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14 Mar 11

The trucking industry recently got some attention in the New York Times. In an opinion piece titled "Long-Haul Sweatshops," authors Anne Balay and Mona Shattel argue that low driver wages and poor working conditions have created a crisis for the trucking industry. 

A lot of drivers feel that their time isn't valued. Waiting around at docks makes for long work days, and less productive ones. The Times article mentions Hours of Service, which is just one aspect of the maze of safety regulations that affect drivers:

Such steps are meant to keep our roads safe, and they indirectly help drivers. But it also leaves them exposed to inhumane and demeaning work conditions, including abusive amounts of surveillance and micromanaging. Truckers are told what route to take, where to buy gas and for how much, when and where to sleep. They work 14-hour days routinely and continuously, often without weekends, sick pay or holiday pay. They drive 11 of those hours, and perform other work for the remaining three: loading, vehicle maintenance and a lot of waiting.

The authors suggest that Congress and government agencies should take a bigger role. Do you agree?  

You can read the full story on the NYT website.

Comments (14) -

I agree, but the government isn't the answer...they can't even deliver the
Mail.  Keep the government out of Trucking!!!!!!

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Richard Gonzalez
Richard Gonzalez

LMAO Don! That is so true. Government can't do anything right and they refuse to hold themselves accountable for anything they screw up.

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I strongly disagree. The government should not step in and regulate this industry even more than it has already been. I think the drivers need to start looking for better companies to work for other than large transportation corporations that indeed take advantage of drivers in every way they can. Drivers should start looking for a job at smaller family owned trucking companies that have fleets between 5-50 trucks. Owners and managers of these businesses as a rule take care of their drivers and try to accommodate their needs and wants. Drivers also can rely on a better dispatch service. Dispatchers that work for smaller trucking companies go above and beyond their regular requirements to help drivers with troubleshooting issues that occur at shippers and receivers. The owners of these companies also give more freedoms to drivers with days off, vacation times, advances, etc. These companies have typically less overhead so they can afford to pay drivers same or sometimes more than the big guys do. Loads are better analyzed and pickup and delivery schedules are getting reconfirmed so there are fewer issues with waiting and other none senses for drivers. There is a better communication all the way around and drivers are most of the time happier. The major issues right now are the rates and load-to-truck ratio but rates are the biggest problem it gets to the point that it make no sense to take a "buck" loads because there is zero profit in them. Customers must get out of their slump and start paying more money to move freights because otherwise everybody loses and that would create a crisis in the trucking industry.

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The problem is, the government is running us small folks out. It is easier to control a handful of large companies than thousands of small ones. Government is the PROBLEM, not the solution.

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Sharon Estes
Sharon Estes

Yes, somewhat agree.  A truck driver expects to do many of these things when they sign on.  Work is work, and truck driving is very difficult at best.  What makes it so hard is this.  Shippers and receivers who act like your putting them out for delivering what they ordered.  Making you wait hours to get loaded and unloaded.  This is their job!  I'll give you an example.  My husband had a one pick two drop load.  He dropped the first at Home Depot.  He had literally one pallet left.  It went to another Home Depot.  They made him wait 8 hours until they unloaded that one pallet!  Literally there were workers sitting around doing nothing.  This is what is wrong with trucking.  And no one is doing anything about it.  Everyone is down on the trucker, they have to jump through bureaucratic hoops, brokers hoops, and then they have to deal with shippers and receivers.  I can tell you many more horror stories.  Detention pay?  Yeah right.  

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Easy Xavier
Easy Xavier

The problem is that the government thinks that they should treat a liquid industry such as daily truck driving as a concrete industry is factory work. Hence,  they give us electronic logs that limit our ability to perform our job safely and using our own discretion and forcing us to work like children in a sweatshop.

Granted,  that when a truck driver has a major accident it  is highlighted on headlines and politicians feel the need to act, by using by making draconian rules that do nothing to help the driver is but served it is some type of solution in the eyes of the General Public.

I, as well as many others,  have been able to do my job using my own discretion as to how long I should be on the road,  when I am tired,  and when I should stop and take a rest without Washington DC dictating how to drive my truck.

The best comparison I can make for others to understand is imagine having to work at your desk for 10 hours straight,   a computer tell you monitor reporting your every move to your local police officer,  every time you take a break and at the end of the day you cannot go home but you chained to the office until the next morning.

