Sunday, August 14, 2005

Trucking and Drug Trafficking

OOIDA takes driver coercion to task in its comments
The problem with the current hours-of-service regs is that they do not address the fundamental problem facing truckers today: coercion.

That was the message the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association delivered loud and clear in its comments on HOS to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

"Some drivers, however, express concern with the current rule because they have faced pressure from motor carriers, brokers, shippers and receivers to log on-duty time as off-duty (or sleeper berth) and to maximize their amount of time on the road (use the full 11 hours of driving every day and get back on the road precisely after a 34-hour restart)," OOIDA officials stated in the association's comments.

"This is not a problem with the rule per se, it is the age-old problem of driver coercion."

And that won't change until FMCSA directly addresses the problem, OOIDA points out.

With the War on Drugs and with Highway Safety, the government goes after the unpopular groups to show they are "doing something" without risking serious political backlash. You can attack Supply all you want, but if you don't address demand you aren't going to make a real dent in the problem. With drugs, the pols are afraid of the voter backlash if they dared to say little Johnny is the root of the problem, so we go after the Cartels and the smugglers and the dealers, all of whom indeed richly deserve to be punished. But the problem doesn't get a whole lot better. With Trucking, no one wants to take on Wal-Mart and the organizations that represent shippers and receivers (i.e. most every business in the US), so we go after truckers and trucking companies. Since most of the general public doesn't like trucks (never mind they would like life without trucks a lot less, we're in a NIMBY/free lunch culture) everyone important is happy. Of course , the problem doesn't get much better. The solution is to require shippers to ship their products legally. The shipper must not require a load to be delivered in less time than it can be safely and legally transported (including loading and unloading time). I'd go beyond that and say a comprehensive transit safety solution needs to be developed. Stricter equipment standards, better driver training, EOBRs, and harmonized strict safety rules across the different states would all help. I think a minimum tariff coupled with reasonable truck size and weight enhancements could reduce the number of trucks on the road without drawing traffic from the Railroads onto roads (indeed if the tariff was high enough and permanent it would provide incentive for more rail infrastructure spending and changes in shipping habits) and enhance safety by pulling operations away from the razor's edge of Survival (Pay the driver or put new tires on the truck?).

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