The End of the Independent Trucker

by John Galt
November 2, 2016 19:45 ET

Today, Warren Buffett, the railroad industry, and the anti-trucking alliance won a huge victory which soon will mark the end of the independent trucker, aka, owner-operator in America.

From the Wall Street Journal logistics pages tonight:

Appeals Court Upholds Trucker E-Log Rule

While the headline itself seems innocent enough, after all, safety on the roads is important, right? Afraid not gang as the secondary headline tells the tale of woe about to end the independent trucking industry:

Drivers association says requirement makes members vulnerable to employer harassment

How bad has it gotten? In the old days, when I was deeply involved consulting and managing large fleets, the owner-operator was critical to the successful operation of trucking operations in the new Just-In-Time (J.I.T.) manufacturing environment. Safety was always paramount, but the new regulations and insurance requirements imposed since those days have forced margins down to less than 4% in many operations and barely break even in smaller companies which were 100% dependent on independent truckers to haul their freight.

With the evolution of robotic technology on the horizon, the industry was going to face a massive decline in employment anyways, along with the dilution of quality of fleets with the introduction of NAFTA permitted Mexican operations working within the United States, but now this decision could mark the end of the glorious days of the American Trucker. The man or woman who delivered your produce to the grocery store, meat to the butcher’s shop, or auto parts cross country safe and sound will soon become a romantic notion from America’s best days.

The story highlights why the employer harassment threat is real (excerpted):

A federal appeals court upheld a safety mandate that will require millions of truck drivers to record their hours behind the wheel using electronic logging devices.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed a lawsuit against the Transportation Department to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March saying that the required use of “e-logs” violates drivers’ constitutional right to privacy and fails to protect them from harassment by their employers.

But a decision this week by the appellate court said the rule, which goes into effect in December of next year, adequately addresses OOIDA’s concerns over potential harassment by expressly limiting the scope of information that e-logs should track.

The electronic logging device is nothing new, but now commonplace in the industry. It is a modern efficiency which allows various state enforcement agencies to download driver data on hours of operation remotely without the driver even know about it in some cases, but without a doubt as a driver passes through various weigh and inspection stations throughout the states. Unfortunately at the behest of the railroad industry and investors like Warren Buffett investing millions of dollars in “trucking safety” lobbying groups the persecution of truckers has increased in the last twenty years to the point where I discontinued my association with the industry due to the handwriting being on the proverbial wall. Insurance costs were deliberately hiked, the Department of Homeland Security imposed absurd security and regulatory checks on drivers while letting Mexican and Canadian drivers operate within the U.S. without background checks, and state transportation departments quit operating as enforcement arms and became revenue production centers for corrupt state and local governments.

More from the article:

“We are disappointed and strongly disagree with the court’s ruling,” said Jim Johnston, president and CEO of OOIDA, in a statement. He said OOIDA, which has 158,000 members, including independent truckers and small fleets, is “reviewing our next steps to continue our challenge.”

The rules are meant to limit drivers’ time behind the wheel to prevent accidents caused by fatigue. Traditionally, driver hours have been tracked on paper logs that officials say are easy to falsify, though many large fleets have already converted to e-logs.

The e-log requirement was introduced as an enforcement measure that could reduce both intentional and accidental error in paper logs. But some drivers have protested the additional tracking of their movements, saying employers can abuse the oversight, and that some time restrictions hinder their ability to make safety decisions based on weather and road conditions.

I’ve known Jim for years, even though he won’t remember me writing under this pen name. He is 100% accurate in his statement. The regulators and employers have become so petty that if a driver is 30 minutes from his house and en route to his or her home, they would rather penalize and fine the owner operator then hold them at a weigh/inspection station for 8 hours than give them permission to proceed home; all while the company deducts from the driver’s earnings any time he used to take his equipment home for rest, maintenance, or personal reasons.

Good luck buying that cup of coffee for the Mexican trucker or robot trucker at the truck stop; I doubt they could give a crap less about our nation or the performance of their job even close what the old owner operators used to do for this country.

God Bless our Truckers and it is a shame that we have come to this, selling safety regulations to billionaires while ignoring a group of true venture capitalists who based their earnings on their own performance as a professional.

This will indeed mark the end of America’s last cowboy; a freedom loving, patriotic soul who loves this country and only wanted to do a good job because that’s the American thing to do.

  • billdeserthills

    America barely resembles the once free country she was. The gov’t has conspired against We the People- -The only reprieve I see is if Trump gets into office, otherwise it’s gonna just be more of the same 8 years we already had

  • Lloyd Bonifide

    The thing all these e-log articles fail to point out is the havoc this will cause in the practical, day-to-day operation of a truck or fleet.

    Get detained at a customer so they finish you after your hours are up? The customer may insist the driver leave. With paper logs, the driver had the flexibility to at least make it to the truck stop, even if it meant fudging the logs. When e-logs are in, that’s a violation. And yes, over hours or not, the customer CAN make the driver leave, regardless of what under-educated truckstop lawyers say.

    If the truck has been stationary for several hours and the customer says he can put it in the dock now, and it’ll make the driver start his 10 hour break over from scratch, you think he’s moving the truck? Only if he’s stupid or independently wealthy.

