Archive for January, 2009|Monthly archive page

It’s f-f-freezing outside

The temperature here at home as I’m writing this is fast approaching 10 below zero.  I went out yesterday when it was a balmy -1 out and started the truck.  Started up and ran ok, but my fuel filter plugged up after about 5 minutes.  Oh, well.  Just another of the joys of being an owner operator.  I’ll drag my big salamander out in the morning and let everything warm up.  I was planning on going out on the road, but I think I’ll wait until saturday or sunday, when it’s supposed to warm up a bit.

Comments welcome.



This post is a duplicate of one I posted to:

The LTCCS was a wonderful study when it was done. The problem is, it was done before the current HOS regulations went into effect in 2004. As a million+ safe OTR mile driver, I can tell you from personal experience that the new HOS regulations have made a major improvement in the fatigue levels of truck drivers.

Reasonably well executed studies such as the LTCCS are a wonderful tool to help aim regulatory and enforcements at problem areas. There are a few problems with studies. For example, while fatigue is a factor often cited in crashes, to the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever asked *why* the driver was fatigued. Overly tight delivery schedule? A guy with a loud reefer unit parked next to him in the truckstop while he was trying to sleep? All to often, we seem to just get the “because” and not the “why” — which is the difference between treating a symptoms or finding cures.

Then, there’s the old “lies, damn lies, and statistics”. Statistics can be spun in lots of different ways; i.e. “The death rate among non-smokers is 100%”. The statistics from such studies need to be clear, straightforward, and absolutely unambiguous.

All too often, the designers of these studies are folks who’ve spent their entire careers sitting in offices — not out on the highways. The key to getting maximum effectiveness from them is to ask the right questions. Without input from the troops in the trenches, this is unlikely to happen. There’s an enormous wealth of untapped information about truck safety going down the road in the heads of drivers — and nobody seems interested in extracting it.

Watchdogs and the HOS regulations

This is a copy of a post I made to:

The leadership of all of these “watchdog” groups needs to pay attention here. I’m getting tired of people who’ve never been around or in a truck trying to “protect” me by challenging the current HOS regulations.  The post by Clayton Boyce of the ATA pretty much sums it up. However, there ARE things that could (and should) be done to improve safety.  Here are a few:

1.  Build more truck parking spaces.

Over the last few years, states have become more restrictive about where/when trucks can park to take their HOS mandated 10 hour break.  States are closing rest areas (as in Indiana), prohibiting parking on highway on/off ramps (a number of states), removing existing pulloffs (California), and other localities are restricting truck parking in various fashions. (Mokena, IL prohibits parking over 4 hours IN A TRUCKSTOP!). Throw in truckstops closing down, and others charging for parking, (without adding more parking spaces) and it is obvious to anyone that the parking situation is getting really bad. The general idea is to make it as easy as possible for truck drivers to comply with the regulations – which is pretty tough to do if they can’t find a parking space.  Anymore, I won’t haul any freight east of I-75 because of the extreme difficulty in finding a safe and legal parking space for my 10 hour break.

There are a number of enlightened shippers and consignees who do allow drivers to park for their mandated breaks, but the majority do not.  Where space is limited, this is understandable, but most large companies, with plenty of space, won’t allow trucks to park – even though a driver may be out of hours, and it’s illegal for the driver to go back out on the road. Frequently, it’s their fault you’re out of hours, since they take inordinate amounts of time to load or unload.

A quick, although only partial, solution is to require these companies to allow parking.  They’ve got the room, but they just can’t be bothered.

Another solution is to utilize the unused areas available at many highway interchanges.  Not on the ramps, but the area between the highway and the ramps, or small lots at the ends of the ramps.  They don’t have to be huge — Three to ten spaces each — just build lots of them. Drivers like to park close to their morning delivery, to maximize efficiency.  Areas around large cities need much more parking.  For anyone who doesn’t think there’s a problem, just go to any truckstop around a major metropolitan area on a weeknight between 10 pm and midnight, and you’ll see what I mean.

2.  Educate automobile drivers.

Here’s a little experiment to try.  The next time you’re in a group of people, ask “How many of you took driver’s ed?” and get a show of hands.  Then, ask “Of those of you who took driver’s ed, how many of you remember them even *mentioning* driving around trucks?”.  In all of the times I’ve done this, NOT ONCE has anybody remembered anything about trucks.

In my million+ safe OTR miles, I’ve seen automobile drivers do some *really* stupid things around trucks.  I don’t think there could be that many suicidal people in the country, so it must be a lack of education.  When automobile drivers renew their licenses, they should be required to pass a simple exam on driving safely around trucks.  Even if it’s just staying out of the “no-zones” and leaving adequate space, it would go a long way toward reducing car/truck collisions.

3. Make shippers, consignees, brokers, and trucking companies liable for HOS violations.

Australia passed regulations a while back allowing prosecution of anyone forcing a driver into an illegal delivery schedule, and have recently begun prosecution of violaters.  Good companies will protect their drivers from this kind of abuse, but economics (especially in these times) can make a good company turn bad.  Some simply turn a blind eye to violations so they don’t lose drivers. By moving the fines for these violations away from drivers to those actually responsible for causing them in the first place, you’ll see a huge increase in HOS compliance.  Let’s get the regulations in hand, and protect everyone on the road.

These three things are only a starting point.  There are quite a number of other things that could also be done to enhance safety and efficiency, such as eliminating driver unloads, eliminating lumpers and lumping abuses, inordinate loading and unloading times, and other things.

So, how about it watchdog groups? Why not do something that will have an actual impact, instead of wrangling over regulations that happen to be a *major* improvement over the old ones?