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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Trucking Denuded

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Having spent a number of years in Alaska, and then returning to the Lower-48 to work, I was utterly shocked at what has happened to the trucking industry down here since my absence. It’s simply appalling what has is going on out here, and I am shocked that the mega-carriers with all of their fancy lawyers and lobbyist, have allowed this tragedy to occur. The trucking industry has been castrated, denuded, and has become a train-wreck on a collision course with the future. It’s no wonder that the trucking industry has lost a quarter of a million experienced professional truck drivers.

The new ( so called) safety  laws are nothing more than yet another example of regulatory control imposed by a cadre of power-hungry paraprofessionals that are out of touch with reality. A reality which exists only in their minds, and is far removed from the realities of mainstream America.

Only in their minds can they sleep at night knowing full well that these laws are nothing short of absurdly insane, and will have absolutely no effect whatsoever within the realities that they have conjured up in their fragile minds. Let’s face facts, well documented facts. Most accidents involving commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles are the fault of the passenger vehicle’s driver. Not the other way around. So the safety aspect of these new laws just went out the window.

Exploring the new CSA, and what it means to carriers, as well as their drivers; represents the foulest of all monopolies that exists; slight-of-hand tactics designed to reach deep into the wallets of the carriers, and their individual driver-employees. These “smoke and mirror” tactics are not based upon safety, they exist to generate revenues in order to further perpetuate the existence of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. They, like other government agencies must establish and uphold their own existence, as well as show profitability while completing their assigned responsibilities. In fact, it has become so bad, that the FMCA should replace the American Eagle emblem depicted on their official logo, with the US Dollar Emblem.

No other industry in America forces a worker to be paid less than minimum wage; yet demands a 70-Hour work week with no provisions for over-time pay. No other industry in America forces a worker to work 14-Hours each day, without the benefit of a mandatory rest period. Yet each day millions of professional drivers are forced to adhere to these insane working conditions. Migrant farm laborers have more protection under the various minimum wage laws, and their respective labor laws, than the trucking industry does. An industry which insures the movement of the country’s gross national products on a global scale.

Truck drivers holding a commercial drivers license, are forced to adhere to more regulatory compliances than a commercial passenger jet pilot does. Each and every infraction is regulated to the point that the Constitutional provision of double jeopardy, and self-incrimination have been forced out of the equation. In no other industry can the authorities force a worker to produce evidence of guilt or misconduct, without a subpoena or warrant. Yet truck drivers have to produce not only a log book upon demand, but are also required to produce their fuel receipts, load documentation, as well as any electronic records stored within on-board computer systems.

A decade ago the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration passed legislation which made it illegal for a professional driver to have a radar detector in a commercial motor vehicle.  The radar detector issue was touted as having the potential in reducing the number of highway related fatalities. In fact, the reality of this new regulation brought an immediate and discernible increase in the revenues experienced by the state, and their respective counties and municipalities. That, and in itself, was the scope and intent of the radar-detector law, and it worked. Violation revenues increased to the point that various State Police Departments across the country, saw an immediate surplus of funds at fiscal year’s end. A high percentage of those funds were invested in new patrol officers and their police cruisers; who immediately went about the State’s business of traffic control—generating even more revenues, to the point that many State Police Departments became self-funding, and experienced phenomenal further growth of their surplus revenues.

The next step appeared in the form of yet another foul safety procedure: As each state increased the speed limit for passenger vehicles from 55 MPH to 65 MPH, the legislators decided that since most trucks are governed within the 65 mile per hour range; the loss of violation revenues would be problematic. Thus, while passenger cars roared across the interstate system at speed reaching upwards toward ninety; professionals drivers faced even stiffer fines if caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 6 miles an hour. Fines that were already out of control nearly doubled.

The next measure introduced the 12 Mile Per Hour Rule: If a CDL holder was caught driving over the speed limit by 12 MPH, the penalties were severe.  67 Miles and Hour in a 55-Zone resulted in a hefty fine, the administration of 5-7 Points on the driver’s record; and in many cases a suspension of the drivers license. This new law was designed to intimidate the trucking industry's driver work force. It did not affect any of the safety indexes, nor did it reduce the number of crashes, or crash fatalities within the transportation industry. In fact; the number of Truck-Car crashes increased dramatically due to a serious flaw in regulatory thinking—Slow moving trucks impeding the traffic flow resulted in a higher number of passenger vehicles slamming into commercial vehicles. All the while, the violation revenue base steadily climbed upwards into the state treasury coffers at an alarming rate. As is usually the case; the safety conscious public was duped again. Reports flowed in from across the country depicting the high number of car-truck crashes; it was one of those “See, we told you so” moments, and the public bought into the lie.

Now were are seeing the ultimate travesty playing out right in front of our noses. The Safety Hungry public wants trucks, and their drivers that operate within strict guidelines. It doesn’t matter that most new car television commercials show fast cars overtaking slow trucks, nor does it matter to these same safety conscious people are the one’s still slamming into trucks, cutting them off in traffic, or racing helter-skelter between exit ramps. What matters is that the huge trailer is blocking their view of the highway—and that is a situation that must be controlled. After all; they did pay their taxes last year, and what right does that big truck have in impeding their view, and holding up the flow of traffic when everybody is screaming to work at ninety miles an hour.

 

It’s absurd to be forced to drive for nearly eleven hours straight, because under these ludicrous laws, no longer can a trucker pull over near rush hour, and take a 2-3 hour nap. This creates unfavorable rush hour traffic, and demands that the driver remain seated throughout the fourteen hours while the proverbial clock is ticking away.

The Carrier Safety Act is nothing less than a symbol of ultimate government control. It stinks to the high heavens of judicial injustice at a level previously unheard of. It represents the culmination of a new breed of administrators who clearly have little understanding of the intricacies involving the cross-country distribution of consumer commodities, much less the needs and requirements of a truck driver that keeps the Gross National Product flowing from coast to coast, and sea to shining sea. As long as the carriers, drivers, and trucking association remain mute and docile on these matters, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will continue to dog the transportation industry with regulations and operating criteria which ultimately will destroy it from within.