A Catalyst For Change

“Whenever the government thinks something is broken in our industry they try to fix it by tightening the screws on the wrong part,” writes owner-operator Jack Webster, Wolcott, Ind., in response to June’s Viewpoint. Webster is referring to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s single-minded focus on driver off-duty hours as the way to improve highway safety.

“The problem will only be solved when shippers, receivers and trucking company management are included in paying the penalty for noncompliance,” says Webster, a 25-year trucking veteran who hauls frozen food for an LTL carrier.

With implementation of the new rules just six months away, carriers, shippers and receivers have an opportunity – and more importantly, a responsibility – to use them to make significant changes in the way they do business. The new rules put even more pressure on owner-operators and drivers to make up for inefficiencies at loading docks. But while carriers would agree that excessive waiting time hurts productivity and profitability, doing something about it is a different story.

Instead of attacking the waiting problem head on, industry observers say carriers might buy more trailers to facilitate more drop-and-hook operations. And since logging sleeper berth time is the only way to stop the 14-hour on-duty clock, some carriers who currently run only day cabs may even choose to buy sleepers.

But that dodges the real issues. With the restrictions posed by the new hours-of-service rules as a catalyst, there has never been a better time for carriers to hold shippers’ and receivers’ feet to the fire. It’s time carriers refuse business from those who abuse truckers at the docks – or else demand compensation for those wasted hours. And carriers must refuse loads that require violating hours-of-service regulations.

In other words, for the new regulations to work, carriers must make compliance their customers’ problem. “You have an opportunity to put value on your time,” Jeff Wilmarth, president of Silver Arrow Express, a 27-truck carrier out of Rockford, Ill., told attendees at the 14th annual Randall Trucking Symposium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Rather than settling for business as usual at the expense of those who get the business done – America’s truckers – let’s hope carriers rise to the challenge of these new regulations. If they do, it will be a strong first step toward making trucking the safe, productive industry it should be.

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Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2021 edition of Partners in Business.
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