February 2005 Letters

All HOS needs is a provision for breaks
As an owner operator who runs 48 states and Canada, the current HOS rules are working very well for me. I pull a flatbed trailer, and unless there is a crane for loading/unloading involved, or in the case of military freight, I do not burn up a lot of time.

The only item I would like to see added is break time, as is being considered. I love being able to reset the clock after 34 hours off. Having been in the business for 32 years, that is the part I enjoy the most. Thanks and keep up the great job you folks are doing.

David Finch
Cleveland, OH

Driving schools are in it for the money
This letter is in response to a letter about driver training programs from Valarie Helton of Jonesboro, AR, that was published in the Dec. 2004/Jan. 2005 issue of Land Line. Many of today’s entry-level drivers are in fact not trained to operate as professional drivers. They are taught only enough to pass a license test at many of the private schools around the country.

States mandate the minimum amount of hours a person must be trained, so most of the private schools meet only the minimum amount of training required by law. Because most of those students are tested by a third party, the pass rate is 100 percent.

Most of these types of schools charge outrageous amounts of money to do this; these types of schools are basically CDL factories interested in money alone and not the quality of training they are giving to their students.

We all know there is no short cut to being successful, so why think you can learn to properly drive and operate in a few days. When looking for a driving school, look at your local technical college. Most offer an accredited course in truck driver training that exceeds the minimum amount of hours.

For instance my state of South Carolina requires a minimum of 148 hours of training. The driving school I work for offers a course of 280 hours of training, which does include backing, day and night driving, hours-of-service rules, defensive driving, federal regulations and trip planning, as well as different road courses that offer many different driving situations from interstate to city driving.

What we can do is pressure companies to only hire entry-level drivers who have completed driving schools that have trained people instead of just licensing them.

James Bailey
Greenville, SC

Thanks for nothing, Gov. Rod
I would like to thank Rod Blagojevich for stickin’ it to the little guy. I greatly appreciate the starvation diet. No lunch for me, I can’t afford it! Being independent means that you must pay for everything.

Here’s the scenario: Chicago to Milwaukee is my example. Average book time is $40 hour (reasonable). Drive time to Milwaukee is generously two hours. Two hours load time. $180 total, OK. Tolls are $25 ($155); plates are $10 ($145); insurance is $25 ($120); IFTA+fuel is $40 minimum ($80). Now you can add in your truck payment, maintenance and income taxes. The toll increase is really taking a toll on me.

Bryan Gorak
Morton Grove, IL

Washington ‘brainiacs’ need to get some common sense
Obviously the brainiacs in Washington and the local entities haven’t figured out that anything can be used as a deadly weapon and they must think that all adults in America are potential terrorists; under the right conditions, they are.

They have a tough row to hoe with too many lawmakers trying to legislate a passive world, where no one is allowed to defend themselves against anything or anyone unless controlled by them, basically a police-state environment. Gee, isn’t that what we are trying to change in Iraq and Afghanistan, or did I miss something in the interpretation of why we are there?

Looks to me like TSA and others need to use common sense instead of riding this self-generated tidal wave of panic and emotion to erode the public’s ability to take care of itself. After all, that’s what makes our country what it is, everyone is a follower and everyone is a leader. We’ve poured blood all over this planet to shut down petty little dictatorships that took away the rights of the people. Hmmm, sounds like something’s going on here in the name of “homeland security.”

Chuck Shepard
Clifton, CO

Dock delays are key to HOS problems
One thing that I find disturbing about most of the issues surrounding the hours-of-service rule leads me to think about how much time it takes to get loaded or unloaded. Shippers and receivers demand appointment times be met but have no problem making truckers sit hours upon hours. The way I understand it is you are supposed to log this time as on duty not driving.

I have personally sat for 10 to 12 hours numerous times waiting to get loaded or unloaded. I believe some sort of legislation should be placed on anyone that ships or receives goods and products by truck to be held accountable for getting trucks loaded or unloaded in a reasonable amount of time. I think a two-hour limit is a reasonable amount of time to do this.

