Sidestep or solution?

By Danny Schnautz, senior member

Sizing up a problem depends on your position. Bad brakes at the top of a mountain are much worse than bad brakes at the bottom.

For many years, truckers have fought with the mechanical condition of intermodal equipment. Lights and tires are at the top of the list of problems, but air leaks, mud flaps, axle alignment, and other basics are too.

To politicians, to intermodal equipment providers (IEPs), to shippers, to anyone other than truckers, this is a gnawing little issue. But to truckers, whose income, safety – and now, safety rating – depend on this, this remains a really big issue.

Some years back, legislation was passed to put the responsibility on those equipment providers. The problem was not solved. It was sidestepped when the federal government put those IEPs in charge of determining how the law would be carried out. Through nonsensical details like driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs), and through big-picture ideas like assigning DOT numbers to IEPs, much was done. But nothing was accomplished.

The entire issue of improving the condition of intermodal equipment has been kicked on down the road, not fixed. Common sense has been left behind. What reasonable person would ever think that obviously poor chassis condition would have to be proven, or that responsibility would have to be legislated? What logic brings the IEP to the conclusion that it is justified to shirk liability for the equipment that they are contractually obligated to provide? Even with the recent major shift in who owns and who provides, it is once again simply a sidestep, and not a solution.

So day after day, truckers keep filling the gap, balancing between time and money, between rules and common sense. A rational look at the problem of intermodal equipment condition will bring the clear conclusion that a big problem still exists and affects highway safety and productivity. The power to resolve this is in the hands of the IEPs. It is time that we avoid the sidestep, and implement a solution. LL