The undeclared war on owner-operators

July 30, 2013

Why would our government make war on one of the most productive and safest groups in the transportation sector?   While there is no declared or undeclared war on owner-operators and independent drivers by government, it sure feels like it for many of them.   How else can one explain the variety of laws, regulations, and rules that have come out or are pending that may adversely affect them?   The title of this op-ed for Overdrive by Colorado Motor Carriers Association President Greg Fulton, he says, is “a phrase that I heard from a frustrated owner-operator.”   Let’s look at what this undeclared war looks like.   First, we have the federal and many state governments seeking to redefine and reinterpret what constitutes an independent contractor in trucking and the relationship between motor carriers and owner-operators.   The independent contractor model and use of owner-operators in the trucking industry has  been in place for more than 50 years, and many of the owners of the largest trucking companies in the country started as independent drivers.   While this model is not perfect, it has generally worked well for both independent drivers and companies.   Now we have a number of states pushing for these owner-operators to be considered employees instead of independent contractors.   This concept fails to recognize that there are thousands of employee-driving jobs available across the country that these talented individuals could accept. Instead, they choose to be  owner-operators because of the freedom it provides them and the opportunities (and risks) of being their own boss and running their own small business.   Unfortunately, this push by some state governments and other interest groups has had a chilling effect as some companies reconsider the use of owner-operators for fear that they may be subject to unwarranted investigations and fines.   In the end this push by government acts to limit the opportunities for owner-operators and independent drivers.Second, there are the new hours of service (HOS) rules, which have disproportionately affected many owner-operators.   The timing of these rules is particularly frustrating as those independent drivers, who recently survived the country’s worst recession in our generation and are still struggling, now face another  blow to their financial well-being.   Probably even more vexing is that the new rules are not based on sound science and offer little benefit in their eyes in the way of safety.While the new HOS rules are disconcerting, more regulations are on the way. The recent federal highway reauthorization (MAP-21)  requires FMCSA  to complete 29 new safety regulations within 27 months.   Included in this list are several that will affect owner-operators, including rules for electronic logging devices, a national clearinghouse for drug and alcohol test results, new guidelines for safety inspections and others. While many of these proposed regulations and rules may have value in improving safety, the sheer volume of them will pose a further challenge for owner-operators in the way of costs and trying to stay compliant.   Third, the changing standards for vehicles have increased costs while posing a challenge in reliability.   The 2014 engine standards are estimated to increase costs for a tractor by thousands of dollars. Based on the fact that large fleets buy significant numbers of new trucks, their costs will be substantially less per truck than those of an owner-operator buying one vehicle. Unfortunately, these new engines come on the heels of the 2010 models, which have had their share of problems from a reliability standpoint.   New standards for brakes and other safety features will further push up vehicle costs in the near term, creating an even greater cost gap between owner-operators and fleets.   Finally, there is the staggering number of new state and local regulations targeted at trucking.   These include local air quality regulations, idling standards, parking restrictions, noise ordinances, new fees and etc.   The changes created by these new regulations are usually poorly communicated to the trucking industry and even more so to independents.   In many cases, the fines for violating one of these laws can be very steep, as local governments equate big trucks with big income.   In many cases independents only find out about a new regulation after they have been fined for it, which may wipe out the entire profit from a run for an owner-operator.How do we get to a truce in this undeclared war? As in any battle, one stops firing the weapons.   In this case, the weapons happen to be regulations and laws that are ill-considered and lack input from the people most affected.   We need the government at all levels to “disarm” by curtailing new regulations and rules and reconsidering some of the existing ones, such as the new hours of service.   Owner-operators and independent drivers have helped to build the trucking industry in our country into the most efficient freight operation in the world.   Let’s not strangle these industrious and hardworking individuals with voluminous rules which are long on paper and short on benefit.

The Seven Deadly Sins’ Effect On Professional Drivers

BY GUEST · MAY 16, 2013 · NO COMMENTSFEATURED · TAGGED: CHALLENGES, IMAGE, PROFESSIONAL DRIVERS, SEVEN DEADLY SINS, TIPS, TRUCKERS

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Professional drivers are humans and are subject to the challenges faced by every one of us on a daily basis.   However, many of these trials are unique to the men and women behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer.   The seven deadly sins have been identified as pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth.   How do these sins harm your professional image?  Let’s start with pride. 

Pride has been identified as the “excessive belief in one’s own abilities.”   How many times have you pushed yourself just one more mile or one more hour longer than you were comfortable driving?   Have you ever accepted a load that you knew you couldn’t complete within your legal hours of service limit?   When was the last time you made a promise to your family that you weren’t sure you could keep?   If so, you were overestimating your ability or stretching your level of competence.   This is the sin of pride.  

The second sin is identified as envy.   Every time you desire another person’s traits, status, abilities or situation, you are guilty of envy.   When you wish that you had their safety record, their looks or their ambition, you’re committing one of the seven deadly sins.   If your desire to find greater success moves you to make positive changes in your actions, that’s different, but when you merely wish that you could have an ability demonstrated by a fellow driver, that’s envy.

Gluttony is the third deadly sin, and if you look at the typical professional driver, you’ll find a prevalence of gluttony, or “the desire to consume more than what you require.”   Every extra pound on your frame is evidence of gluttony.   It’s especially difficult for drivers to eat only what your body needs for sustenance, but we all have choices, and these are choices that you make every time you put something in your mouth.  

