Bon voyage — a final word on leaving trucking

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Thomas Dempsey wrote in this week with a sort of farewell letter to the industry. We’ve seen more than one of these of late. All the same, his thoughts on where the industry’s gone over a career spanning decades I thought we could all benefit from. Here goes: 

final runI am sorry to say I am very close to leaving an industry I have loved since the early 1970s. I have been a company driver, owner-operator and fleet owner, and now provide driver services for two companies in my area when they are in need of help. I started driving commercially in 1975 and was involved in trucking through friends since 1971. I’ve been through the “Knights of the Highway” times (loved driving then), when we took care of each other and the public trusted us. I was around in the “Outlaw” Smokey and the Bandit times (did more damage than good for trucking), the “clean up our image” years (which we’re still in) when all the special interest groups were bashing us, and today’s “over-regulation phase,” in which our well-run government (sarcasm, yes) is doing everything it can to kill the very industry that keeps this country moving. By the way, I did all this while working full-time as a firefighter/paramedic for 30 years, retiring as Fire Chief. At 56 years old, I still have several good years left and had planned on continuing commercial driving as long as I could, and I enjoyed it.


Well, it only took the last two years of driving to get to the unenjoyable part.

I understand, but don’t always agree, with why the hours of service are being continually debated. What I can’t understand at all is why the trucking industry as a whole is putting up with all the crap coming out of Washington and many state and local governments.  When is every segment (big carriers, leased owner-operators and independents) going to band together and say enough is enough!

Two small things that drive me crazy are lane restrictions and the “no jake brake” signs that are popping up everywhere. I understand lane restrictions in hilly or mountainous terrain. You may be able to go 55 up the hill passing another truck going up the hill at 40, but you shouldn’t block the third lane when a car can maintain 70 in that lane. Those restrictions make sense, but on the Ohio Turnpike, for example, it is mostly flat and there is no good reason to restrict trucks from the third lane. This holds true for any area where truck speed can be maintained. I have been stuck behind two cars traveling side by side going well below the speed limit, and I had a clear third lane to safely pass — but couldn’t.  

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The jake brake regulations, of course, have come from the few in our industry that run with no or ineffective mufflers. You know the ones I mean. They love the noise — they rattle windows, and they draw attention to themselves. I wish these towns would pass noise laws instead. That would cover all the annoying stuff: boom-boom stereos, loud jakes, loud motorcycles, cars, etc… But no, they choose to focus on trucks, even when educated about what noise a jake makes on a truck with a stock muffler. My hometown is a perfect example. The council people came to me when they were considering a jake brake ordinance many years ago, and after educating them, and doing some research on their own, they passed a noise ordinance. Good, but then two years ago they changed it to a jake brake ordinance due to complaints by local residents about truck noise. The noise of course was still coming from the same straight-pipe trucks as before, who had multiple warnings. Individuals can request and get these signs put up in front of their homes if they want one, and there are many in our area. These brakes are an important safety tool and should not be subject to this individual “use it somewhere else” mentality. I know for a fact that most of the people passing these laws don’t even know what an engine brake is or how it works or why it’s needed. 

There are a host of other laws, regulations, tolls, taxes, etc., that are killing us. I understand we must have some regulations, a tax structure and fees, but I know we are way past our fair share, and if we just keep taking it, it will never stop. I know it’s not this simple, but we hold all or most of the cards. We could cripple this country with a shut down. I don’t want that at all, but is that what it’s going to take to get some of these blind, greedy politicians’ attention? It sure seems like using the diplomatic approach has just gotten us farther behind. A mix of both may be the only way toward a more stable industry, one that young people will want to enter, and current drivers will choose to stay with, and be proud to do. –Thomas A. Dempsey


Thoughts? Safe hauling for those of you on the road this weekend…