    Change parking places at a truck stop? Go to the truck stop across the highway? Move your truck a little to make more room for another driver or to move away from a loud reefer or stinky bull hauler? Not when the recorder is installed. And those are just the ones off the top off my head. There are probably a dozen other ways this will hurt drivers.

    They continually make it harder to work in the industry then wonder why there’s a driver shortage.

    • Lee E Tibbetts

      Misinformation doesn’t help. I can move 2 miles before the elog kicks in. This is the same mentality that had a Cargo Transport driver take her 30 minute break in the fuel island. She didn’t even pull forward for the next driver to fuel.
      I left the industry on paper in 05 to serve in Iraq, I came back to elog 9 years later. I have adapted, that is what true professionals do. If you can’t make a living running legal with elogs, then maybe they aren’t the problem. Maybe compensation needs to go up. The rule of supply and demand will take care of that.
      I agree that a little flexibility is in order. 70 hours in 7 days would be helpful. I mean really, what does it matter what I did 8 days ago as long as I have my 10 hours of rest?

      • Lloyd Bonifide

        No, misinformation doesn’t help. Your system is the only one I’ve heard of with a 2 mile tolerance. Most are substantially shorter. Just watched a YouTube video last night from a driver whose tracking trips about 50% of the time after 50 feet. Sometimes. Sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, 2 miles usually isn’t enough to get you back to a truck stop if a shipper or receiver doesn’t let you stay.

        While making a living is a factor, it wasn’t my point. It was that we’re forced into a situation in which we can do nothing other than break the law. On paper, you could safely fudge it long enough to get parked, or to shut down long enough to let rush hour traffic end before going through Atlanta. No more. Now the threat of robots taking our jobs isn’t enough, we have to be robots in the meantime, no longer using our own judgment. We’ll no longer drive the truck; the truck will drive us.

        As for your 10/70, fatigue is cumulative through the week. But a 34, even unlimited 34s should be allowed.

        What else should be allowed is an amendment to the new law mandating that under no circumstances can the law be used to prevent a driver from proceeding to the next place with safe & legal parking, food, and plumbing.

  • Michael Private

    What would happen if ALL truckers went on strike. They would have the world by the balls with NOTHING anyone can do because law can’t fine or take to court million truckers. Because why the law did it the world be screwed. Think about it.

    • Aleksandr Shunyayev

      For one, there are now more company drivers than independent drivers. For two, everyone got payments; mortgage, car, CC etc. Everyone is for themselves. Even if such strike did take place, the impact would be so insignificant that it would hurt truckers more than the anything else.

      • William Curtin

        Wrong Michael Private, it doesn’t have to be a traditional strike. If drivers in each sector had rotating sick outs while giving tearjerker interviews it would be enough to bring the politcals to heel.

      • William Curtin

        It doesn’t have to be a traditional strike. If drivers in each sector had rotating sick outs while giving tearjerker interviews it would be enough to bring the politcals to heel.

        • Gregory Bailey

          Solve nothing

        • randolph jones

          Just shut down for 1 month and it would put the real hurts to the goverment to make them scream for all the truckers to come back

          • Jax

            Shoot just shutting down for one day would cause the entire world to be greatly concerned people need their goods!

    • Gregory Bailey

      Most are to stupid are to broke

    • Rey d’Tutto

      Just In Time works well when parts show up.
      When parts are delayed, JIT causes more delays and higher costs than it “justifies” in savings.

  • Gregory Bailey

    This the reason i want. Join.they wasting money over scrap

  • MIKEEEEE

    paper logs are for cheaters.

    stupid O/O’s brought it on themselves.

    i know, i started driving in november 1963.

    worked legal since 1979.

    retired march 2014,

    give a guy a chrome peterbilt with a straight pipe and he’ll work for a dime less a mile.

    • The problem is eLogging and the current atmosphere dismiss common sense. Instead of enhancing and expanding competition, it is being used by the railroads and major trucking companies to create a limited monopoly where independent operators can not compete due to over-regulation and false stories being promoted about trucking safety. Add in the new garbage EPA regs and soon enough, everyone will get their wish with robotic semis and little if any human involvement as the system evolves. Will it be better? Doubtfully. There is always a need in every industry for independent thought, innovation, and true capitalists.

      Most people have no clue the nonsense o/o have gone through in the last twenty years nor the harassment they endure to work for diminishing margins.

    • Jax

      Elogs vs paper logs depends on the driver…

  • Lorenza Brewster

    Here it is in a nut shell it has always been said no one can make an entry on a log except the driver of that log anything else is falsified and punished by fine or jail so how can a this be legal when something else is creating your log so werner should have been fine although years for falsified logs now having a black box like planes is something but your D.O.T. book say it no one can make entries on your logs we really win with that

  • Lorenza Brewster

    Due to the E-Log i have notice that more company take longer to deliver loads if a computer problem comes up you still have to carry a paper log to cover you till that problem fixed and all that editing you do is still cheating so if you like being watched that close that why y’all are called steering wheel holder not truck driver

    • randolph jones

      And that’s why your called a dumbass who holds onto car steeringwheels do I need to say more?

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