The fourth sin is identified as lust, or “an inordinate craving for pleasures of the body.”   Although gluttony could fall into this category, other desires include drugs, alcohol and sex.   Professional drivers are required by law to refrain from abusing drugs, and alcohol use is severely limited when you’re on the road. Evidence of sexual lust is still seen at truck stops and rest areas where prostitutes are utilized.   Lust is a reflection of your own personal values and the image you present to others.  

Anger is probably least recognized as being a sin.   Unleashing your wrath on your dispatcher won’t make your situation easier, as communication flows more smoothly when neither side is angry.   Yelling at the fuel desk clerk, aggressive behavior on the road and slamming the phone down when talking to your mate are all signs of anger, one of the seven deadly sins.  

The sixth sin is that of greed, or the desire for material wealth or gain at the expense of others.   Greed differs from lust because the longing is for things, especially those owned by others, and not immediate physical gratification. Greed is not the same thing as envy, or a desire for someone else’s characteristics, but focuses on what they own.   If you’ve even wished that you owned that big rig parked next to you, then you’re guilty of greed.   Wanting something that someone else has worked for is considered a sin.  

The last of the seven deadly sins is called sloth, or the avoidance of work. We all want to be more efficient, but when that desire to reduce our workload creates an imbalance by causing more effort by others, then it’s considered a sin.   Sloth is also evident how a driver treats his or her truck.   Leaving trash in the cab, allowing the truck to become excessively dirty, or forgoing a thorough pre-trip inspection is considered laziness, or sloth.   In some cases, your inaction could create a hazard for you or others on the road.  

The seven deadly sins should be avoided by all of us whether we drive a truck for a living or not.   As professional drivers, you have enough challenges to face each time you accept a load, make a delivery or stop along the way.   If your goal is to enhance your image, along with that of your peers, keep these sins in mind and stay away from them when possible.   As a professional driver, are you mindful of your image?  How do you avoid the pitfalls described in this article?  Share your stories and opinions in our comments section.

Diesel reverses downward trend (and highlights from 1,000

Diesel reverses downward trend (and highlights from 1,000 weeks of diesel prices)

May 14, 2013

This week marked the 1,000th week that the Department of Energy had reported a weekly national average diesel price, and in it, the price of on-highway diesel rose 2.1 cents, bringing a 10-week period of consecutive price drops to an end.However, this week’s price is still 13.8 cents below the same week in 2012. Overdrive sister site CCJ has long list of highlights from the 1,000 weeks that the DOE has been reporting fuel prices, including trends from the 2008-2009 recession, the lower volatility of the 1990s and when diesel crossed the $2 a gallon mark for the first time (September 2004).  Since September 2004, it’s been above $2 every week except a stretch of 10 weeks in December 2004-February 2005.  It crossed the $3 mark for the first time just 13 months later in October 2005 in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For more highlights and regional information from this week’s prices, see CCJ‘s report.

SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA takes ‘de facto’ fatigue regulation to court: Land Line Magazine

SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA takes ‘de facto’ fatigue regulation to court: Land Line Magazine.

Hours of Service: Changing It Again?

An example of a truck driver log book in the U...

An example of a truck driver log book in the United States. “PTI” is short for “pre-trip inspection”, as the driver is responsible for ensuring that the vehicle is fit to be driven (i.e., no flat tires, loose bolts, or broken parts). “On duty” time includes fueling, repairs, loading and unloading. “Off duty” time incudes meals and rest stops. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This blog is about Hours of Service which the professional driver has to deal with everyday.  Like most drivers, company drivers and owner operators, changing this rule affects us all.  Every few years the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Association (FMCSA) decides to change the rules, they say will help the trucking industry.  Before the driver can get used to the new rule, it is changed again.  When a groups like The Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways Foundation (CRASH), The Truck Safety Coalition, and The Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), get information on an accident involving a truck, they automatically think the truck driver is at fault.  In most cases, when their accidents, the police will give the truck driver a ticket without knowing the full details of the accident.

Not all accidents are caused by tired truck drivers, some of them could have come off a 10 hour break and has been driving 2 hours or less.  Accidents happen because someone, whether it be the trucker or the person in the car, has made a mistake.  Because the truck is so much bigger, it is automatically thought of as being at fault.  In 1998, I had an accident by rear ending a car that ducked between me and the truck in front of me, to get off the exit.  Because it was done so fast, the car slammed on breaks causing me to hit them, consequently, I was charged with that accident even though a witness told them what happened.  I was charged with following too close!  I was not tired and my logbook was legal.

The new rules come into effect on July 1, 2013 and every driver and company needs to get used to them.  It states that you must start your hours reset between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.  If you calculate this right, the driver is forced to take a consecutive 48 hours off instead of 34 hours.  This time must start on the weekend.  In actuality, it means that truck drivers will work a 5 day work week, Monday thru Friday.  If the FMCSA keeps this up, the owner operator will be gone.  Every company will be running regionally instead of cross country, that leaves the owner operator out.  Companies will not need them because they will be able to move their own freight.  Shippers on the other hand will have a hard time keeping up with the cost of shipping their freight, unless they use a company that have locations across the U.S. or use a company that have team drivers.  In some cases, one trailer could be switched out up to 4 times before it gets to it destination.  How many shippers are going to go for that?

It is also stated in the new rule that a driver must take a 30 minute break after 8 consecutive hours of driving, most drivers do that anyway. The driver just has to make sure they put it on the logbook. Making so many changes to the rules and regulations, discourages a lot of drivers from staying in the industry. Drivers that has been in the industry as long as I have are looking into leaving because of the many changes, we can’t keep up! People that are coming in for the first time don’t know what it was like before all the new rules. I hope as a professional truck driver that the rules will remain this way for a while.