Owner-operator walk-and-talk with Anne Ferro
The Trucking Solutions Group Health Awareness Walk at the Mid-America Trucking Show yesterday got a boost in its efforts to promote healthy living among drivers with the participation of none other than Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration head Anne Ferro. Health is a chief concern well lived out by longtime leased owner-operator and TSG member Rick Ash (you’ll recall his own dramatic health improvement and his “health reading list” I wrote about following the October social-media meet in Kansas City).
Attendance was well above numbers the TSG’s gotten for its walks in Louisville and at the Dallas Great American Trucking Show, ongoing now for years, Ash noted — and which I witnessed firsthand. Upward of 50 drivers participated, all told, and several took the opportunity to not just walk but talk with the administrator about key concerns, from issues of health to the hours of service/electronic logs (or EOBRs) quandary.
One such operator was onetime Overdrive Trucker of the Year Henry Albert, who had a “really good conversation” with the administrator, he says, over the half-mile or so the two conversed up at the front of the parade of walkers (Ferro walks fast) back around the rear of the Louisville Convention Center’s mammoth South Wing and the front perimeter to the West Wing entrance.
Hours, EOBRs and potential pitfalls that drivers all will have to deal with running under an electronic log mandate were part of Albert’s discussion with Ferro, he said. “We hit on some pretty good stuff,” he said. “What I like about her is that you can see she’s actually listening and reaching out to drivers.”
He gave her the example, among others, of a driver in the ninth hour of driving who then gets caught up in a catastrophic-type on-highway stoppage — “a seven-hour backup, say,” he said. “How will you log that with an EOBR? What are you supposed to do? I told her, ‘I know how we do it on paper today — which isn’t legal, I’ll be candid with you. If it’s electronic, how do we do it?”
Owner-operator Ash was similarly candid about the TSG’s efforts to improve health. The walk and other such efforts — the TSG’s driver health council holds regular calls that are often opened up for participation beyond its core owner-operator membership — are all well and good, he said, but “you can’t really change anybody until they’re ready to make the change themselves.” He made the analogy — increasingly common in conversations about health — between the difficulty of giving up high-fat-, high-sugar-content foods/implementing a routine exercise regime and that of kicking alcohol, tobacco or another addictive substance.
“If we could figure out how get more people to make that decision to get healthier,” Ash noted, “we’d have it licked.”
I was surprised, frankly, more drivers didn’t take the opportunity the walk represented to get out and at the very least introduce themselves to the administrator. Word was circulated pretty widely the day ahead of the event that she would be participating. As it was, though, plenty put various bugs in her ear. She’s a good listener, with reporter-like instincts to get people talking.
“I really appreciate how she’s reaching out to drivers and getting out here,” says Albert, “because they don’t have to do that. She’s come on our TSG calls [not just once but twice]– she doesn’t have to do that. When you can get in a respectable dialogue with a good back-and-forth, that’s how you help this industry.”
I’d never had a good opportunity to personally introduce myself to her, for instance, so I did, during the tail end of the walk after a brief intro via an FMCSA rep I did know. I had a question for her about a particular paradox in the agency’s official policy on what the CSA Safety Measurement System is used for and the way representatives actually talk about it during public sessions, detailed at length in the discussion of how CSA is used in the real-world in the last of my CSA’s Data Trail series installments. (I found further evidence of the paradox/contradiction during agency presentations at MATS I’ll write about later, promise — stay tuned.) I never got to it. Before I could, Ferro had me telling the story of how I came to work for Overdrive – short version — and in the 30 seconds it took to tell another walking driver approached and began to make his own point.
With Obama “getting rid of” Ray LaHood as Department of Transportation secretary, he said, “why doesn’t he get somebody in there who will really listen to us drivers?”
Well, said Ferro by way of clarification, LaHood’s retiring.
We were approaching the entrance to the convention center’s North Wing Lobby, the end of the 1.5-mile walk. I moved back as the driver moved up to get his word in.
He said: “I say let’s put Anne Ferro up there.”