Connect with us

The Nation

For truck drivers, the grass should always remain greener on the other side of the fence



Covering the trucking industry is like doing the color commentary on an endless, slow-motion game of Whac-A-Mole. There’s a set of issues, and they take turns popping up and vying for attention.

One small difference is, this game is usually manipulated by outside forces. Such was the case in the latter months of 2018, when elections in Canada and in Michigan legalized recreational marijuana use in those places.

This mellow, glassy-eyed mole pops up every time recreational cannabis use gets the green light somewhere, which is now 10 states plus all of Canada, re-raising the question whether professional truck drivers should be allowed to partake in cannabis when they are in one of those places and are off-duty.

This issue may not exactly be up there with, say, reworking the Hours of Service regulations or addressing the parking shortage, but it does briefly fire up passions from time to time.

As a journalist, it is my job to observe and report as a neutral third party. But that doesn’t mean I don’t privately form opinions about the issues and of the arguments being made for or against a given issue.

With almost every issue, both sides tend to go overboard. Those in the anti-marijuana camp (i.e., the entire trucking establishment) are quick to jump on any reasoning they can they can find to stem the spread of cannabis with a zealotry that’s only about a step shy of “Reefer Madness.”

“Just say no” rhetoric aside, when I put myself in a carrier’s shoes, I think they have legitimate reasons for being against cannabis, it’s just that some of those reasons would come off as a bit self-serving. From a practical business standpoint, I can’t see how marijuana legalization has an upside for the industry.

Currently, marijuana cannot be transported over state lines, even where both states allow its use. The way the marijuana industry is shaping up, the product is grown, processed and distributed in short proximity. But even if (and presumably when) interstate shipping is ever legal, I can’t see how cannabis will ever be a big-ticket item for trucking. On a retail basis, marijuana is sold in tiny quantities, fractions of an ounce at a time. America would collectively pass out on the sofa before it could create enough of a market that we would ever see rigs filled to the brim with cannabis products, even in short-haul.

That’s in contrast to all those big, heavy, easy-to-stack cases of booze and beer that are run all over the country. And there is the longstanding fear that legalized weed could cut into the alcohol market. There hasn’t been a ton of research or even anecdotal evidence to support this fear, but why court trouble?

What’s undeniable is it’s hard enough getting qualified truck drivers, and substance abuse is one of the leading disqualifiers among blue-collar employers, even with most of the drugs in question being used in an illegal manner.

Before working at The Trucker, between journalism gigs, I worked for a few months at a major home improvement chain. One of the managers there told me it took them 32 applications for every employee they hire who actually shows up for more than a shift or two. The biggest disqualifier, he said, was the drug screen.

Those who favor allowing drivers to partake (mostly drivers who wish to partake) suggest it’s a matter of personal liberty, that being denied the right to smoke dope is an assault on their dignity and their civil rights.

Somehow, I don’t foresee throngs singing “We Shall Overcome” in front of the Lincoln Memorial over it.

Some may say it isn’t fair to place a restriction like that on people in a given profession. I have two words for your consideration – Ricky Williams.

Remember him? He was one of the top running backs in the National Football League in the early 2000s, but he was also a world-class pot smoker. At the height of his career, facing a third drug suspension, he walked away from the league.

If you read up on him, you’ll see there was more to the story than that, but that’s the popular short version – he chose weed over NFL stardom.

He returned to the NFL a couple years later, but by his own estimation, his self-banishment cost him about $10 million. Now, that’s a man who likes his ganja. Since then, the NFL has eased up a bit on its stance on marijuana, but a positive test is still a punishable offense.

With the Super Bowl in recent memory, it may be hard to believe, but there are few professions of less real value to society than being a pro football player, and certainly they don’t hold the safety of thousands in their hands every time they do their job, like truck drivers do.

Safety is one of the strongest arguments the carriers make, although they often screw it up by overplaying their hand. Meanwhile, those who argue for pot smokers’ rights fail to acknowledge one thing they have in common with drinkers. For a certain percentage, that off-duty vice slowly creeps closer and closer to their on-duty hours, because they don’t or won’t recognize when they’re mildly under the influence.

I don’t want to share the road with someone who is even a little bit buzzed and operating an 18-wheeler, I don’t care what it’s on.

You want a closer comparison? How about pilots? Professional pilots can be drug-tested at any time, and if they test positive for marijuana, they are grounded and could even lose their license.

Being a truck driver may not have the glamour or the paycheck of being a star athlete or even a commercial pilot, but the job bears a tremendous amount of responsibility, and it is perfectly reasonable that the rules of the job are stricter than in other professions.

There are other jobs where they might not be so particular about your lifestyle habits – well, not professional pilot or hardware store clerk, we know that. It’s really a question of what you value most. Heck, Ricky Williams walked away from millions to toke in peace.