The bad part is, even if you have to wait an ungodly amount of time, you are expected to keep your next appointment time. Company drivers are really under pressure to get loads on and off at scheduled times no matter what by dispatchers, their company or whoever. I know, I’ve been there done that and it isn’t worth it.

Not only is it against the law, it is unsafe and poses a very serious safety hazard not only to drivers, but to the general public, not to mention the losses accrued every year when drivers who are pushed to the limit fall asleep or become fatigued to the point they make careless mistakes and cause serious damage, injuries and even fatalities.

This is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed. The DOT and legislators know it is a serious problem or they wouldn’t be pushing for black boxes in commercial vehicles. If that is what has to be done to keep drivers compliant, then so be it.

I am also a firm believer in saying no to cheap freight. Crap rolls downhill and drivers have been at the bottom of the hill way too long. Now I hear rumors that they are going to shorten driving time and increase downtime with the new revised HOS. What good is that going to do if there are not sufficient ways to monitor and control it with devices like black boxes? The honor system sure as hell doesn’t work.

I honestly feel imposing fines and other penalties on shippers and receivers would be a good start to solve a lot of the problems with the hours of service.

John Corbett
Stow, OH

HOS problems don’t start with drivers
My husband and I operate a small trucking company based in Scarborough, ME. The FedUp article in the February issue of Land Line regarding mandatory EOBRs got us both exceptionally passionate about writing this letter.

The HOS problem doesn’t start with the driver. Anyone who has ever sat behind the wheel of a truck, whether local, over-the-road or P&D – or even dispatched one for that matter – knows that the problem is with the shippers and receivers. When you sit, waiting to be loaded/unloaded, you eat up all of your on-duty time. The EOBRs are only a Bandaid for the problem, not a solution. These shippers/receivers need to be held accountable for holding up trucks. This detention time is what needs to be regulated by Big Brother, not the HOS.

If the trucks were making money while waiting to be loaded/unloaded, the drivers wouldn’t need to exceed the HOS in order to recoup the loss in revenues. The DOT regulates the way shippers transport certain commodities, such as hazmat, liquids, etc. It’s a logical step to have regulations on allowable detention times. I’ll bet if the shippers/receivers had to start paying for your valuable time, they would stop wasting it.

No one wants to voluntarily work over the 14 hours on-duty, but sometimes it’s necessary to put food on the table and a roof over your family’s head. Regardless of whether you are an owner-operator, have your own authority or are a company driver, working over the HOS is some times necessary to recoup your losses from sitting at someone’s loading dock.

If the EOBRs are approved, rates will go up, because drivers will have to make twice as much hauling half the freight to off-set detention time. So go ahead, put a little black box in ours and every other CMV and Joe Consumer will be paying $15 for a loaf of bread.

Rebecca Doane
Fleet Manager J Doane Trucking
Scarborough, ME

Highway robbery
It is high time that the public was informed on the toll increases on the Illinois State Toll Highway from the other side of the coin (the trucker’s side). Tolls for cars will not increase if the owner buys an I-Pass Transponder, trucks on the other hand will be going up over three times the current rate. A perfect example is when we run from Rochelle, IL, to North Lake, IL, the rate was $11 per round trip. The new rate is $35 per round trip.

We make three trips per truck per day, a total of $105. Multiply this by 10 trucks for a total of $1,050 per day times five days per week. The total amount per week comes to $5,250. In a month’s time we will pay $21,000 and for one year’s time we will pay $252,000 for just 10 trucks. That means our company will need a credit card with a credit line of at least $50,000 to keep the account open and running, paying our bill on a monthly basis if we can afford it.

Another way of figuring the tolls is per running mile. From Dixon, IL, to Oakbrook plaza is 85.5 miles one way for a round trip of 171 miles. The toll for this trip is $54. Divide this by 171 miles and this comes out to be 31.6 cents per mile, which is more than some drivers are paid. these toll increases are totally asinine and uncalled for.

