Overdrive Extra

Max Heine

Angry about trucking? Occupy your business

| December 04, 2011

You might have noticed the powers that be are not striving to make your work environment more trouble-free next year.

A new, and likely more restrictive, hours of service rule is expected. Carriers are steadily adopting electronic onboard recorders. More emissions-related regulations start in California during 2012, and medical certification will be more closely tied to the CDL. Then there’s the economy, favorable to trucking lately but still showing signs of serious weakness.

What’s an owner-operator to do? You could form an Occupy Trucking movement and protest over-regulation of the 99 percent by the clueless 1 percent in Washington, D.C. Then there are those troopers who are too picky with inspections. What about those slimy brokers, pushy dispatchers, rude shippers and receivers and insane four-wheelers? And don’t forget the economy…

Likewise, the Occupy Wall Street movement and its worldwide spawns cite a list of ills, with little focus other than general wrongdoing in the financial sector perpetrated by the ultra-rich “1 percent.” But exactly what to do about income inequality or any other grievance is another question.

That was clear when I witnessed an Occupy Birmingham (Ala.) march this fall. Signs reflected themes as diverse as “Moms against bombs” and “Campaign finance reform,” and as vague as “The people united will never be defeated” and “This is a sign.”

The meandering discontent reminded me of the “mad prophet of the airwaves” in the 1976 movie “Network.” He encouraged viewers to scream out their windows: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

I admire the eagerness of OWS participants to do at least a little more than scream out the window to change the system. Owner-operators, of course, have no time for extended camping trips in city parks, and for many, getting involved in local politics or attending a hearing in Washington is about as practical as delivering a load to Mars. Still, you could manage small acts of involvement: vote, file a comment on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or serve on a driver council with your carrier.

Closer to home is your business. The successful owner-operators we’ve observed are not blind to pending regulations or other industry challenges. Rather, they focus on each one and work through it. For every trucker who swears he’s going to leave the industry because of onboard recorders, cross-border trucking and California emissions regs, someone else is figuring out the landscape and earning $50,000, $60,000, $70,000 or more a year.

If you’re short on such profits but abounding in frustration, “occupy” your business” in 2012. Count costs in detail and reduce them. Maintain your equipment better. Develop your load-planning skills. Improve relations with your carrier and others.

Instead of yelling vague threats out the window, look in the mirror. Decide precisely what you can do about whatever you’re mad as hell about. Then do it.