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Thursday, September 24 2015
Pay to Reserve Parking

There is no wonder that a driver shortage exists.  Over regulation, failure to pay for detention time, low mileage pay, poor equipment and/or generally bad working conditions do lead to worker shortages.  The newer medical rules reduce the eligible pool even further.   The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average pay for a truck driver is $38,200 or as they average it $18.73/hour.   Reality; 70 hours a week * 50 weeks a year (let’s give time for vacation and holidays) averages out to $10.91/hour.  If you factor in detention time, time away from home and any other “unlogged” work factors; the average truck driver makes less than a “burger flipper”.   They do not even make minimum wage yet a professional driver (CDL driver) must be trained, jump through a million hoops and are classified as a professional.  

Law officials hold then to standards befitting a professional yet they are too often the carrier’s puppet.  The desk is stacked against the driver and often against the carrier as well.  The parking situation only magnifies the situation.  When a driver cannot find safe parking, he has no choice but to continue onward.  If he stops early, he risks the load being late.  Unrealistic schedules, shipper delays and gridlock are all the enemy of the driver.

Pay to reserve parking is forcing the trip pre-planning issue.  While drivers need to pre-plan their day or their trip, there also has to be room for contingencies.  If carriers are going to pay for reserved parking for their drivers, this is saying to me that a driver’s day is going to be fully controlled by the carrier.  He will be told where to start, where to rest, where to fuel and what road to drive.  Drivers are tracked and monitored.  Some companies have systems installed where they can change a driver’s RPMs on the fly and shut off a truck.  Add an ELD system and a driver facing camera and the puppet show is ready to begin. 

Much of this is already happening but with pay to reserve parking, this is going one step further.  There will be no autonomy remaining behind the wheel.   The driver will no longer be the captain of his ship (truck).  The driver will the programed drone for the carrier.  While this may work for the new age trucker; the driver who craved the “freedom of the road” is being crushed! 

One way to look at this situation, is that this type of planning will facilitate my earlier suggestion of load swapping (DOT Doctor blog-  When the carrier is planning every detail of the day; they will be dictating where you park hence the ability to load swap at a predetermined destination and time.  I have to assume that the reservation comes with a time quota because the renter is going to want to maximize his lot space.  This means a driver must arrive to his parking area at a set time and leave at a set time.  What happens if you are late?  Does your slot get given to the next bidder?  Do you have to vacate before your 10-hour break is complete?  If this is a revenue generating venture for the lot owner; these are valid considerations.

It appears that most of these pay to park places are in areas where parking is hard to come by and traffic is high.  Drivers are already dealing with much stress due to these gridlock conditions.  You may plan to make it to destination X but in reality you have to end your day at W due to a highway shut down or other delays beyond your control.  What if traffic was actually good for a change and you can go further to get a jump on the next day?  You are now forced to shut down early.  There are many variables on the road as any seasoned driver is aware.

Trucking is not a 9-5 job yet the government implements all their plans to force this industry into their 8-hour mindset.  This is just one more step in that direction.  Look at the Bureau of Labor wage calculation.  Their hourly rate is based upon a 40-hour week.  What trucker works a 40-hour week?  Perhaps a Teamster but the one’s I know work more than a 40-hour week. 

In order for a carrier to be sure the driver can make the reservation on time, without placing themselves in jeopardy of “driver cohesion” for forced running over hours; they are going to have to stop the day a bit short.  Carriers or drivers who reserve slots for the 12th hour (figurative speaking) are proving they run over hours.  They are setting themselves up for fines and potential loss of CDL/authority due to their actions.   As such, this is just another tool for the government to force truckers into their controlled time box of a 40-hour week.

Moreover, paying to have a place to park is just wrong!  I can see why the ATRI’s survey (OVERDRIVE and CCJ says that drivers in high traffic areas were more likely to say Yes.  If you are from the NE or West Coast, you are accustomed to paying to park everywhere you go.  The rest of us are not use to doing so.  Still accustomed or not; additional costs reduce income.  Trucker profit margins are slim at best.  Carriers, owner-operators nor drivers can afford another cost item. 

Truckers pay over $50 Billion annually in combined taxes according to the American Trucking Association.  With over $35 Billion paid annually in highway usage taxes, why can the government not afford to build adequate and safe parking areas for truckers?

Posted by: The DOT Doctor AT 03:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, September 23 2015

I have been preaching since the 80s that the rules are broken. We need to trash the entire HOS rule set and start over. Each fix seems to just make things worse. Truckers are not a one size fits all category and that is the problem. We don't fit in a nice tidy box. As such, DC doesn't know what to do. We are not that widget that fits everything.

