Letters: Early Safety Adopted; Reregulation

These Letters to the Editor appear in the July 20 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Any trucking company that takes the leadership position in safety and in clean air is to be commended. But doing so through high-tech safety and Environmental Protection Agency ventures makes the outcome risky (‘Take Heed to Safety’s Early Adopters,’ Opinion, 7-6, p. 7; click here for piece).

Unless you are all on the same playing field, it isn’t a fair game. When the decision is made to invest in high-tech safety ventures, what is the expected outcome — notoriety, accident/incident damage cost reduction, reduction in personal injury?



Notoriety should not even come into the picture, but it does, and besides the cost savings in running a safe fleet, there is a moral issue, as well. We all should be striving for a safe fleet simply because it is the right thing to do. That should be the driving reason for improving safety — cost reductions will follow automatically.

It doesn’t take high-tech safety ventures to improve on safe driving; it takes a very focused, hands-on, safe-driving culture from the company.

Buying into all the safe-driving ventures now available can price you right out of the market and out of the competition — especially now with the troubled economy. You can’t get the freight rates needed to offset the cost of your daily operations as it is, let alone that of high-tech safety feature costs on top of it.

One of my safety instructors had a saying that went like this: “In the days of the horse-and-buggy, accidents were nearly nonexistent because man did not have to rely on his own intelligence.” Do you know what? Man still doesn’t have to. We now accept a level of risk associated with our driving behavior. We invent seat belts, air bags, break-away engines, etc., just to compensate for the driver’s lack of safe driving and/or thinking ability.

We need to get back to the basics. We don’t need to invest in all this high-tech safety equipment just so the driver doesn’t have to think about what he or she is doing regarding safe driving.

As for the EPA, I’m all for cleaning up the breathing air, but within reason — and I’m not convinced our current approach is the right one. Wouldn’t it be easier to simply keep the engines tuned and eliminate all unnecessary idling? But again, that would require some thinking and some discipline. It’s easier just to come up with ways that we don’t have to think about.

Lawrence Hartung

Director of Safety

deBoer Transportation Inc.

Blenker, Wis.

I just finished reading “Take Heed to Safety’s Early Adopters.” Our company, Pohl Transportation Inc., operates 130 tractors. We are 100% dry freight operating longhaul in 38 states east of the Mississippi River.

All our trucks are equipped with a collision-avoidance system and we have been spec’ing the component since 2002. Half our trucks use a lane-departure warning system and current plans are for all our trucks to use the system. We also use automatic transmissions in all our trucks, as we think this is another important safety component. We were early adopters of anti-lock braking systems and tire inflation systems. One hundred percent of our 325 trailers are equipped with tire inflation systems.

Unfortunately, we also have been thinking in the same manner as Steve Williams of Maverick Transportation. Is the extra cost year over year really worth it? Not only is there additional cost to spec the safety component, but the cost to maintain the component along with the downtime creates doubt in our minds on the question: “Is this the right direction to be taking when so few of us do?”

Too often, because of poor engineering, poor quality and/or poor installation, we are faced with costly towing, downtime, driver dissatisfaction and late deliveries — none of which are covered under warranty.

True, the insurance companies absolutely love us and desperately seek our business. Other than a mattress in the road causing a rear-end fire on one of our trucks, our last insurance year resulted in basically a zero loss ratio. But with most companies, truckers, brokers and shippers not regarding safety in the manner we do, there is no way we can compete with their rates — ridiculous rates, to be honest.

Your article is a much-needed article. I hope it will result in a benefit for those of us with safety on our minds and those who travel the roads daily — our employees and the traveling public.

David R. Pohl

Vice President, Finance and Management Information System

Pohl Transportation Inc., Harold J. Pohl Inc., Pohl Logistics Inc.

Versailles, Ohio

Safety, Reregulation

The July 6 issue of Transport Topics had two amazing opinions and comments that simply shouldn’t be ignored. I won’t go into the details of the book, but everyone should be required to read “1984” by George Orwell, and then maybe letters like the one headlined “Reregulation, Please” or opinions such as Howard Abramson’s [“Take Heed to Safety’s Early Adopters”] won’t be written again.

Beginning with the reregulation letter, are we suggesting here that all industries should be regulated or just those that benefit the pro-reregulation letter writer? (Click here for previous letter.)

Air travel has been opened up to everyone by deregulation. The cost of telephone service has declined dramatically since deregulation. Freight rates have declined because of deregulation.

Yes, some companies have failed, but others have thrived. Adam Smith’s proverbial “invisible hand” works magic on businesses. The innovative, the creative and the hard-working reap the rewards of their endeavors. Some choose wrong and fail — and in recent times a lot fail — but the market rewards the best-run businesses naturally and without regulation or some omnipotent government body taking over our very lives.

Once the government has stepped in, where does the line stop? The present administration already has indicated that prices wouldn’t be the only thing regulated but compensation, as well.

Yes, some regulations are necessary. But even without regulations, do you not think that the successful trucking companies would be safer than the unsuccessful ones? The lawsuits alone destroy unsafe companies. More regulation isn’t the answer.

Now, let us discuss Abramson’s article. Who is not in favor of clean air or water? Regulations were and still are necessary to ensure clean air and water for the future. Let’s face it, businesses may find it hard to justify protecting our air and water on economic reasons alone. But if we are suggesting that the federal government should mandate or subsidize products, especially specific products, we enter a central-planning scenario that leads us to disaster. Let’s face it — when solar, wind or any other source of energy becomes economically viable, the oil and coal industries are toast.

I personally think that if not for too much government, we would have nuclear power plants supplying much of our electricity needs today. Government mandate always disrupts the natural process and many times leads us down the wrong road. Ask the former Soviet Union leaders.

Let the market decide and not a centralized few. Even if someone genuinely wants to help — and I assure you that many of our elected officials are out for their own agenda — they do not have the vision, information or intelligence to be right 100% of the time. No one does. Anyone who claims they do is either a liar with an agenda or deranged.

The market will always reward the right decision and punish the wrong one. As proof of this, we are getting ready to destroy our economy, our nation and our freedom on the cross of climate change (formerly known as “global warming,” but in “1984” style they simply changed the name because the earth is no longer warming and now act like it was always called “climate change”).

I don’t think the lack of government tax breaks will stop an

innovative company from experimenting with new technologies. In fact, our tax system should not be so burdensome that it has such an effect on business decisions. A simple lower tax on everyone, as proved by Reagan’s tax policies in the early ’80s proved this. During economic downturns, many may curtail research spending but when the business cycle recovers, the innovative companies will start research again.

Hopefully, everyone will start realizing that more government is not the answer before it is too late.

Marc Stewart

Former Owner

Shipper’s Transport Co.

Nashville, Tenn.

 

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