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10/8/2012 8:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Letters: 85 mph Road, Driver Shortage, Biofuels vs. Food

We hear constantly of the trucking industry’s need for experienced, safe, reliable drivers. But there is a whole pool of drivers out there who are practically locked out of the industry.

Let me explain.

I have seven years of over-the-road driving experience in the eastern third of the United States. I have driven in and made deliveries in all the big East Coast cities, including New York and Boston. During my seven years I had zero accidents and zero moving violations. (OK, I got a parking ticket in New Jersey once.) I have never had a driving-under-the-influence charge or positive drug test in my life.

After a year of driving, I became our company’s trainer, taking new, inexperienced hires out on the road for two weeks of hands-on training. I am clean, reliable and articulate, so I am excellent at customer relations. Sounds like the kind of driver any company would jump to hire, right?

Here’s the thing — 10 years ago my wife and I went overseas to do mission work for our church. Wouldn’t the fact that I am a pastor and missionary make me even more attractive as an employee? Forget it. Trucking companies now will look only at the past three years of driving experience. If you haven’t driven in the past three years, you start over. That means (1) go to a big trucking company’s driving school for several weeks, (2) go out on the road as a trainee with minimal pay for a few more weeks, (3) then go OTR and stay out for three to four weeks at a time. This is absurd.

After you have driven safely for seven years you do not forget everything you ever knew about driving. Of course, there are new hours-of-service rules and other new regulations you need to know. Maybe my backing is a little rusty. But that can be handled by going back to school for a two-week refresher course.

Anyone who knows anything about driving knows that safety is only partly about driving skills and the rest is about your attitude and mentality. If I was an ultra-safe driver for seven years, would I have turned into a careless, reckless driver in the intervening 10 years?

To add insult to injury, I recently saw an ad from a major carrier that under “driver qualifications” said, “No more than two preventable accidents in the last year.” That means they are willing to hire someone who has had two preventables in the past year, but not someone who drove seven years without even a traffic ticket. Go figure.

If the trucking industry wants to find more safe, experienced drivers, it should look at each driver applying for a job on a case-by-case basis and eliminate arbitrary rules about how recently you have to have had that experience.

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