Of course, before anyone decides to follow in his footsteps, remember he already had millions, and he wound up making millions more. There is that to consider.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Nation

Arizona lawmakers OK ban on cellphone use while driving



Under the new law, police could issue warnings until 2021, when they could begin writing tickets carrying fines of $75 to $149 for a first offense and up to $250 for a second. (The Trucker file photo)

PHOENIX  — The small list of states that allow either texting while driving or hand-held cellphone use is shrinking after the Arizona House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a cellphone use ban and sent it to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey for his expected signature.

Arizona, Missouri and Montana had been the only three states that hadn’t banned texting while driving. Arizona will join 16 others that bans all use of a hand-held cellphones while driving.

The 44-16 vote on the toughest of three proposals debated by House lawmakers Thursday comes after years of inaction by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The Senate earlier approved it on a 20-9 vote. Ducey has pledged to sign the measure, which takes effect in January 2021.

More than two dozen cities enacted local bans that will remain in effect until then.

The House rejected a weaker ban on cellphone use, but approved legislation that strengthens the state’s overarching distracted driving law on a 31-29 party line vote.

Bills to restrict phone use while driving have been introduced for a decade but haven’t advanced amid concerns by Republicans about creating a “nanny state” that overregulates behavior.

Supporters of the ban pointed to the death of a police officer in January after a distracted driver lost control and struck him on a Phoenix-area freeway. Relatives of Salt River tribal police officer Clayton Townsend and others who have died in distracted driving crashes gave emotional testimony, carrying photos of their loved ones around the Capitol.

The officer’s death gave the proposal inertia that hadn’t appeared despite tearful testimony in recent years by relatives of people killed in accidents caused by cellphone use, said Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, who carried the measure with Rep. Noel Campbell.

The hand-held phone use ban bars drivers holding it unless the vehicle is stopped. Calls to 911 would be allowed. Police could issue warnings until 2021, when they could begin writing tickets carrying fines of $75 to $149 for a first offense and up to $250 for a second.

The second enacted proposal doesn’t explicitly ban texting, but rather outlaws any behavior that isn’t related to driving if it causes an “immediate hazard” or prevents the driver from controlling their vehicles.

Democrats opposed the distracted driving measure, saying it could lead to racial profiling by allowing officers to stop a driver on a pretext. But Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, a retired police officer, said a rogue officer can always find a reason to stop a driver.

Kavanagh said he supported both measures, because some distractions aren’t caused by cellphones and officers need the enforcement option.

“Cellphones so consume your consciousness that you don’t even realize how long it has your attentions,” he said. “So a cellphone bill will take care of that problem. But we need this bill too.”

Several lawmakers talked of deaths or serious injuries of their family members or friends. An emotional Republican Rep. Ben Toma recalled how his younger sister died years before cellphones became popular when a driver distracted by a newspaper hit her with his car.

“There is no doubt that being on your phone while driving can be a significant distraction,” Toma said. “But this is a much broader issue. If this bill does nothing more than save one life we should support it.”

Continue Reading

The Nation

FMCSA reminds truckers drug, alcohol clearinghouse coming soon



The clearinghouse will be a professional truck driver database that will serve as a centralized record of all failed drug or alcohol tests, whether from pre-employment screenings, post-crash tests or random. (©2019 FOTOSEARCH)

Remember two years ago, when it seemed like the entire trucking industry was counting down the days to the ELD deadline?

Well, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) wants drivers to be aware of another countdown happening right now, although with much less hoopla than the Great ELD Panic of ’17.

At the recent Mid-America Trucking Show, Joe DeLorenzo, FMCSA director of enforcement and compliance, gave a presentation to raise awareness about the soon-to-be launched federal CDL Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

Mandated as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, or MAP-21, in 2012, the same piece of legislation that bore the ELD mandate, the drug and alcohol clearinghouse is scheduled to launch January 6, 2020.

The clearinghouse will be a professional truck driver database that will serve as a centralized record of all failed drug or alcohol tests, whether from pre-employment screenings, post-crash tests or random. All refusals to take a drug or alcohol test will also be recorded.

“I came here with a bit of a mission on the drug and alcohol clearinghouse rule,” DeLorenzo said to the MATS audience. It has come to the agency’s attention the clearinghouse has been flying under the radar, a bit, and not enough drivers seem to know about it or they haven’t gotten a full explanation of what the clearinghouse will contain and what it will be used for.

DeLorenzo said drivers have said to him, “Well, I don’t do drugs, so I don’t have to worry about this.”

“Actually, that’s not the case,” DeLorenzo said. “Everybody needs to know about this and get going on it.”

Starting in January, carriers will be required to query the database as part of the new-driver hiring process to ensure that the candidate does not have any failed tests or refusals in the previous three years. Carriers can only gain access to a driver’s record and make the mandatory query with the consent of the driver, and the only way a driver can give that consent is to be registered in the clearinghouse.

