Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Lighter Load: FMCSA isn’t trying to ruin your life, it’s up to you to be happy or not

Friday, August 20, 2010

It's not easy to be happy with your job when the pay resembles that of decades ago, while the prices of things you purchase are at a peak. (The Trucker file photo)
It's not easy to be happy with your job when the pay resembles that of decades ago, while the prices of things you purchase are at a peak. (The Trucker file photo)

Every day we all face things that cause us to be anxious, angry, or otherwise disenchanted with life.

When I go to a local truck stop a few times a month I encounter every kind of trucker over the course of those visits. There are the newbies, the old guys who have been driving 40-something years, and everything in between.

I watch people as I look for someone to interview for feature stories in The Trucker and I have to admit that when some folks turn me down and say something like, “You don’t want to talk to me, trucking sucks,” or some other such negative thing I’m happy to let them go on their un-merry way.

The thing is though, for true journalism I don’t want to just talk to people who are happy and love everything about trucking because that’s not a true cross section of the industry. Very few people are perfectly happy about every aspect of their jobs although I do occasionally find women and men like that as I look for people to interview.

I met one such man recently, Donald Young. You can find his story and photos on page 61 in the Truck Stop feature. He was happy and talked nicely about his company and I don’t think he ever said a negative word. When I interview people like that my day is happier.

I know it’s not easy to be happy with your job when the pay resembles that of decades ago, while the prices of things you purchase are at a peak.

And then there’s the attitude by many that everybody is out to get truckers. I’m sure it feels that way at times and many blame the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for everything they do as if it’s just their goal to irritate drivers.

FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on Jan. 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Formerly a part of the Federal Highway Administration, the FMCSA’s primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. Activities of FMCSA contribute to ensuring safety in motor carrier operations through strong enforcement of safety regulations; targeting high-risk carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers; improving safety information systems and commercial motor vehicle technologies; strengthening commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating standards; and increasing safety awareness. To accomplish these activities, FMCSA works with federal, state and local enforcement agencies, the motor carrier industry, labor safety interest groups and others, according to the FMCSA website.

I’m not here to tell you that I think FMCSA makes perfect rules, but I do want to mention that they catch it from all sides.

During Congressional hearings House and Senate members have been known to verbally attack FMCSA administrators asking why a rule hasn’t been put in place yet, and Congress can insert trucking rules into bills and if they get enough votes can override FMCSA. This puts the FMCSA in a tough spot because they’ve got the trucking industry which includes truckers, the American Trucking Associations, Truckload Carriers Association, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, and others all battling for what they want and most often these associations disagree with each other and truckers often don’t agree with any of them. Oh, and don’t forget the “safety groups” like Public Citizen that probably never agree with anything FMCSA does.

In other words, FMCSA is between a rock and a hard place.

A good example was explained during the annual Arkansas Trucking Association business meeting which was held in Little Rock this year.

Dave Osiecki, senior vice president, ATA, spoke to members and media and amongst other things he talked about the electronic on-board recorders issue.

“There are three rules coming,” Osiecki said in May. “Well one’s already come. Rule number one was published in April. This is a rule that targets historically non-compliant companies, companies that have had some Hours of Service compliance issues in the past. The government believes they need to have all of their trucks with an on-board recorder. This rule kicks in June 2012 so it’s still about two years away.

“Number two is coming later this year and will likely be November/December time period and it will likely cover, at least from a proposed rule standpoint, new carriers, hazmat companies, and bus operators.

“And then the third rule is everybody else.

“So the big question becomes, when does the third rule hit? And it is a DOT/Congressional race to the finish line on that. DOT will get there. Congress may beat them with the Highway Bill and if the Highway Bill passes before rule number three comes about it will include an EOBR mandate for every truck in this industry. We can almost guarantee that.” (When he says DOT, he’s speaking of FMCSA which is governed by DOT.)

So you can see using just that one rule as an example what FMCSA is up against, not to mention that whenever there’s a change in the presidential administration things get put on hold awaiting a new administrator for FMCSA and time is lost while Congress just keeps on ticking and truckers keep carrying loads.

It’s a complicated industry with a lot of rules and as I know because you all tell me, a lot of the problems are the wasted time at shippers and receivers where you don’t get paid and you lose valuable driving hours since most of you only get paid when the wheels are turning.

How do you try to stay positive and upbeat in the world of trucking? That’s an individual thing that only you can do for yourself, but please find a way; find something that brings you joy and do that whether it’s a different job, or a hobby, but constantly living with the FMCSA chip on your shoulder and complaining about it all day every day isn’t going to bring much joy.

Life is too short to spend disgruntled. There are options and we each have to find our own way to find a little or a lot of happiness.

Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at barbkampbell@thetrucker.com.


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