Hey, truckers — did you ever want to the let the American Trucking Associations know what you really think?
Now’s your chance — kind of.
Continuing a process begun in 2005, the American Transportation Research Institute (the research arm of the ATA) is conducting the annual Top Industry Issues Survey, designed to provide insight into the critical issues confronting the trucking industry now and in the future.
In a letter to “industry professionals” — yes, that means drivers, too, so says Biz Buzz — ATA Chairman Tommy Hodges encourages participation in the survey, noting the importance of keeping an eye on the horizon in “an ever-changing and unpredictable world.”
“The fragile state of the world economy leaves many of us wondering what the next day will bring. Furthermore, our industry will be faced with many sweeping new regulations in the coming months, the details of which still remain unclear at this time. With all this uncertainty surrounding us, it may seem difficult to plan for the future,” Hodges writes. “However, despite the uncertainty we face, I strongly feel that we must continue to anticipate the key issues that will likely affect our industry in order to protect the interests of the trucking community.”
The survey asks respondents to rank items such as CSA 2010, Hours of Service, the driver shortage, onboard truck technology, the economy, transportation infrastructure funding, environmental issues, truck size and weight, fuel issues, and government regulations.
The top two issues identified by the industry in 2009 were the economy and government regulations. My trifecta this time around goes CSA 2010, HOS, and the driver shortage — though the “driver shortage” is very much tied to the other two.
The form, which can be filled out online or downloaded, printed and faxed, also includes blank lines for suggestions of your own.
Additionally, strategies for addressing each issue are proposed, and survey participants are asked for their preferences.
For CSA 2010, for instance, the survey suggests that you rank in order:
• Develop programs to inform drivers and carriers of potential impacts resulting from full CSA deployment
• Engage policymakers to ensure that major industry concerns are addressed (such as underlying algorithms, relative weighting of violations, incorporating safety credits into formulas), and
• Ensure carrier access to CSA database for expedited resolution of data deficiencies and errors.
These are things ATA is already doing, of course, and all are important. But maybe we can get together and vote for a line of our own: make sure drivers are treated fairly by both carriers and the DOT when it comes to the CSA 2010 driver scores and the Pre-employment Screening Program. Does the data make sense in the real world, and can mistakes be corrected? Or will carriers fire drivers first and ask questions later?
Under HOS, the polite ATA policy suggestions are:
• Educate policymakers on the safety record of the trucking industry operating under the current HOS
• Research more innovative ways to combat driver fatigue that might be more flexible than current HOS regulations, and
• Support efforts to generate scientific evidence of the safety impacts of the HOS rules.
Again, ATA is already working hard on these. So how about: generate scientific evidence that shows whether an experienced driver knows best when he’s good to go and when he needs rest.
As for the driver shortage:
• Address quality of life concerns by developing programs that advance work/life balance, healthy lifestyles and family relationships
• Engage in high-profile marketing and recruiting efforts to get more people interested in the industry (such as ad campaigns, apprentice programs and vocational education), and
• Evaluate the competitiveness of driver pay and benefits to better compete with other professions.
Well, not to be rude, but might we suggest: NO MORE LIP SERVICE about taking care of drivers, while at the same time looking for ways to bring in inexperienced, cheap labor, use them up, and find another batch. How about doing the math on paying beginning drivers by the hour, then giving experienced drivers the option of getting paid by the mile once they’ve proved they run safe. And maybe, if carriers had to pay by the hour, they’d have a little more motivation in making it clear to shippers that a driver’s time is valuable.
I’m sure drivers will have plenty of other suggestions as well — but do let’s keep those suggestions on a professional level. (But feel free to send Biz Buzz a copy of what you really wanted to tell ATA.)
The results of the 2010 survey will be released at ATA’s Annual Management Conference and Exhibition to be held this October in Phoenix, and maybe this year they’ll note a high number of replies from drivers. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll take them seriously.
Like I was telling a sulky teenager the other day: you may not like your choices, but if you don’t let people know what you want, somebody will decide for you.
The survey is available at www.atri-online.org, and I’ll be carrying around a handful on my next few visits to truck stops.
Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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