[gtblockquote quote_text_color=”#b5b5b5″]”If you keep pushing things further and further and you don’t get the technology to what’s the simplest thing – also if technology just gets pushed [by regulation] beyond what we’re capable of — we don’t get the environmental benefit, because people will hold onto those old trucks. Then it would be nothing like what we could achieve if we just keep it simple.” –Independent owner-operator Steven Davenport
Steven Davenport, an independent based near Dallas, spoke to regulators as part of the special listening session the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association put together concurrent with the first day of the Great American Trucking Show, August 27. His testimony, heard by representatives of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and of the Environmental Protection Agency, was one of a few that regulators took relative to recently proposed Phase 2 fuel-economy standards for new vocational trucks, line-haul tractors and trailers, among other equipment.
OOIDA board member Davenport’s testimony delivered a message I suspect many of you will appreciate – the need for simplicity when it comes to rulemaking that takes into account the particular needs of small business in order that truckers are not “defeated by the very things that are supposed to help us,” as he said.
I’ve included it, in some instances paraphrased or excerpted, below.
I’ve been in the transportation area since 1966, starting in the gravel business. I hauled some heavy equipment, drove in the army for a couple of years. I was in an artillery unit with a deuce-and-a-half – then hauling concrete when I got out. I left that business in Virginia in 1974, and have been in Dallas since 1975. I worked over-the-road in San Antonio – meat, produce, frozen foods and [other] commodities. I hauled dry vans through Hunt Products here in Dallas until 1991, then went to work for a retail company called the Container Store, supplied the stores around the country. In 1999, I went into business as an owner-operator, became a member of OOIDA and have watched things evolve through that period of time from being a driver to a businessman. It seems important that the technology provide better fuel efficiency – in the 1960s, we were lucky to get 4 mpg. Today, with an ‘03 Peterbilt with a Cat motor, I’ve been able to get 6 mpg since it was new. To this point, I have 1,130,000 miles [on the truck]. The truck has been maintained, and at this point, the truck doesn’t use a gallon of oil between oil changes. I do the PM between 12- and 15,000 miles. It’s been an exceptional piece of equipment to own as an owner-operator. The economies that determine whether you can be in business or not are determined largely by your cost to maintain the equipment and the other facets of expense. In seeing the new equipment, whether it’s SCR and/or EGR systems, I hear drivers say that … they can get 7-8 mpg when it’s new, but once the repairs or maintenance to those systems [is figured in after the truck] has been around a little bit… The maintenance and servicing of the systems goes up exponentially as mpg then goes down.
I feel fortunate that I chose this occupation and way to make a living. I’ve got a long way to go, I hope. I don’t want to put myself in a position where I can’t do what I’ve been able to do all my life. On the [proposed and current fuel-efficiency] standards – as an owner-operator I see where you can categorize [big companies] with 1,000s of trucks, [those specialized in a] region or product – all those thing could be put in a category and, when the technology is applied [to the equipment, standards could be different. [Such an approach] could improve things with less stress. I’d like to see the stress level [for small business owners] go down as things evolve – an element of safety you never get to put out there for consideration.
The economics that require speed limiters, any of the things that are management tools for the big companies, are a hindrance to me, and that gets back to the stress level – I operate my business as a service to my customers so my customers want to continue to use me. If I don’t have that flexibility. … If I had to work the 14-hour clock and I started at rush hour in Dallas – I might only get 6 hours of work done in a 14-hour period, and that doesn’t add anything to my bottom line. I want clean air and water as much and probably more than anybody.
I’ve been to L.A. back when the brown cloud was so thick that you could cut it with a knife. There’s been great improvement. Sulfur and lead out of diesel and gasoline, manipulating the winter and summer diesel formulas – all things that add to an environment in which we can operate in a manner in this country in which we were designed to operate. Somebody who does what I do would want to do it.
I require a certain amount of business to make it worthwhile for me to operate. Big companies can operate on a very thin margin. If you keep it simple [as an owner-operator], and you keep [the truck] clean and you keep it operable … your operation will work longer and better.
I’d like to let everybody know it ain’t easy, though there are people out here who can do what I do — 150,000 members of OOIDA prove it every day. The standards for improving the environment through technology need to be assessed not only by the guys with the educations, but the people out here like myself who do it every day.
If you keep pushing things further and further and you don’t get the technology to what’s the simplest thing – also if technology just gets pushed [by regulation] beyond what we’re capable of — we don’t get the environmental benefit, because people will hold onto those old trucks. Then it would be nothing like what we could achieve if we just keep it simple.