So I sat down and watched the little meeting Two Day Annie had with the representatives. I actually followed along and listened intently for about 20 minutes. I became extremely distracted by the fact the lighting in the hearing room made Anne’s hair look really brassy. Also, she could probably stand a haircut. I realize not everyone has the benefit of having the Goddess of Hair as their best friend, but seriously, I’m sending Anne one of Robin’s cards. Bless her heart.
I also got a little off track when she was asked how the change in the HOS that happened in 2003 affected the industry. The answer, “I believe that data is still being analyzed,” was completely unacceptable to me. In what universe does it take 10 years to analyze data? We have supercomputers, Wikipedia and Google. What the hell else do you need? I immediately imagined The Oldest Man in the World, of Carol Burnett fame, shuffling around Anne’s office, analyzing data. (Yet another of my ancient comedy references, but really, was there ever anything funnier than the Carol Burnett Show on television? I think not.)
I surprised myself by agreeing with a lot of things she had to say. The HOS are just a small part of the problem with the industry. Her comments about driver pay are completely founded in reality, unlike the vague and often referenced “data” that is apparently impervious to being analyzed. And I realize this hearing was only about the hours of service, but no one wanted to hear anything about factors that directly correlate with the HOS, like low pay and problems with shippers, receivers and brokers.
All in all, I have to admit I was kind of impressed by Anne. She was alone, sitting in front of a bunch of people who wanted answers from her, and she did a good job giving them. I would cave in a situation like that — I’m not good at meetings in general — but meetings involving me being asked a bunch of questions by a bunch of people I don’t know are avoided at all costs. As a matter of fact, the last phone conference we had with five guys from a corporate office (who shall remain unnamed) resulted in the scribble pad I keep on my desk being filled with notes like, “DM dies from rabies in my next fiction story. Much pain and writhing about.”
As much as I’d like to be able to write a happy ending for the HOS story, I can’t. The HOS are just the tip of the iceberg. Until wages and fuel prices are discussed you will still have people out there breaking all the rules just to survive. Even in a perfect world, where drivers are paid what they’re worth, you’re going to have idiots out there breaking the rules. It happens in every profession, not just truck driving, but every profession doesn’t involve the lives of innocent people on the road. The press is quick to make truckers out to be the bad guys — you will hear a hundred bad things to one good thing about the industry on the news. When you’re fighting odds like that, promoting a good image is all the more important.
Here’s a shout-out to the drivers out there who do just that. Thank you for doing an almost thankless job, and doing it safely and well. There are people who notice and appreciate you. In the immortal words of whoever said it first, “Keep on truckin’…”
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Affected tractors are equipped with an automated Eaton UltraShift Plus or Eaton Advantage Transmission with right hand stalk shifter. In the affected trucks, the display on the instrument panel can indicate “N” when the shifter is set into “D” or “R,” causing the truck not to move.