Changes to trucking regulations frustrate drivers
Filed by Ben Allen in Feature.
November 14, 2012
Mentioning regulation often sends the mind to thoughts of government blocking business. In the case of the trucking industry, that would require actually throwing up roadblocks. Not exactly the case here. But as we’ve outlined all week, government regulations do have an impact, both good and bad, on the industry…
Ike Glass has driven trucks all his life, tagging along with his dad as a teen. Now, he’s far past his teens, but still runs and manages his company based in Newkirk, about an hour due north of Stillwater. With 78 full time employees in constant motion, keeping all the pieces in the puzzle moving is hard enough. Then, there’s the government.
“From the time our guys start a truck up, they’re regulated, from there on.
In his noisy office, Ike pointed to a couple forms that become a driver’s companion for the ride.
“Here’s a daily log which the drivers have to keep on a 24 hour basis, every stop they make, and that’s a regulation. Here is a vehicle inspection report.”
For Ike, the problem isn’t necessarily the log – it’s a good way to keep track of everything, and once they go electronic, things will get easier. But when a guy calls it a night and forgets to fill it out completely, sometimes this happens:
“Log book not current, last entry was at 8:30 PM. And this is at 8:30 AM, the next morning.”
“He wasn’t on top of the ball game. or he should’ve been that day. I want you look here, that’s all we got in here. Now this is just for this year, see. We haven’t been going very long. You can see there, that’s how those are, for every state.”
But how does this impact the cost of doing business? That’s difficult to say. There’s the built in cost of the paperwork – printing it, putting it in the system, and getting it checked by the Department of Transportation. But tangible added costs? Depends on who you ask. There is one issue that constantly came up though.
“The new hours of service regulations make it necessary for a driver, after he’s driven his 10 or 11 hours, he must stop that truck, no matter where he is. Now it doesn’t make any sense at all, does it? But he’s supposed to stop that truck, and get his 10 hour break.
“I might throw in here a comment that they don’t even make people in jail stay in bed 10 hours.”
Those come from the US Department of Transportation. The regulations just went into effect earlier this year. The Department says they’re trying to keep drivers safe by giving them enough time to rest. Ike says ten hours of required rest makes his drivers a little less efficient.
“If he’s sitting beside the road because he’s forced to stop due to a regulation, he’s not making any money.”
All of this presents a problem, according to Ike. The number of trucking firms escaping regulation is dwindling, as the feds have made an effort to get them following the law. There aren’t the numbers to back his claim up yet, but Ike says it’s all making a difference.
“It’s kinda hard to go to Washington and refute some of the regulations when the fatality rate is going down.”
I asked him if he thought it was because of regulation.
“Yes, yes. People are being regulated now that never paid attention before to it.”
So to Ike, regulations aren’t a terrible thing. But he does wish there was more leeway. One of his drivers blew out a tire on the highway, and continued driving to get to a safe spot and get help. That got the attention of the Highway Patrol.
“But they could be flexible. We find them being flexible, there are some that aren’t. Like the guy that got the guy with the tire, he wasn’t flexible. But we have that happen all the time and nobody writes us up for it. They know you gotta get some place before you can change a tire. You can’t just stop out there.”
The regulations will always exist, and in many cases, Ike admits to a point, they help keep drivers safe. But he wishes his drivers could have a little more freedom, and weren’t expected to be exactly perfect, all the time.