Wednesday, June 22, 2011

HOS? Where’s the respect?

The debate continues on hours of service, a rule that is back on the table again. Imagine that. They keep tweaking and tweaking, for what? They aren’t going to make everybody happy and make compliance rules to fit everyone and every operation.

You know the feds didn’t come up with this out of the blue. This time it’s because of a lawsuit by the safety campers trying to get the rules changed. Maybe we should call them safety-happy campers. Then a court sent it back to the feds because of “procedural” issues with the way they came up with the current rules. All this just proves what we all know: Some people won’t give up on a bad idea.

I would like to be on the feds’ task force or rules committee that helps draw up the new compliance rules. I would be the one standing up for the older drivers – because I would like to see us seasoned hands get a little respect. It doesn’t matter if we’ve had 20, 30 or 40-plus years out there doing millions of safe miles. We operate under the same parameters as a rookie right out of a six-week driving school and running with a trainer for a month.

Compare that to the building trades. I think they all pretty much have a four-year program to work up from apprentice to journeyman status. Not us. Just get that basic CDL; then, it’s just a paperwork thing and you can be qualified to handle hazmat loads, pull doubles and triples and tankers. Oversize, high, wide, long and heavy, no problem, your CDL covers that.

In our business there’s not a lot of chance for advancement, but a lot of us wouldn’t care to go “up” the ladder anyway. We are truckers, so what would we do? Sales, safety? I think nearly all of us believe we would be a good dispatcher. In fact, very few could handle it. I certainly couldn’t. It’s been my past experience in 40 years plus that I would rather work with a dispatcher who’s never put a foot in a truck than work with an “in off the road” trucker.

So what else would reward those of us with many years and millions of safe miles behind us? The building trades have a format of working through the system in four years. That might be a little short in our case. But I think if a trucker could document 10 years and a million safe miles, have a clean or nearly clean MVR, and a satisfactory record with the DOT – it would prove one thing: He survived that first million miles. He’s doing something right.

I think the FMCSA should give these cream-of-the-crop driving professionals a pass on the logbooks, maybe a card identifying him as a trusted safe driver or something like it. This would let the driver do what he’s obviously been doing all along: sleep when he needs to sleep, and now not have to worry about how to fit it into the logbook. That’s the single biggest issue in my book.

Manage your own time, not go by a graph on a log sheet. And I think a track record of a million safe miles proves the driver is capable of doing that. I personally have nearly 4 million behind me, but I can say without a doubt that first million is where you get your education.

This “honor system” for super drivers is not as off the wall as some might first think. And I am not the first to think of it. Seriously, think what an incentive this would be to younger career truckers out there rolling off the miles. By the time they reach that million miles, they will have had a belly full of logs and will be looking forward to this goal.

In today’s electronic world, monitoring total miles in some fashion would probably be a good thing. I don’t think not having to run a log wouldn’t affect most of our operations much. But, as always, some people just can’t appreciate a gift.

About law enforcement, it kind of snuck up on me but somewhere along the line as I got older I realized the cops were showing me a lot more respect. With a few exceptions it was across the board, be it a traffic stop, DOT inspection, at a scale house, etc. Nothing said, of course, but you could just feel it.

The cops show us seasoned geezers a measure of respect. Why can’t our own industry do the same?



  2. I completely agree with you. It should take a lot more than just a two week class a week or so with a trainer and then off you go by yourself. I also agree that before you become a dispatcher you need to experience being a driver at least two years minimum. This way you know what a driver faces on a day to day basis and not expect too much out of a driver.

  3. Another gem Bob, keep up the good writing.

    Paul Todorovich

  4. I believe there is something more nefarious going on besides "safety". That being said, I would like for everyone who advocates this "total control" over truck drivers to go to work, put on an ankle bracelet that informs your employer exactly what time you woke up, what time you went to the bathroom, how long you stood in traffic, what time you entered the office, how much time you took at the water fountain, how much time you actually worked.........and so on.

    In other words, let people see how dehumanizing these controls and over-controls are to a human being, a grown adult, one who has operated an 80,000lb motor vehicle in rain, wind, snow, ice. and still survived.

    Someone who may have just awakened from a good sleep but realized after driving 100 miles that he needs a nap (without have the "granny state" tell him to go to bed)

    Sometimes you try driving according the HOS and it is much more tiring racing against that 14 hour clock. Sometimes you sleep for 6 hrs and you are ready to go, and you are tired again by the time the complete 10hrs is up.

    Why does the nanny state think its their business to tell grown men when to go to bed and how long to sleep?

  5. I agree with you. Why shouldn't the older drivers with 1 million plus miles have a break and get some respect. You're right, they need and deserve recognition. To be able to look forward to no logbooks or even no hassel over logbooks would be a start. And the new drivers, alot of places now have graduated licensing for new class 5 drivers--it takes up to 3+ years to get your full fledge license, and several things you do during this time can get it taken away for periods of time and you get to start over. Why doesn't this happen with a CDL? Why are they different? They sure handle alot heavier vehicle and pulling trailers should make this a more complexe job.

  6. The voice of experience....Well said!
    This is a second career for this driver, but I'm 12 years into it and well on my way to my 2nd million. I fall into the category of the geezers Bob wrote about. Point taken. After a little thought, you're right! I'll take little respect anywhere I can get it!

    A pass on the logbook for seasoned and proven drivers? What a novel idea. Do you actually mean to tell me that after 60 years, I will be able to decide for myself when I'm tired. Mercy, mercy... don't know if I can stand it!

    I have a dispatcher who was the NCO I/C the Coy motor pool. Didn't know what the inside of a Highway tractor looked like, until I took him for a ride around the block in mine. Actually listens to what I have to say. (Could be because I out ranked him in a previous life) Best dispatcher I ever had!

    Anyway, I have rambled enough. Well said, Bob. Well written and well thought out. Think you can make it go?

  7. Eyvonne, did you actually read the article or did you always get "fails to pay proper attention" on your report card?

    Bob said he would rather work with a dispatcher that had never set foot in a truck, not one with driving experience!!!

    I hope you aren't logging your "on duty-driving" hours in the sleeper section!! lol

  8. This is my 40th year and I've noted a few things that are worth thinking about...First off has anybody in Washington ever wondered why a new driver can spend thousands of dollars on a truck driving school and quit for ever in a month?.....Would a driver really drive at four am with toothpicks holding his eyes open if somebody wasn't pushing him to do it?...Wouldn't it be safer if the new drivers could read and write English before they try and navigate around our busy highways....Shouldn't drivers be covered by the same working rules as everybody else? I have worked pushing 70 hours a week for most of 40 years just to barely get by and it gets worse instead of better.

  9. Well Said Bob ! Your words speak to alot of us. I'm the wife of a trucker and hear it everyday what you've summarized in your short piece. Tenure, seniority, experience - whatever you want to call it doesn't mean a whole lot out there in today's world. Thanks for speaking up.


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