Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rather reports on trucking world

A recent “Dan Rather Reports” titled “Haul or High Water” gave industry outsiders a glimpse into the trucking world and a broken system that can’t adequately pay its drivers for what they do. In my opinion, this huge dilemma is hard to cram into an hour show. As a reporter who covers the trucking industry, I know how complicated it can be to make others outside the industry understand.

The show, which aired in June on HDNet, featured the challenges of being an owner-operator as seen through the eyes of OOIDA Life Member Don Wagner of Yerington, NV. Rather’s crew accompanied Don on a 1,600-mile run from Reno, NV, to Osceola, IA. I’ve talked to Don, who is one hardworking man who loves trucking. I liked the fact that Don wore his black OOIDA life member jacket during the show.

Don’s struggle to keep his trucking business afloat was documented as they rolled across five states and three time zones. Don’s story is similar to so many other drivers out there facing mounting financial pressures and few opportunities for good-paying loads.

Leslie Wagner, Don’s wife, was appropriately featured. Behind the scenes, she has the frustrating job of finding him the best rates possible while he’s out on the road.

The report explained how the trucking industry got into this mess of being unable to pay its drivers and what some groups like OOIDA are doing to fight for better treatment, detention pay, fair rules to work by, and good pay for a hard job.

Rather’s piece included testimony from OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer at a recent Senate hearing on hours of service, brokers and electronic on-board recorders – and their impact on safety in the trucking industry. In the clip, Todd told lawmakers that drivers just want to be paid for the hours they work, not by the miles they run.

People who watched this show – Rather’s fourth on the trucking industry – clearly know the system is broken.