So, technically, drivers are not going to be required to register in the clearinghouse, DeLorenzo said. However, if you ever want to get hired anywhere again you’ll have to be registered in the clearinghouse.

“If you’re just kind of staying where you’re at, no intention of leaving, or if you are working for yourself, or if you are nearing retirement, you may decide not to register,” he said. “But in an industry with 100%-plus turnover, I know people are always looking for a new job, a different job, a better job. Any driver who’s going to apply for a new job after this rule goes into effect is going to have to have an account and is going to have to be able to go in.”

DeLorenzo explained why the clearinghouse has been set up this way. Today, when someone applies for a job, they get tested as part of the process. They fail the test and the carrier doesn’t hire them. Three months later, they stay clean just long enough, the apply somewhere else and that company hires them, not knowing about the prior failure.

Starting January 6, carriers will be required to upload notices into the clearinghouse of all failed drug tests by drivers and driving applicants, as well as all refusals to test, as they occur.

The database is designed to go back three years. At first, employers will have to conduct both electronic queries within the clearinghouse and manual inquiries with previous employers to cover the preceding three years to meet the mandated hiring requirement. As of January 6, 2023, they will only need to check the clearinghouse.

Drivers’ records will only contain positive tests and refusals. When a prospective employer makes a query, they will be told if the record is clean. If there are entries, they will be able to get more details.

If a driver has a failed test, the database will also record whether that driver has completed the return-to-duty process.

Drivers will also be able to review their own records, DeLorenzo said, which is another incentive to register. If a driver finds an entry they wish to dispute, they can file a DataQ request to have it corrected.

The clearinghouse website is already up and running. Drivers can go to to read about the clearinghouse and to register their email addresses for any updates. Actual registration is scheduled to begin in October.

DeLorenzo said he is hoping to raise more awareness about the clearinghouse now so they start registering in October instead of finding out the hard way come February when they try to apply for a job.

“What I’m trying to avoid, actually, is human nature, which is to wait until the very last minute.”

Continue Reading

The Nation

Drivewyze completes Missouri weigh installations, now fully deployed with 19 locations



Drivewyze President and CEO Brian Heath noted that Missouri is a centralized state in the U.S., home to major trucking lanes connecting the west and east coasts. (Courtesy: DRIVEWYZE )

501 drivewyze Missouri.doc

DALLAS — Drivewyze has completed its service site rollout in Missouri at all 19 weigh stations across the state. Drivewyze PreClear weigh station bypass is now operational at all Missouri locations, delivering weigh station bypass opportunities to its customers driving in the state.

“Our bypass service network is second to none in Missouri,” said Brian Heath, president and CEO of Drivewyze. “Drivewyze is the largest provider of weigh station bypass service by a factor of almost two — with more than 750 service sites in North America. By providing more bypass opportunities than our competitors, we enable our customers to earn a higher safety return on investment than anyone else in the industry. The time has never been better for carriers to adopt weigh station bypass, or switch away from transponder-based systems. Now, they can maximize our bypass services in Missouri and enjoy the same extended coverage of our transponder-free services offer across the country.”

The final four activated Missouri Drivewyze sites are located in Kearney (northbound), Platte City (northbound), and Willow Springs (both east and westbound). Kearney is on I-35, northeast of Kansas City (between Kansas City and Des Moines, Iowa); Platte City is on I-29, northwest of Kansas City (between KC and Omaha, Nebraska); and Willow Springs is on Highway 60/63, southeast of Springfield.

“Missouri is a centralized state in the U.S., home to major trucking lanes connecting the west and east coasts,” Heath said. “With hundreds of trucking companies based in the state, we are pleased to offer state-wide services to all carriers operating in Missouri, as well as those passing through. This is another step forward for Drivewyze — and our customers — and we look forward to continue revolutionizing the freight industry with world-class service and technology. More bypasses not only improve a carrier’s bottom line, it makes a positive impact on driver’s lives.”

Carriers can eliminate the cost and administration of traditional transponders with Drivewyze. The Drivewyze PreClear weigh station bypass service is integrated with existing in-cab equipment like electronic logging devices, smartphones, tablets and other in-cab telematics systems. Customers can now receive bypass opportunities in 42 states and two Canadian provinces.

The Drivewyze PreClear weigh station bypass application is available on a number of Drivewyze partner platforms, including Omnitracs, Orbcomm, PeopleNet, Transflo, Rand McNally, Zonar, Platform Science, ISSAC and Switchboard. The application is also available for drivers to download on Android and iOS-based tablets or smartphones.

Fleets can request a free weigh station activity report to help them determine how much time and money they could save by using Drivewyze PreClear.

Drivewyze comes with a free Weigh Station Heads-Up service for real-time notifications at more than 1,200 weigh stations and inspection sites nationwide.

To learn more about Drivewyze, please visit 8

Continue Reading