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July 8, 2013 4:00 AM, EDT

Letters: A Helpful Suggestion, Our Tax Dollars

These Letters to the Editor appear in the July 8 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

A Helpful Suggestion

The two highest costs for most trucking companies are fuel and driver labor (not always in that order). When it comes to fuel, most industry companies find relief through surcharges, which allow them to bill shippers for pump prices above a baseline per-gallon cost.

Driver labor does not have a baseline or surcharge mechanism to bill shippers for wage increases paid to retain and attract a shrinking driver labor pool. In terms of net cost, a carrier’s driver labor expense is increasing, and will continue to increase at a far faster pace than fuel because of fuel’s offsetting surcharge.

There could be a solution: For years, American Trucking Associations has provided quarterly driver turnover frequencies to the industry. Why not approach the same trucking companies that now supply turnover data and ask them to provide driver wage information?

Ideally, go back in time as much as possible to see where we can develop credible baselines. From that point forward, reconstruct annual average wage information in terms of cents-per-mile (by the same carrier types used in turnover frequencies — large truckload, small less-than-truckload) and in terms of average annual driver wage per year. Average annual driver wage per year is needed as driver pay is made up of other non-mileage components such as productivity and safety bonuses.

With a baseline and historical annual driver wage averages, each year carriers could point to the increase in ATA’s “Driver Labor Wage Index” when requesting rate relief. Who knows? One day, we may even have a Driver Labor Surcharge based on our new index.

Joe White

CEO

CostDown Consulting

Grayson, Ga.

Our Tax Dollars

Recently, an article in Transport Topics headlined “Trucking Industry Awaiting Court Rulings Over Legality of Banning Felons as Drivers” caught my attention (6-3, p. 4). It said attorneys were waiting to see how the courts interpret guidance issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that “could make motor carriers with blanket bans on hiring convicted felons subject to allegations of discriminatory hiring.”

These developments fly in the face of logic. At first glance, it seems folly that one government agency promulgates rules that are in conflict with another. But then again, that’s your government dollars at work.

For years, the entire industry has shunned ex-felons like the plague — and for good reason. People who’ve been found guilty of a felony have proved they’re willing to break the rules — serious rules with serious consequences.

And anyone but a fool knows that to be a safe, professional driver, a person must be rule-abiding. It’s part of the job. It’s called “compliance.”

For decades, common sense prevailed. Reasonable people agreed that truck drivers should be responsible and compliant. But now we have nearly 12 million ex-felons in America,  and the government doesn’t want them on the dole. So what does the EEOC do? They gin up some “guidance” on hiring practices so they can foist these guys on you, the employer.

You’re stuck between the rock and a hard place: If you hire a felon and he screws up (e.g., a collision, injury, altercation, road rage, cargo theft, etc.), you get raked over the coals by some opposing attorney. However, if you err on the side of caution, you could get sued for rejecting a felon who claims discrimination and adverse impact.

What can you do?

We strongly encourage you to use a systematic hiring process and some type of screening tool to determine an applicant’s tendencies regarding rules and compliance. If you can’t rely on cold, hard facts such as previous convictions, at least you can assess an applicant’s values and personality traits and use that information as part of a compensatory model for making an informed, legal and defensible hiring decision.

Our firm isn’t anti-government — we’re anti-stupidity. Like you, we want safe and compliant drivers on the road, not rule-breakers.

Mark Gardner

CEO

AvatarFleet

Macedonia, Ohio