Illinois seems to be a state that is anti-small business and especially anti-truck. We and our fellow truckers have no choice but to put our entire fleet of trucks on the back roads, which causes more traffic and confusion. This will also affect the delivery time, not to mention the increases in accident possibilities.

When the toll road was built, it was to be free when paid for. We feel it should have been paid for long before now. Trucks generate the revenue and without trucks the tollway will not survive. The Ohio Toll System is finding this hard lesson out right now.

We first had the truck license plate increase that doubled and drove over 300 trucking companies out of Illinois. The companies that did stay in Illinois are licensing their trucks in other states. Where is the reasoning behind this?

Marv Binkley
Dixon-Meyers Transportation, Inc.
Rochelle, IL

Let’s put a new twist on HOS rules
I got an idea – remember those security guards that used to carry those round wind-up tape punch time recorders? Put them to use with truck drivers. The government wants to know just what we do with our time, right?

We could turn the key when we start out in the morning, turn it during lunch and rest breaks and when we pull into the delivery docks. The receivers can use their key to prove we came in at a certain time, (thus covering our butts) and really show the G-men just how long our waits are and then we can show proof we need a 100 percent to 300 percent raise.

And to show drivers are compliant, at the stroke of the 11th hour, we all shut off our engines wherever we just happen to be – sides of streets, shoulders of the roads, Wendy’s. Shut them off and get some sleep. Make it a law that any enforcement officer will be fined if he wakes up a driver for any stupid reason and breaks the 10-hours-off rule.

It’s all about the bucks. The government could care less if we get any sleep at all. Just stop paying these ridiculous fines. They cannot lock us all up. Stop feeding them. Then maybe they will raise the tolls on the four-wheelers. Ask for a trial by jury, it is your right. Tie up the legal system for years.

Truck drivers are not an endless source for revenue.

Chris Comisar
Cincinnati, OH

In the long run it pays to say no to cheap freight
I have been thinking all day about the article I read last night, (Page 40 in Dec ’04/Jan ’05 Land Line) “The Road to More Money.”

The very organizations that came together in Atlanta back in October to discuss driver pay and retention issues are the very same companies who cut each others throats by “selling” freight for 75 cents to $1 a mile. Now they can’t figure out why drivers won’t stay for less than standard wages. Schneider, Celedon, JB Hunt, Swift and my own company won’t ask for the “right money” to do the job. Everyone has to make money. Everyone. If drivers are in short supply, then the owner-operator has to set the agenda. We are truly in the “Catbird seat.”

It angers me that the word “sell” is involved when talking a dollar or less a mile gross revenue. I would prefer to say “giveaway” freight. Is there any other business or industry that goes out to loose money?

I am an owner-operator with USXpress, and have been contracted both directly (mileage pay) and now through a broker to USXpress. I now work on a percentage of “gross revenue” plus 100 percent of the fuel surcharge, plus some additional benefits. I now see what we charge or “giveaway.”

I have the ability to turn down loads, and I do. But sometimes I have to pass on two or three or four loads in a row.

I take great pride in my ride, my job and the company I work for. I have the big OOIDA decal “Say NO to CHEAP freight” on the back of my 2005 KW W-900. I get smart-ass comments from fellow o/o drivers when I enter or exit truck stops. And rightfully so, I represent one of the “cut-throats.”

I have been able to make the best of a less than desirable situation. I try my best to keep my gross revenue rate at $1.40 or more. It’s not easy. I have to say NO!

I know I am earning more than most, but find it terribly depressing when truckers continue to carry freight for 85 to 90 cents a mile. I see the big numbers too, freight that pays $ 4 per mile and more. Dry van freight – it’s out there – you have to ask for it.

Its just not gonna happen across the board until the Swifts and Schneiders keep coming in and picking it up for less than a dollar a mile. These big companies are losing money on many loads. Let’s let them loose the money with their company trucks, stick together, ask for what’s fair and what’s profitable. As long as owner-operators keep signing up for 80 to 90 cents a mile, they will keep paying it.

