Channel 19

Todd Dills

The safety argument for increased pay

| July 30, 2012

At the House Small Business Committee hearing I’ve written about a couple times here on the blog in the past few weeks, one area that saw quite a bit of discussion was, relative to the perceived disconnect between the FMCSA’s CSA program and carrier safety, the need for higher levels of compensation for a safer overall industry.

Central in the discussion was Wayne State University Professor Michael Belzer (pictured), author of the “Sweatshops on Wheels” book that noted the effect early 1980s trucking deregulation had on wages, and which makes an argument in some places for an hourly pay standard. Deregulation “has increased competition…and reduced compensation,” Belzer noted in his oral testimony (written testimony available here). “CSA in its current form puts pressure on drivers without addressing underlying causes [of safety problems]. In the trucking industry, poor compensation causes carriers to” be unsafe, generally, he added.

He further called for reconsideration of trucking exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which I most recently wrote about when owner-operator Joe Ammons did much the same, garnering a raft of atta-boys and other discussion from readers. “Other nations, like Australia,” Belzer noted, “address underlying systemic problems” in various ways, “like paying for loading and unloading times, help level the playing field by keeping costs low and incentives high.”

Though many carriers are compensating for detention at varying hourly rates and with varying models, removing the FLSA exemption would do much to increase the prevalence of the practice, Belzer suggested, and the result would ultimately be a safer industry. “The most important thing we can do is start from the economic competition that is driving these [unsafe] outcomes. We don’t want to encourage a ‘race to the bottom.’… The way competition in transportation works, it tends to drive that process. We have to address ways to put boundaries around it. Pay drivers for the nondriving labor. Once you do that, they’ll self-regulate.”

At once, there were disputing voices in the hearing like that of Tucker Company Worldwide’s Jeff Tucker (also pictured), a broker who took Belzer’s talk as an argument for reinstituting a measure of price regulation in trucking. “I would hesitate of going down the road of somehow regulating pricing for trucking,” he said. “It will be something that industry will rail against. You’ll have the National Association of Manufacturers and every other association screaming – it will be a bloody war… and eventually it will raise prices to all of us.”

Tucker went on to note that rates were on the rise throughout various industry segments: “Right now, prices are going up…. Rates that truckers are getting are better. Their returns are better.”

Owner-operator Daniel Miranda (also pictured) disputed that notion, however. “I’m trying to figure out where Mr. Tucker sees this great economy. There’s a chance the brokers are taking it all and putting it all in their pockets — it’s not going to the drivers.”

Data from National Transportation Institute Principal Gordon Klemp, presented as part of our webinar last Thursday, bears Miranda out in some ways. Pay has tracked flat in recent times for segments other than flatbed.

Have you seen better rates? Do you agree with Belzer’s core argument, that better compensation for nondriving work would be the best thing the industry and/or regulators could work toward to improving safety?

Look for more on the subject of detention time as the August issue hits the racks and here on the website — my “Top owner-operator challenges” feature runs through the problem of excess and uncompensated detention as the No. 3 industry problem named by readers. Stay tuned.

  • Raymond Carmickle

    The Best things you can do for driver safety is better pay for experience and forbid drivers to be on the dock. Make shippers responsible for accurate counts and require any shipper/receiver that detains a driver longer than 3 hours to have a place for the driver to at least finish an 8 hour break on site. Drivers have no business loading or unloading (unless they are local and home every night).

  • Grady Lundeen

    Raymond you are correct. No driver should unload freight. Lumpers are no more then a shakedown of drivers. If you want higher wages then stop hauling Cheap freight! Being detained at a warehouse can happen for many reasons. If he is longer then 3 hours then he should be allowed to unhook and go to a quiet corner and sleep and relax. You cannot rest while hooked to a trailer being loaded. Training of new drivers need to be standardized across companies.

  • Todd Dills

    Thanks for the thoughts on this one, guys. Much appreciated. Good points, all around.

  • rip off

    all this “higher rates” is certainly not going to the driver/slave. The driver is merely a chump that is ripped off by the rich man.
    Detention means the driver/slave
    dontates the FIRST 2 HOURS at the loading dock(FREE) and
    THEN he may or may not get some meager amount of “compensations” from the rich man. The driver/boy is only a Pawn in the game…and the ripoff continues year after year.

  • rip off

    The Driver could be paid Hourly when he gets to the shipper or receiver…you can bet he wont be there long!

  • Cathy Guignet

    Drivers should be paid by the hour instead of my the mile period, the highways would be far safer then they are now.

  • Highway1

    All I see here is reply’s and discussions dated at over 1 month ago. I have been in the industry for near 40 years, and to date have never been paid what I am worth. I am not a lumper, slave, or any other acronym. Safety comes at a price, not price tag. My take on it is that there are too many new drivers out there that are willing to take what ever they can. They have not a clue as to what they are doing, or what the rest of us have had to sacrifice to get to where we are. Heck they dont even know what the CB is for. What a joke. We used to be a group of professionals out there.

  • No Reform

    If the truck is at the shipper/receiver the FMCSA wshould be Notified..and kept abreast until departure. Let the FEDS keep records and WEED OUT bad shippers and Recivers. We would see this problem solved quickly.

  • No Reform

    Since the feds want to KNOW everything..they need to start monitoring DELAYS at Shippers and Receivers. At 2 Hours…notice is made to the FEDS.

  • sickntired333

    No Broker Commissions on detention penalties should be the LAW

  • Mind Games

    I have his book and love it will continue to try and finish up ASAP!!!
    Thanks Mr. Belzer!!!
    The guy spoke the true facts and what did the other buzzards do??? Attack!!! Attack!!!!! Attack!!!!!!!!
    The government has always been the referee in all segments why not ours??? Hummm seems the buzzards don’t have an answer…

  • Mind Games

    That is correct and they did it in the EU and their drivers are laughing at us all the way to he bank! strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.