And then the industry has the nerve to complain about a driver shortage. There is no driver shortage just a shortage of people no longer willing to put up with this Sweatshop mentality

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Regulations are coming out of Washington but that is primarily because a lot of people -- a lot -- in the trucking industry are supporting those regulations.  The big carriers especially are the ones who support elogs, for example, because their own fleets depend on them to monitor the thousands of drivers they have.  Washington then gets this distorted view that the big carriers speak for everybody else.  So I blame the trucking industry itself for the many regulations that unfortunately too many non-truckers in the industry try to micromanage us with, secondarily Washington for listening to these unrepresentative few.

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Adam Thompson
Adam Thompson

These statements are correct. However, we as drivers aren't helpless victims. Let me start by saying that in this industry we can become independent. That requires discipline, hard work and sacrifice. With tenacity and encouragement many of these drivers who are victimized can be a business owner themselves. I support an industry that has integrity in every aspect of this business including determined hard working drivers who aren't content to just complain.

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No, congress doesn't need to take anymore steps. Congress is part of the problem. They make rules and regulations on issues they know little about. Truckers need to take a bigger role. We do the job. Daily. And because of some bad apples, they've put regulations in place that are debilitating to what we do. But to be honest, trucking is a revolving door industry, and I believe that is mainly do to pay, being away from home, and regulations. It's pretty easy to talk young guys into the idea of trucking. And as long as new drivers keep coming and leaving, nothing will change.

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Trucker Don
Trucker Don

I would be curious to know what prompted  the NYT article in the first place, although they got more right than wrong, for a change.  The idea that more Government regulation  would make the average driver's situation better, however is far from the truth. It is the government regulations that are part of the problem. The regulations treat 'trucking' with a one-size-fits-all set of rules without knowing how many different aspects there are to this industry. The megacarriers that have blossomed since deregulation that treat drivers as replaceable parts of a machine are another. I am lucky in that at this stage of my career, I own my own truck and trailer, have my own authority and work with a couple of my own customers and a good broker. For the most part, I make the  decisions as to where and when to run without pressure from dispatchers, 'load coordinators' or electronic boxes in the truck watching my every  move.

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There is too much government in trucking. The drivers need to stand up for themselves. We have the power. Without us, the freight does not get delivered. They can't just replace us.

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Scooter Jones
Scooter Jones

Don't worry, the Electronic Logging Mandate (ELD) recently included in the transportation bill, will make it all better for us out here.  

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How long have you been in the trucking business ,3 days. Anytime the government can watch your every move ,it is never better. If you are an o/o and own your own business no one should be able to tell you when and where you can take a s**t and a nap.

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Let's face it, we work in a commodity industry.  It's simple supply and demand and if there are too many people eager to drive a truck for a living and too little freight to accommodate them all, rates and pay will go down.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to drive a truck.  It takes a lot more skill to be an owner/operator and independent business person, but if all you're doing is holding the steering wheel and allowing your company to tell you when to fuel, where to fuel, where to stop in the evening, what freight to pick up and deliver, etc., you're not going to demand a huge salary.  People with a 3rd grade education can be steering wheel holders.  And believe it or not, many of them can drive a truck safely and be on time every day.

Plus, barriers to entry in the industry are practically non-existent.  Want to drive a truck but have no experience?  No problem, the big carriers will send you to school for $4,000 or more, then put you in a truck with a trainer for five weeks, then give you the keys to a brand-spanking new truck.  Then they'll get rid of you in a year or two when you start to become too expensive for them.  Want to drive a truck but have bad credit?  No problem, almost any trucking company will finance a new truck for you.  All you have to do is keep up with the payments while they dictate what loads you're going to be hauling.  And if things get tough and you can no longer make the payments because you're making such little money on the bad loads they keep giving you, they'll repossess the truck from you.  Your credit will be ruined for a few years but in the meantime they likely got six months to a year of use out of you, and now they've got their truck back to give to the next brainless toad who comes along looking for a truck driving job.

Unless the truck to freight ratio improves, or until they raise the barrier to entry by requiring you to have a bachelor's degree in order to drive a truck, things won't change much.  You'll have to go into specialized freight or be stuck where you're at.

For young people, however, and as a warning to this industry, I'd offer this piece of advice: Why would you even think about going into the trucking industry as a future profession when they're even talking about about driverless trucks?  If they can replace you with a truck that doesn't even need a driver, does that sound like much of a future to you?  I'd tell my next of kin to stay as far the hell away from trucking as possible.  This industry hasn't shown respect for drivers for 25 years now and it isn't about to get any better as long as they're aiming to replace us with robots.  Learn welding, or drafting, or diesel mechanics, or heavy equipment operator.  Anything but trucking.  I'm lucking I'll be getting out of it within fifteen years or so because I don't see much of a future in it after that.

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