No one wants to truck anymore
by, 09.29.2010 at 09.26 PM (798 Views)
The title says it all; no one wants to truck anymore. This job used to be an adventure, even fun. Now, through company rules, government regulation, shippers and receivers and brokers it has become almost constant torment. I have seen things from both sides of the fence, as an owner operator, and now as a company driver. I miss the job that trucking used to be, and fear that the once independent free spirit truck driver is on the verge of extinction.
Some background on myself to start things off; I have been driving truck since 2000. In that time I have been off the road twice for a total of nine months. My father and grandfather both drove truck in some capacity most of my life, so I have been involved with the industry most of my life. I started my career as a company driver, and was happy with that for about a year. It was at that point I purchased a truck, and was an owner op for five years. I am now a company driver, and have been for the last four and a half years. My current position is as a driver trainer, which has been an interesting journey.
I guess the first problem with trucking is the regulatory environment that we now operate under. In a word it is ugly. If you are an over the road truck driver, you have no right to privacy, you are guilty until you can afford a lawyer to prove your innocence, you have very few, if any protections from “bad” companies, and a pay structure that has been allowed to be perpetuated for unknown reasons.
Privacy is the one thing that we as Americans cherish, and if you drive a truck that is going to be going away completely soon. With the advent of electronic logs, and electronic on board recorders, our every move will always be known and saved for defense of a FMCSA audit. These gadgets will have the ability to know when I am in the truck and where I am at in the truck. That means that if I want to sit in the driver’s seat and read a book, then I have to explain myself. If I spend four hours in the truck stop showering, eating, and doing my laundry, I will have to explain to someone why I was only in the sleeper for six hours of my break. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
As drivers we have agreed to give up our constitutional rights. Under CSA 2010, the points that you receive for “violations” cannot be appealed. There are many parts of this new law including the “fatigued driver” section that are very subjective, and you have no right to appeal. A DOT officer can put you out of service if you “look” fatigued.” What does that mean? I am tired most of the time I am behind the wheel, but only because I cannot afford to stop and take a quick nap because of the 14 hour rule in the current HOS rules. So an officer puts me out of service, I am assessed points for being put out of service, that can threaten my ability to continue to work, and I have no recourse.
We are also trapped by “bad” companies. I think most companies that have managed to weather this latest economic storm have figured out their cost structure right down to the cost of toilet paper in the office. It has created some very “lean” companies, which on one hand is a good thing; it has allowed them to remain in business. On the other side of the coin are expenses that greatly affect how the driver gets down the road. In an attempt to remain “competitive” many companies have cut or frozen driver pay, have cut out the use of toll roads, cut benefits, and the list goes on and on. The point is this; the average truck driver sacrifices a lot to be out here in this truck. We are away from family for extended periods of time. We miss our children growing up. We risk our lives every day with an untrained motoring public that views us as a road block to their progress. We live in a small metal box about a quarter of the size of the average inmate’s cell. Until companies can figure out that they can no longer pull freight for the same price it was done for in 1978, things are only going to get worse not better. These companies need to realize there is nothing left to cut. Unless they can make the trucks drive themselves. (I am sure there is someone working on that.) The problem is that these companies are not “bad” because they want to be, it has been necessary for survival.
That leads me right to my next topic, pay by the mile. If the average factory worker was only paid for the amount of time that their machine ran, or an office worker only got paid by the number of calls they answered, there would be a revolt. So why then has mileage pay been allowed to continue for so long? It has done nothing but encourage drivers to break the law for years, so that the government has an excuse to implement more regulation. If drivers were paid a fair hourly wage, or salary rather than the current miles based system, most of the reasons to cheat on HOS would be gone. Then the problems with long wait times in traffic or at shippers and receivers would become the trucking companies’ expense, not the drivers. A real quick example, 2 hours per week lost sitting in traffic costs the $.40 per mile driver around $2000 per year. If the companies that make up the ATA were losing 5% per year to any problem, guess what, they would fix it, but, it is not their problem in the current pay scheme.
I guess I have rambled on long enough for today. My biggest problem with this job is I like it way too much. The changes that have taken place over the last decade are destroying a way of life. To the government, leave me alone and let me do my job. To the companies out there, the same goes for you, leave me alone and let me do my job. I don’t need you to tell me how to get there, or where to buy fuel, or where to sleep at night, I am a professional truck driver, I know how to do these things. Pay me a fair wage and let me move your freight, it is that simple.