SPECIAL REPORT: une Safety Month - cool runnings

| 6/19/2003

For many drivers, OOIDA's ongoing "Run Compliant" safety initiative is creating cool, calm and compliant conditions as they adhere to all state laws, speed limits and federal safety regulations.

For example, OOIDA members Mark and Renee Taylor, Warren, AR, are owner-operators doing business as Ugly Puppy Exploration. They started running strictly compliant to the “nth degree” in May.

“It's very much a different place out on the road, than two weeks ago. It's calmer,” says Renee Taylor. What she’s noticed most is the decrease of road rage and outright negativity. “Truckers have something positive to talk about on the docks, CB etc. Many, many of us are simply refusing to be pressured.”

“This feels good,” she says. “You just tell the people that are looking at you with those ‘get goin'’ expressions that you are running compliant. I told one guy in California, ‘hey, don't push, you know I'm running legal.’ He just looked at her then said, well, OK.”

Renee says this change in attitude is the most notable success of the effort. “Most of us out here are good folks just looking to do our job and be happy," she says. “The support from OOIDA to ‘just do it’ has been great, also the support from Congress and the enforcement people and all. It really takes the pressure off.”

The Taylors – with their cell phone, laptop and digital camera – are keeping a journal for Land Line to document their experience for readers. Instead of discovering what they feared most – FNC – otherwise known as forced non-compliance, they found instead on-the-road peace of mind.

Here's an excerpt:

"Stopping at the Abilene, TX, Flying J, at 9 a.m., for coffee, (Renee) found out where the trucks were. The lot was still full of drivers taking their time getting their coffee, breakfast or still sleeping. There didn't seem to be the 'mad rush' to be on the road. Was this due to drivers managing their drive time according to what they can legally drive and not what dispatch wanted? We certainly hoped so!

"As the day went on, I made sure cruise control was set on 70, Texas' daytime speed limit. Again, the observation was made that everyone else must be set at 70, also, as no one was ‘blowing my doors off.'

"We were still making good time, and it looked like we would be in Mauldin, SC, Friday morning. Renee called the receiver, Country Fresh, who told her as long as we were there by 2 p.m. Friday, they could unload us. Instead of pushing us to make our original appointment, Neil at Transource and the receiver were very accommodating.

"I made a stop at Petro, Westmoreland, TX, for an adjustment to my Centramatics – the valve stems weren't lined up correctly on the left side. It was another hour on-duty, not driving for maintenance. When installed, the Centramatics were one hole off, preventing me from checking the air pressure on the inside tire. We noticed, again, the parking lot. It was 12:30, and the parking lot was full of drivers stopping for lunch, fuel and rest.

"After making sure we logged all time spent on paperwork, maintenance, loading, unloading and the other things associated with the truck, something happened that has not happened since we began running as a team. I ran out of hours at 8 p.m.! With us logging five on-five off, we always had plenty of drive time during the course of the day. That, however, was only drive time. The shop time, maintenance and time spent on the docks took many of my normal work hours.

"As the night went on, Renee turned on "The Truckin' Bozo" again to hear the feedback from other drivers on running legal and other issues affecting us. Traffic was heavy with summer travelers, but there was something else she noticed. As I had observed in Texas, the big trucks were running the speed limit. No aggressive driving.

"The stories on "Bozo" were many. The calls revealed that almost everyone was making the effort to run legal … Thanks to Jim Johnston and OOIDA, we can make a collective statement keeping in mind the independent nature of owner-operators. No 'leaders' making our demands for us … We don't need a 'lead goat.'

"After the trip to California, this was the most productive day we have had! I logged 8.5 hours driving and 1.5 hours for pre-trips and maintenance. Renee logged, by midnight, nine hours driving, including the time spent driving before her eight-hour break, and a half hour for pre-trips."

