What a roller coaster ride it has been over the last few weeks, and it appears quite a storm has been brewing within the trucking industry. Here’s a brief review how it has gone down and what has come out of it all:
June 3rd – Anne Ferro makes her statement on the DOT “Fast Lane Blog” making her plea to maintain the 2013 HOS rule and explaining why an amendment would threaten safety.
Thus, bringing to the attention the graphic display of fatal truck crashes brought on by truck driver fatigue. Just the title of the blog post says who the targeted audience is: “Congress shouldn’t roll back safety.” The blog post appeared two days prior to Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, introducing an amendment to the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development appropriations bill that would suspend the requirement of the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods during the restart and would allow more than one restart in a seven-day period.
June 5th – Senate appropriations committee approved by a large majority, the 12 month suspension of the 34 hour restart provision. Senators who voted for this amendment agreed that the changes would amend restrictions in the 2013 HOS rule, which presently prevents drivers from using the restart more than once per week and requires the restart time to include two periods between 1am and 5am. Reason for the amendment included:
- Present 2013 HOS compromises safety by forcing more trucks on road during early morning traffic
- There was insufficient data by FMCSA proving improved safety for the 2013 HOS ruling
During this same time, truck stop chains were pulling Maxim magazines off the shelves as an ad inside the magazine included a graphic, depicting truck drivers as serial killers out on the road, portraying them to have little regard for human life or road safety.
June 5th - OOIDA requested resignation for FMCSA Administrator, Anne Ferro, writing a letter to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. OOIDA stated that Ferro has a “clear bias against truckers and the trucking industry” and that the agency “can no longer perform its regulatory and enforcement duties impartially.”
The group also charged Ferro of violating federal laws that prohibit federally appropriated money to be used for lobbying purposes (Referring to the DOT Fast Lane Blog post of June 3rd). Those in favor of OOIDA’s call became passionately involved, commenting on numerous posts and threads, which then carried a momentum and included discussion for all FMCSA regulations which had been burdening drivers during the last few years; HOS, ELD’S, CSA, and an in general over regulation of the industry.
Shortly after, James Lamb of the AIPBA also wrote Secretary Foxx, defending Anne Ferro.
June 8th – A tragic and fatal truck crash involved a trucker, killing comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair and injuring comedian Tracy Morgan. The driver was quoted as saying he hadn’t slept for 24 hours, which quickly was interpreted by the media as meaning that he had been driving for 24 hours. (It wasn’t until days later that it was determined that he had actually been speeding.)
The misinformation was soon exploited by media, trucking safety advocacy groups, celebrities, and even politicians, distorting the truth by saying in so many words: truck driver fatigue is responsible for most fatal accidents and now the Senate wants to pass an amendment to further reduce safety, amending present HOS regulations by allowing/pushing professional drivers to drive even more hours without rest.
The public became outraged, assuming by the headlines and comments of the media, that the Collins amendment, which was proposed in order to suspend unsafe portions of the 2013 HOS rule, were now made to believe that the amendment negligently compromised highway safety to appease trucking greed.
June 17th - Another letter written by Annette Sandberg, former administrator of the FMCSA, also spoke out in support of the Collins Amendment and its vital changes to the 34-hour restart provision. The letter was addressed to leaders of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Transportation, she stated the changes to the restart provision imposed by the current administration were “done without the benefit of proper scientific research, and [are] hurting highway safety” – as well as the economy.
She also stated that due to the recent crash involving Tracy Morgan that “Current evidence … indicates the cause of this crash had nothing to do with the provisions being addressed in Senator Collins’ amendment.” Also in the letter, she made the point that “To imply that these changes had anything to do with crash in New Jersey is political opportunism at its worst.”
Finally in her letter, Sandberg explained how the current restart rules could actually compromise safety rather than enhance it, by forcing more trucks onto highways during early morning hours, something that most all drivers agree with, including those drivers who oppose OOIDA’s call for the recent administrator’s resignation.
It wasn’t until a group of OOIDA members wrote their letter to Secretary Foxx, supporting Administrator Ferro and disagreeing with OOIDA’s call for her resignation that the industry appeared to be divided. Their letter included support for the administrator by pointing out positive concerns that the present administrator has addressed for drivers, such as when she addressed Congress, stating that drivers should be paid for all on duty time.
It is this letter that has become the most recent focus of attention in the industry, as this group of veteran drivers (who also support OOIDA in other issues), are now being dissected, scrutinized and criticized by some of their fellow drivers, some even going so far as to call the authors of the letter “traitors” to their fellow drivers.
But are they really? Or are they pointing out facts, voicing their opinions through conviction, and in doing so, allowing others to be aware of points that may have otherwise been missed in all of the complicated and emotional sequence of events.
Standing up for what you believe in is hardly easy, and it doesn’t always prove you are right, but it does display courage to go against the tide of the majority, taking the chance to expose yourself to ridicule and criticism. But in the end, what you have achieved, even with the harshest skeptics and haters, you have planted a seed.
This newly planted seed will create curiosity and many will research its fact, truth and validity, and if they do investigate for themselves, they have just broadened their mind to openness and contrary opinion as well as becoming more informed regarding ALL the facts. It could very well be an “Ah Ha!” moment for many.
Many will not change their opinions, however, the knowledge they have gained by trying to prove wrong, those who have the “audacity to speak up against popular opinion,” has now proven to benefit them also; by supplementing their information and knowledge, creating greater conviction for beliefs, based on facts rather than just going along with the popularity of the masses.
I believe this entire trail of events has stirred up a passion and an increased thirst for individual understanding of what is going on in our industry. It is putting together many of the puzzle pieces: low driver wages, the need to be paid for all on duty time, detention pay, driver fatigue – the real causes, HOS and the real issues for the need for driver rest flexibility, ELD’s and how they relate to driver wages while enforcing a flawed HOS rule.
James Lamb, an industry professional has suggested, that drivers are opposed to ELDS because they would no longer be able to cheat on their logs, significantly affecting their wages. Mr. Lamb’s solution was to call for Rate Transparency among Freight Brokers, indicating that if brokers were transparent, then owner-operators would make more profit and the concern for ELD’s would diminish. Drivers need to make more money and then other issues would also be resolved, if only their wages and profits were increased.
You may now wonder, where do I stand on all of this? I myself believe the HOS rule is severely flawed, not allowing flexibility for drivers to receive quality rest. I believe that the Collins amendment will create safer roads. I believe there are many reasons that contribute to truck driver fatigue. I can see that the FMCSA still has much work to do with CSA and I believe that drivers should get paid for ALL work and time on duty, not just driving. I believe ELD’s are a tool enforcing a flawed rule.
I also want to see higher standards for CDL training, which in itself would improve highway safety. We have a long way to go, but I also believe that drivers are motivated right now to become involved as never before. Do I think that Anne Ferro should resign? No. With all that has just happened in just the last three weeks, we have the momentum and leverage needed to encourage the FMCSA to listen intently, while everything is out on the table from all sides.
Why slow the process down by starting all over again?