Friday, July 17, 2015

A visit with Certy. He lives in a Post Office Box.

Hi there. I’d invite you to sit down, but as you can see, there’s no room for chairs in here. Can I get you an eyedropper of coffee or a prune Danish crumb? No?

OK. This is completely off the record, right? OK, then.

You can call me Certy for now. It’s a nickname for CERT, which stands for Coalition for Efficient and Responsible Trucking. We’re pushing 33-foot pup trailers. It’s an increase of only 5 feet and it will save fuel, end driver turnover, and eventually lead to world peace. Those longer pups will be so pretty that citizens will picnic along the Interstates just to watch them roll by.

Of course, in pairs they’ll increase overall length by 10 feet. It won’t be easy merging onto the highway with one of those babies, ha ha. But that’s not our problem is it? We stick to the script around here.

Anyhow, I work in post office boxes for some of the biggest PR firms in the world. Those guys hire me when they don’t have the budget for an office and for a stooge in a Neiman Marcus suit to front for them. If that was the case they’d be CERT at, say, 1000 K Street, Suite 5A.

But with all their money, those cheap big-trucking guys wouldn’t spring for that. No surprise there, eh? So what you’ve got is CERT at Post Office Box 66361, Washington, DC. That’s me, and as you can see, it helps to be really small.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

#TBT: Baseplate Baghdad

Editor’s note: It’s “Throwback Thursday” and you know what that means – time to dig deep into Land Line’s digital archive for some of our favorite blast-from-the-past stories. This week, we bring you a feature from the October 2004 issue, written by then-Feature Editor Jami Jones. It’s an account of life on the road for OOIDA Member Mark Taylor – who worked as a contractor in Iraq, where he drove a truck as part of a military convoy and came under fire from roadside explosives. For the full experience, you can click here and scroll down to also read a letter Mark’s wife Renee who wrote about what it was like at home during Mark’s absence.

The day starts like any other. Mark Taylor rolls out of bed, grabs a cup of coffee, maybe a bite to eat, and gets ready for another day in the truck.


He pulls on his jeans, T-shirt, boots — standard attire when on the road. He rips open the Velcro straps to adjust his body armor into place, puts on his Kevlar helmet and steps outside into another hot day in the desert of Iraq.

Driving a truck in Iraq is literally and figuratively a world away from rumbling down Interstate 80 on a cross-country run. Turning the key in the ignition and shoving the rig into gear is where the similarities end.

The convoy lines up in its military-dictated, and most importantly military-protected, formation ready to head out on the 12- to 15-hour day ahead.

Mark looks out through his windshield, which is lined with cardboard. The cardboard provides an ever-so-little bit of added protection from shattering glass in the event of an attack.

Like most truckers, Mark has taken the piece of cardboard and personalized it. He’s added an OOIDA member sticker and a picture of a very ugly puppy (because his handle is “Uglypuppy”), among other things.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Like a stubborn toddler, FMCSA needs a 'timeout'

After covering the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for more than 15 years now, I can say with some confidence I have a firm grasp on what regs and initiatives have and have not been successful. Apparently more so than some of the people who work there.

I could rip through dozens of regs, but let’s just focus on one reg and one program: Hours of service and Compliance, Safety, Accountability or CSA.

The latest incarnation of the hours of service is, quite simply, a joke. Truckers told the agency time and time again they needed the flexibility to take breaks when they need and want to.

Like a toddler being told something they didn’t want to hear, the agency took it to the extreme. “You want a nap. Fine. You’re gonna take a nap for how long and when we tell you. So there.” (I envision some pouting followed by stomping off with a smirk on the face.)

And just like the overreacting toddler, the agency is having to backpedal now because of a fundamental truth that is ignored time and time again: Trucking is a diverse profession. It’s not a bunch of Stepford drones out there driving trucks.

So a growing collection of segments of the industry are getting exemptions from the rest break. Begrudgingly I’m sure, the agency is caving on its knee-jerk mandate of rest breaks. Getting the agency to admit they were wrong in mandating a scheduled rest break isn’t going to happen. We’re going to see a nightmare patchwork of exemptions out there on the road as the unhappy toddler has to give back toys it took away, one at a time.

CSA. Ah, yes, CSA. Talk about a good-intentioned program that is a colossal failure.

Let’s go down the list of everyone who has a problem with CSA and want the scores pulled from public view. Truckers. Motor Carriers. Law enforcement. Members of Congress. Throw in a lawsuit filed by OOIDA that targets the data used by CSA and you round out a very comprehensive list of criticism.

You would think with bills pending in Congress, as well as letters from every advocacy group ranging from OOIDA to ATA and CVSA calling on the agency to hide the scores, that at some point there would start to be an overhauling of the program.

But, again, like our stubborn little toddler, the agency isn’t budging. I’m seeing a pouty-faced, arms-crossed, glaring youngster saying, “You can’t make me.”

In fact, the agency is forging ahead with a plan to tie yet another compliance label, the Safety Fitness Determination, to the faulty CSA program. Great – one more thing motor carriers big and small need to worry about.

Channeling the hard-nosed mom that I am, I’m here to tell you FMCSA needs its hind end put in time-out (that’s the PC, modern-era version of disciplining a kid instead of beating their butt and sending them to their room).

I’m not even close to the only one who thinks so. There is legislation in Congress to force the agency to revise how it approaches regulations, mandates transparency, mandates review of current regs, mandates more oversight. It’s quite the bill. You can read more about it here.

OOIDA is all for this. It has support for the effort on FightingForTruckers.com. There are resources and tools for you to use to contact your lawmaker in support of reforming or fixing FMCSA, with the clever hashtag #fixFMCSA.

Since the unwilling, stubborn toddler of an agency isn’t getting the message any other way, it’s time we all rally together and dole out some stern discipline and oversight. It’s not going to change any other way.