Roses & Razzberries

By Terry Scruton, Land Line Now senior correspondent

ROSES to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-Washington, D.C., for being bold enough to suggest that actual, strong driver training standards might help improve safety on our nation’s highways. Her straight talk happened at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee hearing back in January where she also mentioned the “unimaginably difficult” working environments truckers deal with every single day. She seemed surprised – and rightfully so – to learn just how many new drivers in the industry do not receive adequate training before they are put behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, her comments were drowned out as the rest of the hearing turned into a lovefest for the idea of replacing drivers with more technology. But here’s hoping she keeps bringing up the subject until it gets the attention it so badly needs.

RAZZBERRIES to President Obama who, in his State of the Union Address, announced another round of fuel-economy standards for heavy duty trucks. Mr. President, with all due respect, we’re still waiting to see how badly the first round of economy standards is going to hurt. Don’t you think it’s a little too soon to be talking about another one?

The Environmental Protection Agency set the first standards back in 2010 and those didn’t even begin until this year. They call for a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption and emissions by model year 2018. The EPA estimates the standards will likely add $6,200 to the price of a new truck. To a big company that may not seem like much, but to a small fleet or an owner-operator that could be a fortune.

Adding a new set of standards now is like giving someone an aspirin for a headache, waiting five minutes, then saying “OK, that didn’t work. Let’s chop off his head.”

RAZZBERRIES to Paul Carpenter, a columnist for the Morning Call out of Lehigh Valley, Pa. This is not the first RAZZBERRY we’ve given out to the guy. He has a long history of writing columns bashing truck drivers and calling for forcing them to do things like pay more in taxes.

His latest screed calls for forcing – yes, he used the word forcing – the trucking industry to make things safer. As if every truck driver doesn’t want safer trucks and safer roads already.

But it gets better – or rather, worse. He cites statistics from a website called legalinfo.com, written by lawyers for lawyers who of course want to sue trucking companies for all they’re worth. This site claims that 98 percent of the fatalities in crashes involving trucks and passenger vehicles occur to the individuals in the passenger vehicles.

I don’t know where they got that stat from, but you know what stat they don’t have? The one that says the majority of accidents between trucks and passenger vehicles are not the fault of the truck.

He goes on to make more outrageous claims and statements, such as truckers should be required to report to a dispatcher or respond to signals from a GPS device every 15 minutes to prove they are awake. Yeah, and who’s going to be watching the road while they are doing that, genius?

Mr. Carpenter is no fan of the trucking industry. And thanks to columns like this, the trucking industry – specifically those hard-working folks behind the wheel – are no fans of his, either.

RAZZBERRIES to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for its handling of the deadline for the medical certification requirement for truckers. The original rule stated that by Jan. 31 of this year drivers were to have turned in their proof of medical certification to their state DMVs, and then stop carrying their certificates with them after 15 days. However, as drivers across the country began reporting problems, it became increasingly clear that something needed to be done.

In mid-January, representatives from the FMCSA went on Sirius XM and appeared to announce that the deadline had been pushed back a year. But not so fast. The actual rulemaking said only part of the deadline had changed. Drivers still had to turn in their medical certification to their state agencies, but now they were going to be required to continue carrying the certification with them for another year. The end result was a lot of confused drivers and an FMCSA that should have been embarrassed but instead remained embarrassingly quiet on the whole situation. LL

 

Got an idea for a ROSE or a RAZZBERRY? Email it to terry_scruton@landlinemag.com. You can also check out the official Facebook page at facebook.com/rosesandrazzberries.