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Todd Dills

Trucking advocacy, education — getting started early

| January 25, 2014

Regular commenter and reader Billy Fannin, who with his brother runs the 41-truck Fannin Trucking fleet out of Eastern Kentucky, sent in a note along with a copy of a speech his 12-year-old son, Coalton, recently gave to his class at Lewis County Middle School in Vanceburg, Ky. The “very proud” dad had this to say: “It started out explaining the evolution of chauffeur’s licence to a CDL but ended up educating everyone on the daily life and obstacles a trucker faces, and how everyone should be thankful for us all.” 

Proud, indeed. Thanks, Coalton. 

Coalton Fannin 2 edit (667x800)
Coalton Fannin

Changes in the Trucking Industry in the Last 20 Years
by Coalton Fannin
It used to be if someone decided to enter the trucking industry, they simply went to their local courthouse and applied for a chauffeur’s license, however now you must get a Commercial Driver’s License, aka CDL. 

First, you take a written test — about 90 questions, depending on the type of CDL you apply for. A Class B CDL covers straight vehicles, and a Class A CDL is for combination vehicles, such as tractor-trailers. Endorsements can be added to cover a range of things, from hauling passengers, such as schoolchildren, to hazardous materials. 

A trucker delivers freight from point A to point B without knowing the things that might cause an unexpected delay. Also, many times a driver will arrive at a shipper and will be delayed because the load is not ready yet. This causes a driver to lose time that they need to be driving to make the delivery on time. 

The hours a driver can drive in one day, according to the law, is 11 hours, and a driver can only work 14 hours a day. 

All drivers are required to keep a log of all duties and record them and days off in a logbook for law enforcement. 

Laws for truckers are more strict than laws for cars — radar detectors are illegal in semi trucks, and a driver getting caught talking on a handheld cellphone can be fined up to $11,000. 

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People don’t realize truckers work odd hours to deliver the things people can’t live without — like groceries, gas, medicine, building materials, military supplies and mail. There is nothing you can name that you can buy that wasn’t on a truck at one point. 

Truck drivers live a rough life out on the road, sleeping in a truck and using the rest areas and showering at truck stops. In closing, truckers are the backbone of this country, sacrificing time from their families, sleeping in a truck, working all hours of the night to get the products to the shelves that Americans can’t live without. I know because my dad has been a trucker for 27 years and I grew up in a trucking family. 

Hear hear.
Hear hear.
  • beach bum

    4th generation trucker, coalton will carry on the legacy for years to come.

  • Christina&Josh

    whooo! Go Coalton, Sounds pretty good :) Proud of ya kiddo!

  • TJ Graff

    Great article … but I do have one question … At age 12, why is Coalton still printing? Why has he NOT been taught to write in cursive penmanship?

    Is this where our education system is taking our children? A 12 yr old still printing?

  • Misty BigRig

    Really? Why don’t we focus on the message of the article. At the end of the day, who cares about how someone writes. No offense but it has nothing to do with living. Trucking does.

  • TJ Graff

    I disagree. Education has EVERYTHING to do with success. And the discipline acquired through strong communication skills and through learning and practicing good penmanship, assists in developing a strong education.

    The average level of education of the typical truck driver is of the 10th grade. Is that sufficient enough to succeed in today’s competitive market? I say not … and we, as a country and as an industry, can do better.

  • ph

    palmer penmanship method is defuncted…

  • Misty BigRig

    Honestly, I think what’s more important is we get back to basics in life and that’s survival, food, shelter, and happiness. We as a society need to stop nit picking at the little things people do. Out of everything said in this article that is good… You pointed out something that was not pertinent to the discussion.

    Education is NOT everything! Love and acceptance for others have more value. We can’t determine his education level because he wrote his letters a certain way.

    If you feel so strongly about how people should write, open up a non profit and teach as many people as you can, including children, to write in cursive penmanship.

    If you don’t try to help make a difference in what obviously gets under your skin, you shouldn’t point out the negative you see in someone.

  • Bleck

    Not everyone with an opinion has the time to start a nonprofit. That’s just silly.

  • Misty BigRig

    I agree Bleck but what does a complaint accomplish? Too many people have opinions/ complaints but not enough “time” to make their complaint become constructive.

  • Misty BigRig

    My opinions/ time, have value on my page. I’ll go there and try to make a difference in a positive way.

  • TJ Graff

    Misty, you missed my entire point.

    So, let’s try again …

    First off, the trucking industry has, since I started driving in 1992, used drivers or drivers’ families to promote trucking. yet at the same time, has refused to improve, for the majority of the industry, the drivers earnings or treatment as professional drivers.

