Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Lip service and the almighty dollar

After all these years, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe various groups advocating for more regulation or touting “better” business practices without wondering what their real motivation is. In my mind, more people should be looking for the core truth.

Two recent, very good examples of large fleet representatives preaching one thing but leaving out the reality come to mind as to the root of what’s wrong with the trucking industry. Yet none of the media coverage saw past the surface comments to the reality that lurked beneath.

Exhibit A:
Jim Mullen, executive vice president and general counsel of Werner Enterprises, recently testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security.

The topic of the hearing was improving performance of our transportation networks.

It didn’t take him long to launch into the mega-motor carrier’s so-called solutions to making the road safer – and preach the virtues of speed limiters. Fine, we’ve come to expect this rhetoric out of the big fleets.

Mullen tells the committee how Werner was a pioneer with electronic logs. That a mandate is “logical and appropriate.” Blah, blah. You know how it goes.

Here’s where it gets good. Later in his testimony, when talking about CSA and crash ratings, Mullen told the committee:

“At Werner, the most common DOT-reportable crash is where the truck is being struck from behind by another vehicle.”

You don’t even have to be a first grader with a big crayon to connect those two dots.

News flash, Werner, you probably wouldn’t get rear-ended if your trucks could at least drive the speed limit in all states. Go with the flow of traffic.

If the speed-limiters are so much safer and promote so much better compliance, then why did your drivers rack up 0.10 speeding violations per driver when non-speed limited companies like Bennett Motor Express and Landstar only have 0.08 and 0.07 violations per driver? Check out the research into this by the OOIDA Foundation here.

In my best former Arkansas vernacular: Werner, that speed limiter dog don’t hunt.

Exhibit B:
Shepard Dunn, the chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association and head of Indiana-based Bestway Express, spoke to fleet managers at the 2015 Recruitment and Retention Conference recently.

Dunn told the crowd, among other things, if they want to reduce driver turnover and keep good drivers, fleets need to be paying them $65,000 to $70,000 a year.

A couple of things came to mind when I first read this.

First, I imagined that there was a ripple of chuckles that swept the room, mixed in with a few guffaws. A collective reaction of “yeah, that’s going to happen.”

Second, I cruised over to Bestway’s website. Let’s see if Mr. Dunn’s company put its money where his lip service is. Turns out I was right. He talks a good game, but his company’s pay scale tells a completely different story.

Direct from their website, here’s Bestway’s pay scale:
  • Starting Pay: 32 cents per mile
  • After 6 Months of Service: 32.5 cents per mile
  • After 1 Year of Service: 33 cents per mile
  • After 10 Years of Service: 35 cents per mile
  • After 15 Years of Service: 35.5 cents per mile
  • After 20 Years of Service: 36 cents per mile
  • After 25 Years of Service: 37 cents per mile
     *Drivers who hire in with 10 years of verifiable experience through DAC will automatically start         at 35 cents per mile.

So in addition to my vision of a room full of fleet execs laughing that it will never happen, I’m also thinking there are about 300 Bestway drivers who are saying, “Yeah, $65,000 sure would be nice.”

Put the math to it. You’d have to be with Bestway 25 years, making 37 cents per mile, and getting paid for more than 175,600 miles a year to make $65,000 a year. That’s nearly 3,400 miles a week, every week out of the year. No time off. Forget whether it can be done legally.

That’s insane.

The verdict:
The common theme in these above two situations is corporate greed. Not safety and not the drivers. It’s only about lip service and the almighty dollar.

Mega fleets use speed limiters to reduce fuel consumption. That warm, fuzzy safety blanket argument they try and wrap their agenda in has their hind ends – literally the ends of their trailers – hanging out there to get smacked.

Driver pay? Quit talking about it and do it. It’s pretty hard to believe these assertions that pay needs to increase are sincere when 37 cents a mile is your company’s top publicized pay rate.

The sooner lawmakers and regulators go deaf to these half-baked arguments designed only to promote an agenda of corporate greed, the better off we all will be.