Letters: Entry-Level Driver Training, Cost Containment

These letters appear in the March 20 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Hiring Entry-Level Truck Drivers

I watched the video of your LiveOnWeb: Recruiting Young Drivers webinar (3-15) regarding how to reach the younger generation to become drivers. One thing that caught my ear was listening to Kevin Burch, chairman of American Trucking Associations, discuss the regulatory concerns about drivers under 21 being able to drive intrastate but not interstate. This has been a concern of mine for well more than 15 years. As Kevin has stated, there has been a lot of talk, even a congressional push two years ago, to change the regulation. I agree that if we are to survive as an industry, this regulation needs to be changed.

What Kevin didn’t mention, and very few people understand, is that under that same regulation, not only is a driver under 21 unable to cross state lines, that driver cannot pick up interstate loads. In other words, I cannot bring a load to Michigan from Ohio with one of my interstate drivers and drop it and have a driver younger than 21 deliver the load in Michigan. That same driver is unable to move a load from Michigan bound for Iowa and stage it at one of my Michigan terminals for one of the interstate drivers to pick up and take to Iowa. Even if only this part of the regulation, which serves absolutely no purpose, was changed, allowing a driver younger than 21 to haul interstate-bound freight intrastate, we can begin to hire, train and nurture younger drivers to be interstate drivers once they turn 21.

This opens a virtually untouched recruiting opportunity. My recruiters participate in high school job fairs all the time. We do that to generate an interest in the industry. There are a lot of young people who are interested in the industry but cannot get involved because no one can hire them. They end up going into another industry.

We need someone to be able to plead the cause. I have been in contact with some senators and representatives regarding this issue but without much success. Give it some thought. Maybe someone has some ideas.

Jerry Warnemuende

Vice President of Resource Management

National Truck Brokers Inc.

Wyoming, Michigan

I write in response to the letter “Points on Entry-Level Driver- Training Proposal (2-27, p.8).

I served on the Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee, or ELDTAC, and supported the consensus position to include a minimum number of hours of behind-the-wheel, or BTW, training. The commonsense approach of BTW training follows the practice of leading commercial driver license, or CDL, training schools, which already require a minimum number of hours of BTW training, and numerous state requirements that licensed CDL training schools provide a minimum number of BTW hours.

Experts have consistently recommended a prescribed minimum number of BTW hours for CDL candidates. Congress, concerned with the unacceptable level of truck crashes, in 1991 directed the Department of Transportation to adopt meaningful entry-level driver-training, or ELDT, requirements. In 1995, a federally commissioned expert panel with representation from the trucking, motor coach and school bus industries recommended a minimum number of BTW hours. A decade later, a federal court rejected a proposed ELDT rule that failed to require BTW hours. In 2012, a majority of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee recommended a minimum amount if BTW hours.

Requiring new entrants to receive a minimum of hours of hands-on training is a widely accepted practice in transportation and other occupations. Pilots, for example, must have approximately 1,500 behind-the-stick hours of flight time to fly commercial passenger planes. Likewise, most states require electricians, plumbers, barbers and beauticians, among others, to have many hours of practical instruction to become licensed.

FMCSA’s final rule simply requires that CDL candidates demonstrate that they can perform a series of maneuvers while operating a commercial motor vehicle, but they need only perform that task one time to pass. There is no requirement that a candidate perform each skill more than once. Thus, this so-called performance- based standard requires no BTW training for drivers who can maneuver a truck-trailer combination in an off-road setting. The rule does not ensure that CDL applicants will spend any time actually operating a CMV on public roads with an experienced instructor, encountering safety-critical situations. This is the type of real-world training and experience that new CDL candidates need in order to operate a CMV safely and to avoid crashes.

Peter Kurdock

Director of Regulatory Affairs

Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety

Washington, D.C.

Understanding Simple Business Principles

It occurs to me after working in the less-than-truckload trucking industry my entire adult life that the key to surviving in the deregulated marketplace is to understand a couple of simple business principles.

First: To quote Vince Lombardi, “Complacency is the mother of mediocrity.”

Second: Controlling costs is the key to profitability, as opposed to chasing revenue.

Companies that become complacent about major issues, such as safety maintenance and employee engagement, doom themselves to horrible Compliance, Safety, Accountability scores that prevent them from providing quality services to their customers and thus charging said customers a premium for said services that will allow them to maintain their fleets and their driver base. It’s a dictionary definition of a vicious circle.

Companies that chase revenue often ignore the cost of attaining profitability and thus doom themselves to the next level of business hell, wherein they spend way too much money trying to make money. This is the ultimate Catch-22.

So what’s the solution?

First: Use technology — such as electronic logging devices, speed limiters, lane cameras, event cameras, event recording/reporting, automated manual transmissions and disc brakes. Embrace the future, and control the cost of safety, fuel and maintenance. In the process, your CSA score will improve and you can charge your customers for the quality and assurance you provide them.

Second: Maintain training schedules. Believe it or not, most drivers want to be trained. They want and expect to be told what is expected of them. Managers are — in a way — like parents Children expect boundaries, and so do drivers. Managers should set goals, teach employees how to achieve these goals and then challenge them to rise above their insecurities and become the professional they want to be.

In 35 years, the drivers I’ve worked alongside in the deregulated trucking industry have, almost without exception, sincerely wanted to be the best they can be.

Help them achieve that end.

Jeff Allen

Truck Driver

San Diego