If a company has to pay an owner-operator $1.20 and up a mile then it’s inevitable, they will have to ask the customer to show them the money! And to those who gathered in Atlanta, get your head out of the sand! Please help me, “SAY NO to CHEAP FREIGHT.”

Ed “Mr. Ed” Mulvaney
Greer, SC

Highway worker wants equal respect
Recently in Land Line Magazine there was a letter about driving down the road and coming upon an orange DOT sign “Mowing operations ahead” only to find a tractor just standing there idling with nobody around for miles.

As one of those people on one of those pieces of equipment and a “part-time” driver, I can’t believe you would publish this, especially when you do your best to point out somebody making a dig against the professional driver image.

I would first like to say that I must wholeheartedly agree that more times than not you can find us (municipal/highway workers) out on a roadside with way more people than you think could possibly be needed or that tractor sitting there with nobody around for miles. But until you have stood there along that roadside with nothing but those orange signs and cones separating you from 80,000-pound trucks doing 55-plus mph, think before you speak and or question why.

I’m sorry, but you can find fault with any profession, so please let’s think before we point fingers at anyone.

Dave Sette
Grafton ,WI

OTA president shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds him
I am a member of OOIDA who lives in Washington state but I drive out of the Portland metro area. On Dec. 10, 2004, while I was having my truck serviced I ran across an article in the Oregonian newspaper about a couple of truck-related accidents that had occurred in the last two days.

At the end of that article there was a comment from Mr. Russell a “spokesman” for the Oregon Trucking Association. He said: “When I speak to groups of people I tell them that I hate trucks too but I like what they bring.”

When I read those words in that article I was very disturbed. As far as I am concerned, a person who holds a position such as his should be out there trying to help the image of this industry and not hurting it. The image of the trucking industry in general has taken some heavy blows over the years and I feel like the comments that Mr. Russell made to the Oregonian were inappropriate to say the least.

Here is a person whose salary depends on trucking and he is biting the hand that feeds him. I personally believe that a person who hates trucks has no business being the spokesman for a trucking association much less the president. I would really like to see this man step down as the head of the OTA. If I were a member of the OTA I would not feel comfortable knowing that Mr. Russell was representing my company to the public.

Micheal S. Mozley
Amboy, WA

Here’s how to tell ’em what for
Editor’s note: This is an example of the type of letter that OOIDA has been encouraging its members to write to their legislators. It addresses a specific topic that is of importance to truckers and stays on target without giving a lot of unnecessary or unrelated information.

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to my Congressman in Washington, DC. We need to keep poking our senators and representatives in the side to get this done, passed and signed by President Bush.

“Dear Congressman Latham:

“I have been an owner-operator truck owner for the past eight years. I believe that when you read this message, you will know how I feel about this situation. I have wanted to visit with you one on one, but when you are in the area, I am in my truck in another part of the state.

“I received a letter from you a while back on fuel, soydiesel, and ethanol. That is great that we can use some of our own products for fuel and not rely on Mid Eastern Oil from OPEC. What I had in mind was have a mandatory fuel surcharge on all products that are shipped by truck. I believe it should start with fuel at $1.20 per gallon for the starting point. For every five cents the price of fuel goes up there would be a 1 percent fuel surcharge attached to the cost of the product. This money would go directly to the truck or the person who is responsible for paying of the fuel.

  • $1.20 no surcharge
  • $1.25 1% surcharge
  • $1.30 2% surcharge
  • $1.35 3% surcharge and so on.

“There are several companies out here that are receiving 100 percent of the surcharge and only passing part of the amount down to their owner-operators (the one who is actually paying for the fuel). This needs to be stopped.

“I have heard several companies say they won’t pay a surcharge on their product. “You take it for what we pay or we find some one else to do it for us.” These companies can’t expect us small owner-operators to take all of the cost of fuel. If we can’t get some type of subsidy, America won’t be able to keep the shelves of there stores stocked.

“Thank you for your time and understanding in this nationwide problem.

“Please let me know what becomes of this.”

James F. Nelson
Jefferson, IA

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