIDA's Business Services staffers are calling all brokers, shippers and motor carriers when they hear of any driver under pressure to disregard or skirt any federal or state regulation," said Gary Green of Business Services.

"For several months now, we've let it be known to everyone in the industry we are quite serious about any attempt to intimidate or coerce drivers into quitting or violating hours of service or any other regulation. We urge truckers to document their experience, stay on the job and let us know about their situation," Green added.

--by Dick Larsen, senior editor

Dick Larsen can be reached at dlarsen@landlinemag.com.