More reports

One OOIDA member told the association he had driven three hours to pick up a load in Denver. The freight was Dallas bound. "I had been running low on hours anyway," says the trucker, "so I got to the first truckstop in New Mexico and called the receiver. I told him I couldn't be there until Saturday. His response was, 'Don't you have another logbook?'"

The trucker responded with a "no, I don't run that way." A few swear words later, however, it was settled and the receiver had to come in on Saturday and unload the freight. Afterward, the receiver wanted to know if the trucker would pull more loads for him.

One member says there's clear evidence of the worm turning.

"It's looking up. From Georgia to Pennsylvania, I got paid $2.96 a mile one way for a no touch load, $2.50 from Georgia to DC, no touch one way," says OOIDA member Fred Heard of Rydal, GA. "I haven't seen rates like this for years."

Heard says he’s just not playing the game anymore, and others must be doing the same because he's hearing it from shippers and brokers.

Ray Kasicki, OOIDA member and board member from Cleveland, OH, agrees, saying he’s running to the letter of the law and the good loads are keeping his wheels rollin'.

"I called my wife and said I wanted to come home, but I couldn't turn down the good paying loads. I don't haul cheap loads, and they know it," he said. "Still, they keep calling me."

Patrick Holzemer, member from Thackerville, OK, called to describe the support he's seeing on the road, especially on the dock.

"I was in Hutchins, TX, at an air filter plant to pick up at my scheduled time, which was 7 a.m.," he says, "I was told when I went to check in that I probably would not be loaded until around noon."

To his surprise, upper management had different ideas. Holzemer overheard an order to get his truck loaded and "get him on his way." The manager said, "We'll not detain this driver." He offered Holzemer a cup of coffee. In an hour, the truck was on its way.

A Texas trucker writes: "Once we remove the terminal-to-terminal truckers from the equation, it's really clear that all the lost time that drivers have to endure isn't fiction, nor is it confined to owner-operators. It is flatbeds, vans and tanks … there can be a tremendous difference between logging legal and actually running in compliance with the rules. Shippers know this, carriers know this and drivers know this. Carriers will be the biggest beneficiaries of a system that doesn't exploit the time of drivers in the loading and unloading environment. The lost productivity of drivers is also a lost opportunity for carriers that employ them – and is there any bigger issue when it comes to driver retention? Many of us don't think so."

OOIDA officer and member Robert Esler, Taylor, MI, is director of safety at Laramie Inc. He says "We would like to join those who are in support of the efforts of OOIDA to promote safety on our nation's highway. Safety should be, and always remain, the primary goal of the transportation industry. This includes all those who play a part, from the carriers, to the shipper, to the receivers and brokers. We all need to be more aware that the professional driver, whether company or owner-operator, is the vital link that keeps the commerce of America moving. Every task we ask our professional drivers to complete should be executed with utmost regard for their safety. Again, congratulations to the board of directors and the membership of OOIDA in designating the month of June as National Truck Safety Month."

The following comes from an ex-driver, now with the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety: "I would like to praise everyone out there that is trying to make the June Safety Month work. One of the reasons I became a truck cop is that I was tired of seeing the 'cowboys' out there making a bad name for all truckdrivers. You see, my dad retired a few years ago from driving, and I don't like anybody talking bad about my dad. So I am trying to make a difference from the other side. I said that just to say, I am proud of all those hands out there trying to make a difference. If I can ever be a help, just let me know!"

This is from a driver and CDL examiner: "First, I want to thank OOIDA for doing such a great job in its activities and the information OOIDA provides for all drivers. I'm a company driver and have been staying up with the June Safety Month. I've been hearing some of the other company drivers complaining about long hours they experience on some days. I told them that I log my hours the way I run it. If I should run 19 hours in one period, that's how I log. When the company person who audits our logs wants to know what's going on, I'll simply point out the hours-of-service rules. I really believe that the law is on our side; if we do our job the right way and let the law do its job, it should prove to make driving a little easier and much safer, even if the road gets a little bumpy at first. This isn't only about the owner-operator. It's about safety for all drivers and those we share the road with."