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:
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.