Letters: Healthy Drivers, Tolls And More

These Letters to the Editor appear in the Oct. 3 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Healthy Drivers

This is in regard to the Sept. 5 story headlined “Fleet Executives Promote Healthy Habits to Increase the Length of Drivers’ Careers” (p. 1).

I would like to congratulate you on identifying and writing about what I believe to be the most important driver safety topic but is in most cases overlooked in our industry. I particularly appreciated your article because our most recent driver safety meeting was focused on this exact topic and had a great response from our driver force.

Continue your quest to promote healthy lifestyles and habits for our industry’s most valuable commodity — the human equity of our beloved drivers — as you have my commitment from the senior management side to promote the same with our group and do everything in our power to provide our own drivers and staff with the tools they require to get there.



Ron Thorner

Operations Manager

Gorski Bulk Transport Inc.

Oldcastle, Ontario

Tolling Virginia’s I-95

I recall Interstate 95 was tolled in Virginia back in the 1980s (“Virginia Eyes Tolls on I-95, Truckers Upset by FHWA’s Preliminary Approval” 9-26, p. 1). I think they removed the booths in 1992 or so. It’d be interesting to see what the reasoning was for that removal and what the numbers were for revenue and costs at the time.

The situation fascinates me because it is not often one can find history about to repeat itself so identically. Someone who is investigating the feasibility must be digging up and analyzing those numbers. It would be very interesting to see what they have to say. If they aren’t looking at this, they should be.

That’s my two cents.

Braden Copeland

Owner

Braden Copeland Ventures LLC

Atlanta

Well let’s look at this way: I’ve got a load of “foodstuffs” headed to Harrisonburg, Pa., with a stop in Baltimore. I’m going to add the cost of the tolls up and down the Interstate 95 corridor to my northbound shipment (we all know the southbound is a joke for revenue) — so let’s say it’s 1% of the cost. Then I’m going to add another 1% for profit — I’m not giving a free loan to the shipper, who’s going to take 30 days to pay me. Then the consignee is going to add 1% to 2% to cover the cost of my increase, let’s just say 2%, and then the restaurant is going to add 1% to 2% to cover the increased transportation cost.

Let’s say everyone went with 2%: The consumer has just absorbed another 6% increase, and I’ll bet his/her annual raise didn’t cover that jump.

Raising the fuel taxes would be more beneficial. At least trucking companies would stand a potential for a “refund” through IFTA — the International Fuel Tax Agreement.

On this, I will agree with American Trucking Associations: Virginia is still far cheaper than any of the other mid-Atlantic states for fuel taxes. I’ve been in transportation for 20 years, and I believe that Virginia’s fuel tax has remained the same the entire time. Georgia, my base state, has gone from 7 cents to now 18.5 cents with its variable tax rate structure.

Terry Blackwell

President

Hooker Transportation Services

Villa Rica, Ga.

Distracted Driving

I just finished reading in the September 2011 issue of Trucking Minnesota magazine about a driver working for a Minnesota carrier who was fined $1,700 for texting while driving. My first reaction was one of shock — that’s a pretty hefty fine. Thinking about it, I came to the realization that we, as an industry, have to pick up the ball and do something about this. We need to police ourselves before the government gets involved and we end up with another unreasonable law that makes no sense.

Let’s face it, the government has good intentions, but they tend to overreach.

We need to look no further than the Sept. 19 Transport Topics article about a new proposal by the National Transportation Safety Board titled, “NTSB Recommends Total Ban on Cellphone Use by Truckers” (p. 3).

Studies show that if you text while you drive, you are more than 23 times more likely to have an accident or a near miss.

The risk is far less if you hold a cellphone and talk on it while driving. But while the risk is lower, it should be unacceptable for us to tolerate it. Data show that talking on a hands-free telephone is no more distracting than talking to a passenger in the passenger seat while you drive. This is acceptable in my mind. It also is enforceable.

So, what should we do about it? The first thing we need to do is look at our policies on cellphone use. What are they? Are they enforceable? Do they make any sense, or are they just there to cover us in the event something tragic happens?

We can’t ban cellphone use outright because that would be unenforceable. It also doesn’t make any sense. We can be proactive and implement policies that are enforceable. A policy requiring the use of hands-free telephones makes sense.

If you choose that route, I suggest you either issue the devices to your drivers, give them out as rewards for things like “driver of the month” or encourage your drivers to purchase them.

Next, we need to talk to our drivers. Give them the information that’s out there so they understand why we are doing this.

In addition, contact your elected representatives and let them know you support common-sense rules.

If we sit on our hands on the sidelines, none of us will like the end result of this debate. If we are proactive, contact our elected representatives, educate our drivers and work toward a common-sense solution, we can make our highways safer while cutting off overreaching legislation before it has a negative effect on us and our drivers.

Larry Krog

Safety Director

Golden Ring Trucking Inc.

Fergus Falls, Minn.

Driver Respect

I get frustrated when I read articles about reducing driver turnover that suggest the solution is this one magic bullet called “driver respect.” That’s a narrow and outdated approach that is simply no longer effective in the trucking industry. Consider the following scenario:

You really like your boss and believe that (s)he respects you and your work. However, you’ve been offered a job at Company X across town that pays $2,000 more a year, has better medical benefits, more advancement opportunities, newer offices, better training and requires a lot less overnight travel. During the latest recession, they didn’t cut wages like your employer did, and in talking with current Company X employees, they claim their bosses are equally respectful.

The follow-up questions are these:

• What would you do in this situation?

• Why would you think drivers would act any differently?

In 2005, driver turnover at large truckload carriers peaked at 135%. The importance and effectiveness of driver respect in regard to driver retention were as widely publicized then as they are now, and in the six years that have passed, many, if not most, trucking companies have made treating drivers with respect part of their culture.

To be clear, over the years the importance of driver respect has not diminished. It’s just as important today as it was then. What has changed since 2005 is that driver respect is no longer a unique recruiting/retention attribute for companies in the trucking industry. It’s simply the price of admission.

To attract and retain drivers today, trucking companies need to focus on all influences of driver retention. Some of these retention influences were included in the above scenario: compensation, medical benefits, home time, equipment, advancement opportunities, training and respect. While not a full list, these seven influences most likely were enough to convince you to switch employers.

If your company is serious about improving driver retention, you need to move past the outdated assumption that treating drivers with the respect they deserve by itself will solve your turnover problems. If that remains your approach, I hope for your sake there isn’t a Company X operating in your region.

Joe White

CEO

CostDown Consulting

Grayson, Ga.

 

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