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Professional drivers write letter to DOT chief Foxx supporting FMCSA’s Ferro

Fritts, one of the 12 drivers who signed the letter to Foxx, said Ferro is “our best hope” to get driver pay where it needs to be.

The Trucker Staff

6/23/2014

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro “gets it,” wrote 12 drivers with a combined 245 years driving experience in a letter to DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx late last week. And the reason, they said, is because Ferro sees the relationship between non-compliance and sub-standard pay.

On most jobs, explained 48-year career driver Jerry Fritts, 68, a spokesman for the group, employees are paid more for producing more. In trucking, however, drivers went from hauling 45-foot trailers in 1982 to 53-foot trailers, the weight they pull increased by 10 percent, miles increased from 450 miles a day to 750, yet truckload drivers last year averaged $37,700 in earnings while in 1982 they were averaging $48,000 a year.

Fritts, one of the 12 drivers who signed the letter to Foxx, said Ferro is “our best hope” to get driver pay where it needs to be.

He said drivers’ need to “get more hours” and their desperation to do so, is because under the current system, more hours is usually the only way they can earn more pay.

In the letter, Fritts and the other drivers, several of whom are Citizen Driver Award winners, wrote: “We believe Administrator Ferro truly understands the trucker’s plight, demonstrated by her testifying before Congress regarding fair compensaton for drivers. She then proposed that Congress pass legislation requiring truck drivers be brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act, like most other American employees.”

Also, the letter said, Ferro “ … understands, and we strongly agree, that there is a correlation between compliance and safety. She also understands that the inequitable compensation standard is the fundamental issue that stands in the way of achieving the level of compliance required for a safer trucking industry, not only for other motorists but also for other professional drivers.”

Ironically, many of the drivers who signed the letter are members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), whose board wrote Foxx asking him “to begin an immediate search for a new FMCSA Administrator.”

Their call for Ferro’s ouster was thought to be prompted by a dispute over an amendment that would have suspended the 34-hour restart provision in the current Hours of Service rule. The amendment was in a gigantic funding bill for several federal departments that was pulled off the Senate floor at the last minute last week over squabbling about how to attach the amendments.

When Ferro found out about the amendment, she took strong exception to the proposal, calling for its defeat in the Fast Lane blog on the Department of Transportation website, along with posting pictures of several horrific truck wrecks.

“Most of us are members of OOIDA and we respectfully disagree with our leadership on this issue,” the letter stated.

Some of the drivers who signed the letter have engaged Ferro in conversation at truck shows and other events, and the letter said that Ferro, “ … by actually mingling with the blue-collar people in the industry … has fostered a unique safety culture in our industry.”

“ … She recognizes that most truck drivers today, especially in the truckload sector, are experiencing increasing difficulty remaining financially solvent while operating in compliance with safety regulations.”

They wrote that Ferro’s mission has been to raise the bar of safety for both drivers and carriers and eliminate the “race to the bottom mentality” that cuts corners on safety.

“Among our group of professionals, we are certain this is the time to support Administrator Ferro and the FMCSA,” the letter concluded.

A statement from OOIDA responding to the drivers’ letter stated: “Our members deserve respect and fair treatment and we have serious concerns about the priorities pursued by the FMCSA, all of which are outlined in  our letter to Sec. Foxx.”

To read OOIDA's letter in full click here.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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