Trucking “runs in the family” of Scott Reed, says the 32-year-old of Lima, Ohio. He’s been at it for more than a decade now himself, today leased and pulling a van for Ohio Transport with his 2005 Peterbilt 379 extended hood (also pictured above). The Caterpillar engine is turned up to 750 hp, averaging 6.7 mpg in his most recent quarter overall. Also recently, he “pushed 8 mpg down to Texas,” he says. “It all depends on the load and the conditions,” he adds.
I talked to Reed last week, one of a couple of conversations I had around a recent meeting that happened in Lima at the office of Representative Jim Jordan, Reed’s rep and an influential member of the House Freedom Caucus of conservative Republicans — in fact its former leader prior to the tenure of current caucus chair Mark Meadows (N.C.). The meeting in question came about in part as a result of Reed’s engagement with Rep. Jordan in the past following the 34-hour restart change four years ago. “Also about [proposals to hike] insurance at that time,” Reed says. “Basically, I’d come up with data to support [the contention that] insurers were only spending 8-12 percent of what they’re getting in premiums. I sent a whole binder full of stuff to them.”
With this latest effort, Reed reached out to Jordan’s schedule coordinator “right after the new year” on the issue of the coming electronic logging device mandate and proposed he bring together “different folks from different parts of the industry for a sit-down” with Jordan on trucking issues, Reed says. “He said that sounded like a good idea, especially with multiple points of view.”
Reed’s biggest concern at present is the ELD mandate going into effect later in the year, if nothing changes. Principle in that concern was getting Jordan and his staff to understand how the operational economics of the industry had developed amid a flawed hours of service rule over the years, and how the hours of service, if not changed to allow greater flexibility — whether more options to split the sleeper berth or otherwise liberalize the rigid 14-hour on-duty maximum — could spell a bitter pill for many an independent and small fleet once e-logs were mandated.
Having gotten to know Delaware-based former owner-operator and consultant Richard Wilson of TCRG as a particularly effective communicator of the concerns of small carriers and independents, Reed asked Wilson to come along for the meeting, which happened March 3. “We had a good meeting with Jim Jordan,” Wilson says. “We gave them our data on increased costs with ELDs, and basically brought up that the root cause was an unworkable hours of service rule that needed to be redirected.”
Wilson likewise expressed a concern that the executive branch and its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, while making a show of engaging the industry in a variety of ways, could stand to do a lot better when it came to the ideas of small carriers and independents. It was one among many points of view on a variety of issues that were discussed by the variety of parties there, including reps from locally based carriers of more size. A rep directly from OOIDA was also in attendance.
The meeting, however, was called “specifically about ELDs and hours of service,” Wilson says, with Reed echoing.
Reed stressed that, generally, what carriers of all sizes were staring down with the ELD mandate would be “more trucks to do the same work, which equals more congestion” — and more opportunities for accidents on the highways. Reed attempted to quantify the industry-wide revenue hit that could theoretically be represented by missing a load a week per truck and per driver, a figure he’d heard from a variety of drivers he’d talked to in past about their own e-log transitions. “$112 billion in losses is what I came up with for a rough average,” Reed says. Personally, he added, “at this point in the game, I can’t afford to lose a load a week. It will break me, it’ll kill me. And honestly, though I’m very anti-ELD, I guess I can deal with it with a little give and take – if they change the hours of service so we can deal with it, that’d be great. If I don’t have to be stuck to a 14-hour clock, I can make it work.”
Wilson says that he emerged from the meeting with a feeling that Jordan at least better understood the issue. “I’m totally trying to work different angles than I had previously,” Wilson said, noting his past attendance at meetings of the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee. Opening up various avenues of communication with Congress, as we’ve written before, could be the key to any near-term change in ELDs or hours, absent a court ruling that strikes down the mandate. “Basically, this way, very quietly, without a lot of fanfare,” Wilson adds, “opportunities as they arise are getting me into position to meet with people – one on one with the legislative folks. I think there’s an open ability for more people to listen.”
Wilson and Reed both also hoped Jordan also could be a messenger to the Trump administration and his FMCSA directly on truckers’ concerns. According to press reports over the weekend, the Congressman and fellow Freedom Caucus members had lunch with Trump last week (no doubt discussing the Obamacare alternative caucus members have stood in opposition to lately), and were invited to go bowling with him tomorrow (you heard that right — I mean the game with lanes and balls and pins). Did the ELD mandate and truckers’ hours of service come up last week? Will they tomorrow? I don’t know, but if they did, you might well thank owner-operator Scott Reed for it.