    As a whole, and I can say this personally, with the assistance of folks like Paul Taylor of the Trucker’s Justice Center, the industry is starting to listen to the call from OSHA and the US Dept of Labor that drivers have protections as whistle-blowers under the STAA. (Case in point : Graff vs Cargo Express, Boise ID)

    The trucking publications, in part, have played right into the hands of the carriers … by featuring such articles … and using unsuspecting drivers as the trucking industry’s pawns … for the driver’s 15 minutes of fame.

    As I’ve stated before, what I noticed was the fact that a 12 year old child was submitting an assignment printing … rather than using cursive penmanship.

    I dated recently an elementary school teacher in the Cobb County school district in GA. (one of the most prestigious school districts in GA) for over 2 years. She, in fact, ran into this exact issue.this past November. The standard is that children in 5th grade should be completing their assignments in cursive penmanship. Yet the students that she was teaching were still doing their assignments printing … just as Coalton is seen here doing.

    My commentary is NOT about Coalton, but more that no one, including the folks here at Overdrive, Coalton’s father, nor anyone else has picked up on the fact that we have a definite issue within our country regarding the eduction of our children. And Coalton is an example of that issue.

    Again, this is not an attack on Coalton or his family … but more an observation that we, as truckers, allow ourselves to be exploited by the trucking industry … simply for a brief 15 minutes of fame. The trucking industry cares little about the life of truckers. if they did … then why is it that when I started driving in 1992 the driver turnover rate was approx 100%. And today, some 22 years later, the driver turnover rate is still approx. 100%.

    Yes, some companies have made inroads into decreasing driver turnover rates, but all in all … 22 years of doing the same thing … How’s that working out for you, Mr and Mrs Trucker?

    One of the ways that we, as drivers, can improve the trucking industry, is to 1) ACT professional. (Stay clean …showers are available at EVERY travel center now), 2) Stay EDUCATED regarding what is happening within our industry, 3) improve our OWN education by taking college courses on line or by getting a GED, because with the stroke of fate, one day you might not be able to drive a truck (either because of medical or family issues) and 4) get yor financial house in order and become debt free., ie Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (offered through many local churches) and as outlined in Dave’s book “Money Makeover”.

    And most importantly, follow the regs. When a company says to you … “This is a really hot load” or “Do you think you can make it look good?”, or “”An air leak at the turbo-actuator is NOT a safety issue and if you don’t want to drive my truck back to Boise , say so and I’ll send a recovery driver. Otherwise, knock off this nonsense and let’s get back to work.” that we drivers are educated enough and strong enough to say “Take this job and shove it !! ( I refuse to violate the regs.)

    Then and only then will the trucking industry start to respect drivers, because the drivers will respect themselves.

    I hope I have answered a few questions that you may have had.

  • beach bum

    sir they don’t even teach cursive in ky schools anymore.

  • beach bum

    thank you coalton can change the oil in my 99 freightliner, an the pen man probally hires someone to change his oil. well sir, I may only have a highschool diploma but I run 41 semi trucks, got 208 van trailers an my pen man ship sucks but the drivers don’t seem to mind when I sign their paychecks each week, neatness don’t matter.

  • TJ Graff

    Beach Bum, thank you for the insight.

    However, given today’s competitive market, I imagine that you want Coalton to carry on the business? Or are you thinking that you just might sell the company and have Coalton become a “trust baby”.

    Either way, the skills that we pass along to our children, as well as their ability to communicate effectively, are integral to our children’s success in life.

    Coalton’s education, and yes the learning of cursive penmanship (it helps develop self-discipline) are critical to Coalton’s success in life and the growth and continued success of Fannin Trucking.

    The lack of education and sophistication is exactly what Pilot Flying J preyed on in their “fuel rebate scheme” in which now 10 former employees have plead guilty to mail and wire fraud … and ech facing up to 25 years in prison.

    Will the Pilot Flying J investigation lead to Jimmy Haslam? It might. Would it have been as easy to perpetrate the fraud if more trucking company owner were more business educated and knew how to read a spread sheet? Absolutely !!

  • Ralph

    Well done Coalton. While the importance of communication is easily seen I don’t see any correlation with whether it is printed, typed, or cursive. What is important is to properly convey the message that you are trying to get across. The fact we are on the internet and typing shows that cursive is only important in signatures. I print everything. Not because I can’t write cursive, but because I prefer to print. Has anyone tried to read a cursive response from anyone that writes a lot? Has anyone heard about the mistakes and lives threatened by doctors handwriting on prescriptions? I think that proves the point that the ability to write cursive doesn’t show intelligence or education.

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