Channel 19

Todd Dills

A modest proposal for hours flexibility: ‘Gold Card drivers’

| April 16, 2010

I’m revisiting the subject of hours flexibility today at the impetus of an idea sent my way by Wiconsin-based driver and marathon runner Jeff Clark, who writes the Marathon Trucker blog here and pens an associated column in Truckers News‘ monthly Fit for the Road department. ”So many times, flexibility is a great idea,” he wrote me when I posted about Bison Transport driver Tom Balaz’ own modest proposal to tie hours flexibility to a driver’s safety record a couple weeks back. “Why hit rush hour Chicago if you can wait two hours and slide through?”

Clark (pictured) later appended this well-thought-out idea, following Balaz’ idea, generally, but giving the stellar driver, he/she who has earned a shot at flexibility, a name: the gold card driver. Here’s Clark’s proposal in full:

We have thousands of drivers who never get noticed. They never get noticed because they do an outstanding job. These are drivers who do not get into accidents. They don’t get moving violations. They don’t get out-of-service violations, and they do not do drugs. These drivers deserve to be recognized. They also have a lot to teach new drivers.

The standards to reach gold card status must be tough, but attainable. My proposal would be 1,000,000 miles without an at-fault DOT reportable accident, moving violations, driver out-of-service violations, or positive drug tests. The reward would be to be left alone. These drivers have demonstrated  the outstanding judgment needed to  achieve those standards. They do not need some bureaucrat in Washington to tell them how to do their job. These drivers should be allowed to throw away their log books and run the way they know how.

The fear is that these drivers would be forced to run illegal. The truth is the opposite. Companies would work with these drivers. Right now, the only leverage a driver has with his trucking company is [the threat] to quit and work somewhere else. That is still the only leverage that gold card drivers would have. By separating these drivers out you would in effect limit the supply, thereby increasing their leverage.

Companies benefit by having a higher percentage of gold card drivers. And who loves gold card drivers more than anyone? Insurance companies do. Right now at large companies gold card drivers and their records are thrown in the pool. That improves the average for the company. Yet the drivers who have earned this benefit for the company might get a free coat. Great, we can throw them in the closet with all of our other safety awards. My system would benefit the driver who has earned it.

Trucking companies would still benefit from its gold card drivers. They could actually see an increased benefit from outstanding performance. Insurance companies would still love gold card drivers. The difference is that now insurance companies would identify outstanding performance with the individual driver. Trucking companies could market their gold card drivers to customers.  What shipper would not want its loads in the hands of a  gold card driver? It is even possible that a trucking company could receive a premium rate from a shipper if it guarantees to use only gold  card drivers on the account.

New drivers would also benefit from gold card drivers. Right now, after the newbie is released from his/her school and instructor, he/she still has questions. The problem is they only hear the loudest voices. These voices are often the voices of those with the mega-CB radios or the guy at the breakfast counter telling everyone that everyone else is a moron and should be run off the road. By putting a large gold card sticker on the sides of trucks these new drivers can learn from those that do it the best. Oftentimes, four-wheelers approach me to ask questions about trucking. They probably approach me because I don’t look threatening. It is a treat for me to be asked questions respectfully. Most drivers who do this job well enough to receive a gold card take pride in how well they do their job. They enjoy educating people about the industry. They would actually become the best goodwill ambassadors that the trucking industry could ask for.  

Ray LaHood, Anne Ferro, are you listening? The hours-of-service listening sessions (listen in to archived webcasts here) have struck many drivers as representative of a new spirit of openness in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, giving credence to the notion that spelled-out ideas like this may well just stick. . .