Overdrive Extra

Randy Grider

Putting agency heads in trucks makes good sense

| February 01, 2013

It happens occasionally. A government bigwig gets in tractor-trailer and does a loop around a city. The media shows up, snaps a few pictures of said official behind the wheel of the big rig, along with the standard grip-and-grin shots of the trucking company executives (and token trucker) who have loaned their services to the well-orchestrated event.

The most recent example comes from our northern neighbors. Alberta Motor Transport Association helped set up a ridealong for the Canadian province’s Minister of Transportation Ric McIver around Calgary – for one hour. (At least he actually rode in the truck. I once went to a similar presser in Washington D.C. where the government official simply had pictures taken sitting behind the wheel of the parked rig.) Photo-ops for high-ranking government officials are nothing new. They are bread-and-butter for goodwill and public relations.

But why should these events be only for PR? Why not make ridealongs standard requirements for officials who head up transportation agencies like the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration? It makes sense that if someone is going to regulate a particular industry, especially one as large as transportation, they should know how it works – in the real world.

Truckers often have suggested having lawmakers and agency officials ride with them before adopting changes to major rules like hours of service. It’s actually a great idea. After appointment to a transportation committee or agency, the top official should be required to spend a few days with his or her boots on the ground. In the case of the trucking sector, the official could shadow a trucking executive for the day, spend a few hours in dispatch and finally ride along for least a week in a truck actually picking up and delivering goods. Split the week between riding with a company driver and an owner-operator.

Of course, this is unlikely to happen. Most government officials are too busy regulating by data, emerging trends, studies and committee reports to find time for real-world training. And the life of a trucker is too demanding and presents too many dangers for the average government official to chance.

Even though it’s supposed to be them working for us, we put government officials on pedestals and allow them to regulate from 40,000 feet. That’s a shame because ground level offers a different view – one that cannot be appreciated from those with their heads in the clouds.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vernoncastleton K Vernon Castleton

    If only…. This is a terrific idea for EVERY government regulation.


    i do believe they should go out for a week or two just to see what it is like & just like the bs that goes on in washington the y do the same thing give some bs story that they can’t do it & it is the same way with dispatchers

  • http://www.facebook.com/thumper.pruitt Thumper Pruitt

    So very true. If government regulators spent a little time in a truck, they would get a better understanding of how those regulations are affecting those of us out on the road.

  • roadtoad

    the only ones making rules and regs by fmsca should be truck drivers or x truck drivers, not morons with college degrees

  • localnet

    They do not care about us, much less efficiently running our industry. This is about control and crony capitalism. It’s over folks, pray that our state governors make a stand. They are our last line of defense.

  • flyboy

    Actually the FAA has been doing this for the 42 years I have been a pilot. The head honcho is a pilot all FAA ops inspectors are pilots. NO STUPID LAWS.

  • Doug Middleton

    I use to own a body shop. Customers, mostly car dealers, would say “Can’t ‘ya just…” or “Why so much?”. I usually bit my tongue but a couple times I did mention that they were more than welcome to help us do the job. None of them ever took me up on the offer.

  • Earl Harris

    I have invited my U.S. House Representative on a ride along as he was the chairman of the House Transportation Committee. He acknowledged my letter, but not the invitation. Funny, he is also the one who caved on the EOBRs in MAP21.

  • Able

    This VERY WELL put, cant add nothing to it… Everythings worded so true… ANYONE that has road with me has changed their entire view about trucks and truckers, some thought SO negative of us till they got a a view from the cab… SOme felt shame and not only apologized for their past actions but now advocates for truckers…

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