September 8, 2014
Not all too recently, I sat down with a fellow truck driver, who happened to be from England, and we had a discussion, which ran a good 45 minutes or so. The discussion we had ran along the lines of driver pay, and what it would take for companies to retain drivers, and bring in new drivers, over-regulation, driver retention, and what it would take for companies to take the appropriate steps to gain, and retain current and new drivers.
Driver Pay and Detention; The discussion ranged from raising driver pay, to increasing benefits, or making benefits more affordable and reasonable for the driver and their family members. We both agreed that although bringing driver pay to a level commensurate with today’s economy would help a great degree, continually raising driver pay would not be the solution, because if companies are forced to do that, and that alone, they would not be able to keep pace, and therefore drivers and companies would be negatively affected. One solution, was to offer drivers a pay increase that would stand for a reasonable amount of time, plus include a set of benefits that would better meet a drivers needs. Now, what those benefits would be, would be something that trucking companies would have to look very closely at, take into strong consideration, and work to listen to what their drivers want and need. Plus, add in the additional problem about pay that drivers argue about, that being, detention pay. A driver gets to one point or the other, and has to wait an inordinate amount of time, to get loaded or unloaded, only to find that their company either does not charge that specific customer for detention, or the customer refuses to pay. This situation can put the driver behind, pay wise, if they have to repeatedly sit and wait, while they could be on the road doing the miles that actually generate their paychecks.
Driver Quality; A strong part that we both agreed upon, was the fact of the type of drivers that we have in the seat today. In the words of the driver I interviewed, he put it pretty much on course. “There are two types of drivers we have in the industry today, (1) Truck Drivers, (ones who Want to be in this industry, and work to do so, properly, and safely.) And (2) People who drive trucks, (those who took this lifestyle on as a job, and nothing else, and therefore have no incentive to stay, or improve).”
Truck Maintenance; The regulations the way they have been and are, currently, is wasteful and more stressing on the driver, especially when a company is needing to have a load delivered at a specific time. Now here, the interviewee did point out that much of the maintenance regulations in Europe are far more strict, than here in the states and Canada. And that, for some of the things drivers have to do on “ this side of the pond,” in Europe, we'd be hung from the nearest tree for. One case in point, Drivers, are drivers, they pick up the load, and deliver from point A to point B. Mechanics do the mechanical work, and trucks in Europe are to be inspected and worked on Monthly, by the company, and they are very strict on that. Here, it is much different, drivers are responsible, as they should be, to insure that their trucks are safe for the road and that necessary repairs are made before they move out. The down side?,...Some companies will tell drivers to , “just run the load and we'll get it fixed after you unload.” While at the same time, not telling dispatch or load planners that the truck must go into a shop immediately after unloading, and then the driver is told to go get the next load first (by the dispatcher) thereby dragging on what might be necessary repairs. That, or the company maintenance director or other maintenance personnel might ask what the problem is, and tell the driver to hold off til the truck goes in for it's next scheduled maintenance.
Office Standards of Hiring; Another part of the equation, is companies that are unwilling to hire an experienced driver for a position “in the office.” Part of the reason, is that the driver has the knowledge of not only the road, but also, what it takes to get the job done, and done correctly, and safely, and how to better work with customers in extending the information the customer needs, without sugar coating the customer with information that might be incorrect. (i.e., the driver is going to be late because of either an accident that held up traffic, or the load was improperly scheduled, but the trucking company tells the shipper or receiver that the truck broke down. So when the driver shows up and apologizes for the delay, along with offering the truth of the reason, the company rep at the office ends up with”egg” on their face).
Home-time; Also, part of the conversation swung around drivers home-time requests, and how some companies seemingly go out of their way not to get the driver home at the time requested, but instead, load the driver in another direction, while at the same time, they give another driver right next to him or her, a load that takes them right in the direction the first driver needs to get home!
Over-Regulation; With the regulations that have been passed down the pipe to drivers and trucking companies over the years, even with the most recent changes to the 34 hour reset, drivers are being taxed more than any-other-industry in the world! And most recently, with the sleep apnea debate, Congress instructed the FMCSA that they were to instruct the “FMCSA qualified medical examiners” that they are no longer to tell drivers that they must do a sleep study, then the DOT turns around and says that they want the FMCSA to push for this study to be done, along with safety advocates pushing harder and harder for these changes.
Driver Training Standards; We both agreed, that the quality of driver that is being pushed through the door today, has steadily decreased, instead of improved, and that safety on the road has gone out the window. Along with some unscrupulous trucking schools and companies helping otherwise unqualified drivers obtain CDL's illegally, along with drivers that cannot, or will not, speak English, that weave their way through traffic like a knitting needle goes through thread, thereby making the rest of the truck drivers look like maniacs behind the wheel. Standards need to be set, and followed, and trucking schools should be put in a position to be federally licensed and supervised on an un-announced basis to insure that student drivers are meeting standards and that poor learners are not allowed to obtain their licenses and move into the seat of any big rig.
Given all this, and obviously, much more, how much longer does the trucking industry, and federal regulators, and safety advocates expect truckers to remain behind the wheel, serving the country, delivering the supplies and goods that people need, before drivers finally get perturbed enough, to tell the country, that enough is enough??
Federal regulators, safety advocates, trucking companies, shipper and receivers, teamsters unions, trucking advocates, the ATA, and many others, need to come together, with drivers, to discuss what should or can be done to resolve these problems, instead of giving the old “That's the nature of the beast” response that some give, even today. Without compromise on all sides, drivers problems and the trucking industries problems will continue to grow and grow, to the point that they will become so unmanageable, that it will be too late to get anything accomplished in a positive way, in a reasonable and respectful period of time.
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