Year of interrupted sleep: 2012 in review, Part 2
If you missed Part 1 of this year in review, find it here. Tune back in New Year’s Eve for the finale.
“Roadside midwife” Mike Hawthorne, a driver for NFI, had delivered his third on-highway baby to start the month of new life in Spring out right, and a driver’s wife called for a national holiday to serve as remembrance for truck drivers. Small fleet owner Thomas Blake turned heads with the contention that industry-wide adoption of EOBRs could well solve the long-term problem of excessive unpaid detention at shippers’ and receivers’ docks, but few agreed.
Oil market speculation was back in the headlines as diesel prices soared, and a U.S. driver jailed in Mexico continued to receive no shortage of vocal support from haulers on this side of the border. It was one of the biggest stories of the year, and further developments in May would see the driver’s carrier shut down as an imminent safety hazard by the FMCSA, yet another reason to choose a carrier carefully.
Another big story, the oil field hauling boom around hydraulic fracturing operations, hit the U.S. airwaves with a story in the New York Times tarring the oil field exemption and the Channel 19 profile of a team of former expediters making the move to crude.
The iPhone and Android phones were neck and neck in usage stats following a poll of drivers, one child’s dream came true as a passenger in an owner-operator’s Freightliner, and the freight drones were coming.
With some impending changes to FMCSA’s CSA safety-ranking carriers large and small were sounding off as the 2012 Roadcheck inspection blitz was under way, and high fuel prices prompted no shortage of owner-operator conversation on the issue of how to approach surcharges in rate contracts, whether averaged along specific lanes or based on the Department of Energy national average. One commentator favored doing away with the surcharge for a “change in terms,” more dynamic rate structuring accounting for all fuel costs.
A “7 deadly lot lizards” infographic reached for some inspired satire but in the end raised more questions about image than it could possibly have answered, a tarp manufacturer offered flatbedders an interesting bartering option to move some tarps and get some tarps, and an arresting image of a driver’s face with the left half damaged extensively by long-term sunlight exposure was published in the “New England Journal of Medicine,” prompting conversations about the then-recently-published FMCSA clarification on federal window-tinting regulations for Class 8 trucks.
A driver was reunited with his lost dog, Washington State was building road surfaces from busted- and ground-up toilets, a couple of classic conventionals and cabovers were on display in Crossville, and a multiyear highway bill, contrary to prior guesses and predictions and redactions, reared its head by the end of the month, among other measures raising the broker minimum surety bond amount to $75,000 from $10,000 and directing the DOT to mandate the use of EOBRs for hours of service recording for virtually all interstate carriers. Despite the text of the direction being lifted from the Senate’s EOBR bill from earlier in the year, language giving the DOT the power to disqualify drivers directly ultimately didn’t survive the highway bill’s conference committee, where it was merged with a House variant.
In the week preceding the bill’s passage, a driver’s satirical modest proposal called for FMCSA to go ahead and ban all motorized transport already, and an owner-operators’ group hosted FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro on a conference call in which Ferro was introduced to a proposed CSA ’8th BASIC’ for driver turnover and reiterated she would continue using the “bully pulpit” to influence shippers and receivers’ detention time outlays.
Rapper 50 cent was hit by a big truck, a load full of beer sank, and abolishing household-goods-miles-based pay (or ‘short miles pay’) was on more than one operator’s mind. On most, however,was the EOBR mandate in the highway bill – and not only those of operators. An ultimately one-term Congressman from Louisiana was lauded by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, among others, for his questioning of the reasoning for the EOBR mandate on the House floor and for his amendment to an appropriations bill limiting federal-dollars use for establishing the mandate, for the time being.
Debates continued over many aspects central to the owner-operator business. Joe Ammons called for repeal of the trucking exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act in hopes of boosting pay standards industry-wide, and in the House of Representatives, others made the safety argument for increased driver pay.
The first lawsuits demanding fixes to the CSA program were brought, respectively, by operators in concert with OOIDA and by a coalition of carriers, shippers and brokers. While that didn’t necessarily mean the CSA program’s future existence was uncertain, the thought was pleasing to some.
Jason’s Law truck parking safety and security legislation, having been included in the June highway bill, was trumpeted as in need of a push from drivers in future to aid in implementation where parking was needed most.
Singing urinal cakes were pondered as a potential next step in hours enforcement, as the U.S. driver detained in Mexico saw his trial get under way, part of which involved a re-enactment of his accidental entry at the border between El Paso and Juarez.
Gwen Stefani “drove” a big checkerboard Pete in a music video.
The hottest month of the year showed glowing embers of views from around the industry on the top five and more challenges facing owner-operator businesses today, attendant to my reporting on those challenges — 1) high fuel prices, 2) hours and EOBRs, 3) detention pay or lack thereof, 4) rates and 5) equipment costs – in the August magazine. All the same, some humor was in evidence, even in such seemingly humorless places as videos and news about trucking software.
I met the mother of the U.S. truck driver then still detained in Mexico at the Great American Trucking Show in the driver’s native Dallas, where the Women in Trucking organization turned five years old with a birthday cake, clown and more, and just how to use CSA to your advantage was discussed.
Back in D.C., CSA’s bedrock efficacy and its DataQs challenge process, among other issues, saw debate among members of the MCSAC advisory committee, and in the ether of the Internet, every trucker’s favorite agency got itself Facebook page.
A champion slackliner performed a stunt where she walked a wire strung between two moving Volvo cabovers to introduce a new European truck model, and more owner-operator business challenges, from public image to health to parking, were examined.
The ultimate challenge? Adapting to change.