In-Cab Fever

Well, boys, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not yet declared the cab of your truck a workplace. So, because you are a big boy or a big girl, you can still make your own decisions without being told by the government how to run your in-cab life. It really is up to you. You can smoke. You can choose to ruin your health slowly; you can choose to ruin it quickly. You can even choose to live a healthy life. You can quit smoking, quit eating greaseburgers, eggs, red meat. You can quit drinking. You can tell your boss you’re not going to cheat on your log anymore and you’re going to sleep when you get tired. You can take holy orders. You can become a ballerina if you have a big enough cab.

Long ago the feds created drug and alcohol testing. Certainly it’s a no-brainer to keep drugs and alcohol out of any workplace.

Before drug testing and eight page physical forms, a lot of drivers did their jobs under the influence of drugs. They took speed. They smoked reefer. They stayed awake, they stayed stoned. They looked out into the night with wide-open eyes until their brains crashed or they dropped their load and went home at the end of their 10 days out to get a little sleep. You can’t do that anymore. You can still smoke, eat grease, cheat on your log. But drugs, well, fortunately, drugs are not only outlawed, they’re hard for outlaws to do anymore what with the randoms and the pre-employments and all.

But some guys still smoke dope out there. Weed will not necessarily keep someone awake. When a driver argues it can turn occupational fatigue and depression into something more tolerable for a few hours, he also knows he is potentially lethal to the mommy, daddy and kids in the station wagon in the granny lane.

There is really no choice here, and anybody who tells you he can drive as safely stoned as he can straight is a bloody fool at best. Some federal regulations just make sense, no matter how hard that is to swallow.

Nevertheless it is hard to legislate when people sleep and when they are awake. The dismal failure of the log to do this is a case in point. Consider the fact that new log regulations have been years in the making and are still far over the horizon. While it’s doubtful that tweaking a severely deficient system will do any good, the inability of the government to move quickly on an issue with a direct impact on safety and saving lives works against the very goals the government has given itself.

In the meantime, one private agency, Tony McMahon’s Safety Research Institute, is trying to help. McMahon’s idea is to enlist trucking companies to run under a logless system, with the permission of the feds, to discover whether such a system will reduce fatigue, injury, accident and death. McMahon tells me he is working to get approval from the FMCSA now. It is a slow process, not energized by a concern for safety but stuck in the bureaucratic thicket.

Consider the research the feds have done on fatigue: Millions of dollars worth of studies that the working driver could use in his battle against this deadly occupational hazard. These studies are common knowledge to nearly everyone, it seems, except the drivers who could most use them. If the government took the time to do them, and the goal was to help make drivers safer, then why can’t the bureaucrats get the research into the hands that grip the steering wheels!

Anyway, until OSHA legislates your cab, you can have your white line fever in the privacy of your workplace. Yep, the good old American way: let the American himself, not his government, decide what he will do. But with this right comes responsibility, and trucks drivers all over this land live up to this calling every day they are on the road. But some don’t.

No matter how effective the regulations and scientific studies are, it continues to be the driver’s responsibility to keep himself alive, healthy, and safe. And while the cab is still yours, you can become a reverend minister/truck driver or drive in a tutu whistling “Swan Lake” if you want.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
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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