Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Truckmageddon is near!

In describing the recent blizzard in DC as “Snowmageddon,” President Obama unwittingly unleashed a new buzzword that could come to rival the “----gate” from the Watergate era. We will soon be hearing “(Blank)-mageddon” to describe anything that seems to overwhelm or threaten to overwhelm the normal order. I can see this happening in trucking, so here are some of tomorrow’s Land Line headlines today:

Idlemageddon: The growing trend toward anti-idling laws will pick up speed, with every town, city, county and state creating their own rules – and of course, exemptions and exceptions for local cronies. Net result will be emptier trucker pockets, as well as horror stories of drivers felled by heat stroke or hypothermia.

EOBRmageddon: One of the most unpopular ideas of the 1990s will likely steamroller opposition this decade, as fleets and governments push for ever-greater quantities of data on drivers and truck operation, both to improve the bottom line and also to demonstrate, or enforce compliance. In my opinion, the push is aided by generational and demographic shifts, as younger drivers with fewer ties to trucking traditions slide behind the wheel.

Hoursmageddon: Has there ever been a time when hours of service WEREN’T being debated? Despite listening sessions and public comment periods and so on, have we ever felt that anyone – from FMCSA down to ATA – has actually listened to real drivers’ descriptions of real-world conditions? The feds already unleashed one Hoursmageddon that brought us to the current situation. We should probably expect “Apocalypse Next” from the latest round.

Rookiemageddon: Safety groups and veteran truckers all agree that poorly trained newbies make for a clear and present danger on the roads. Note that I am not knocking rookies in general, just those who’ve been run through classes and some local OTR training and been anointed “professionals.” As veteran truckers retire or just leave their rigs back by the fence, the number of novices will continue to climb, adding to our tribulations.

Huh?mageddon: Blithely ignoring the soaring numbers of accidents and deaths related to distracted driving, carmakers seem determined to enable drivers to interact with everything BUT the road around them. Some studies show that mandating hands-free phones doesn’t substantially reduce accidents. It’s the mind focused on the phone (or makeup, or food or radio or seat cover) that wanders from the road; the hands just follow along.