The government can't even get all of its "enforcers" to agree. Call the DOT. Each person you speak to will tell you something different when asked the same question. Drive from state to state and each inspection scale operates differently. Sometimes it only takes a county change to see the difference.

How can you hold anyone accountable when the enforcers are not on the same page? There are numbers on a chart (CSA) that are costing drivers and carriers their livelihood yet no one is accountable for the discrepancies. The entire process is a facade! It is not about safety. It is about money. It generates revenue for the enforcement agencies. It this was truly about safety; the criteria would be different, the numbers clear and no crazy algorithms to skew the data.

Maybe we need to go to relay drivers. Everyone has their area again, much like regulated trucking days. A driver runs a load out to a turn around point. Drops, hooks and comes back. No overnight on the road. No long haul. You work a 12 hour day, 5 days a week. A set 12 hours! No logs. No teams. If you are moving something 1000 miles; it either goes to the train or you hand off to a new driver every 250-300 miles. The hand-off maybe in person or via drop site. Driver turns with a different trailer and comes home.

Local drivers run the shuttle work to and from the load/unload facilities. It worked before and can work again. Drivers a paid a fair wage for their 60 hour week. No mileage or arguing for detention pay. Hourly or salary to compensate for their time. Drivers who don't pull their weight; are fired. Realistic schedules. Real pay. Massive paperwork reduction. Greatly increased family time.

It would take planning on the carrier's part. You would have to line up your routes and have real dispatchers. Not some joke behind a desk barking orders. This would end the 34 hr restart issue, HOS issues and a dozen other problems. Statistically it will up driver retention as well. By the way - we did something very similar at BPAC and it worked! Our driver turnover was almost nil.

Read the article:

Posted by: The DOT Doctor AT 12:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, September 03 2015
Hair Follicles Testing

Drug testing changes are proposed due to 4% of trucking related accidents involve drugs who test "dirty" for drugs.  Four percent!   Well let's make this a high priority issue!!!  This needs to top the list of things of fix with the FMCSA.  The issue of lack of parking, inadequate HOS regulations and 40,000+ driver shortage have nothing on this 4% issue.   We must prioritize!

Now I am not making short of the need for drug and alcohol testing.  I do fully support the program.  I think all workers should be d&a tested; not just truckers.  I just feel that all the hassle over a number that equals 4% of truckers involved in accidents is not an issue that involves enough drivers to warrant such priority.  I also oppose follicles testing as the "go to" method.   As often as some drivers are tested, they are going to be bald.  All jokes aside!  Follicles testing is invasive.  Urine testing is a common and acceptable method.  I would support anyone on an SAP program to undergo follicles testing.   That is logical.  Then again, we are talking about a government agency; why involve logic?

Unions appose these types of tests.   As much as I generally disagree with the Unions, we are on the same side here.  If a company wishes to implement an employee wide follicles testing program; then so be it.  You accept that by going to work for them.  JB Hunt is reported to have such a program.  But I cannot condone this as a nationwide requirement.

What are your thoughts?  Let your voices be heard!


Posted by: The DOT Doctor AT 04:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, September 03 2015

With a projected shortage of 40,000 drivers; it is more important than ever to give our hard working truckers some much deserved recognition.  Take a moment a thank a trucker for all they do to make our lives more enjoyable!  I recall trucking companies throwing bbqs and pot luck dinners for their drivers during this week as a way to say thank you.  How are you recognizing your drivers?

During the week of September 13-19, professional drivers throughout the United States will be recognized for their hard work and commitment to the trucking industry. National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, observed each year by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), is a weeklong celebration of the hard work and commitment of professional drivers.

National Truck Driver Appreciation WeekAccording to ATA data, as of 2012, there are 3.2 million people employed as truck drivers in the United States, with 7 million people employed throughout the economy in jobs related to trucking activity.*

As our post-recession economy slowly starts to gain some traction, the trucking industry is starting to experience a shortage of professional drivers. Most experts believe this shortage will become the next big challenge that the trucking industry will face.

An aging workforce, increased regulation, and job dissatisfaction are all contributing to this anticipated shortage. While there isn’t much the industry can do about the aging of the current workforce or increased regulation, there are things that can be done in the area of recruiting and then retaining good, professional drivers.

Many studies show that job dissatisfaction is a prime reason a driver leaves a company. The specific reasons range from pay and benefits to a belief that the driver isn’t valued by his/her employer.

Now is a good time to show your drivers they are valued; that what they do and how they do it is an asset to your organization. Start by using the week of September 13-19 to recognize your drivers.

Remember — a simple thank you can go a long way.

*Source: ATA: “American Trucking Trends 2014”

Posted by: The DOT Doctor AT 02:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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