Letters: Port Battles, Telemarketers, Carbon Footprint, Sleep Apnea, Buy American

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

Port Battles

Who is paying the legal costs for the Port of Los Angeles to pursue the “employee only” model? How much taxpayer money is being wasted on a lost cause that has been reviewed and re-reviewed in the courts?

It’s obvious that organized labor and the liberal local administration are behind these efforts. I would appreciate more aggressive reporting of what’s driving the issues, as opposed to regurgitating information readily available to the public.

R. Pople
Vice President for Operations
[Company Name Withheld by Request]
Santa Fe Springs, Calif


The economic recession has been especially difficult for the truckload carrier industry, as capacity continues to exceed demand. To fill empty trucks, many companies have turned to both telephone and e-mail to contact potential customers. On a given day, my office receives an average of 15 calls from telemarketers who want to quote “spot” pricing, complete a bid package, and inquire about how my shipments are routed — or who want to e-mail information about their firm. Every caller, without knowing anything about my business, can save me thousands of dollars.

While these times are difficult for the trucking industry, they are equally difficult for shippers. It should be no surprise that the majority of industries have reduced staff in order to cut costs, with shipping and/or receiving departments as no exceptions. Logistics managers who have survived internal head-count reductions now are managing multiple disciplines (beyond shipping and receiving) for their employers.

Logistics managers want to be professional with these telemarketers. However, the average manager doesn’t have time to address these calls. Some aggressive telemarketers randomly dial numbers until they speak with a “live” person. This is followed by a continual stream of e-mail messages.

Telemarketers also should check a current client roster before contacting a new “prospect.” Telemarketing calls or e-mail sent to current clients send the wrong message to those clients.

To carrier executives who read Transport Topics I say: Please stop the telephone solicitation and e-mail messages. Forward your credentials via postal or express delivery service. Allow potential clients looking for new suppliers to contact your firm based upon your credentials.

Richard Kerth
Corporate Logistics Manager
BWAY Corp.

Carbon Footprint

With all the buzz about reducing carbon footprints, one would think that someone would have developed a clean, straightforward, uniform method of calculating it. My research to date has shown no real leader in this area. Does anyone have any recommendations?

Ralph Folkes
Assistant Vice President  for Transportation
L’Oréal USA
Clark, N.J.

Sleep Apnea

In January 2008, a medical-expert panel put together by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published recommendations on updating the current guidelines for identifying commercial drivers with obstructive sleep apnea. That’s a good thing, because OSA among the truck driver population is a serious problem.

According to FMCSA, more than 28% of truck drivers currently suffer from mild-to-severe sleep apnea. Further, drivers with severe OSA are 460% more likely to be involved in a severe crash in a seven-year period than drivers with no sleep apnea (FMCSA Publication FMCSA-RT-04-007).

“What’s the problem?” you ask. It’s lack of uniformity.

Since that expert panel provided only recommendations, it is left to the interpretation of these recommendations by the individual medical provider as to whether to have a driver screened for the condition.

Take our company, for example: We operate six terminals, and each of those terminals has a medical provider who conducts physical examinations for our drivers.

Unfortunately, each of those medical providers interprets the expert panel’s recommendations differently. One physician uses body mass index, neck size and any other indicators present. One uses BMI only, regardless of any other factors or indicators. One is fairly uneducated on the subject of sleep apnea and we presently are educating him.

You see the problem.

What’s worse is that a less-than-scrupulous provider, who may have a financial interest in a sleep clinic, will interpret and misapply the recommendations for his financial gain.

And then there is the issue of doctor shopping: A driver with OSA has an incentive to have his or her physical done by a provider who knows little or nothing on the subject, and when he or she takes that physical to an unsuspecting carrier that does not require its drivers to visit a particular medical provider, there is potential for a fatigue-related crash.

The problem of a driver with OSA is not solved; it is just in someone else’s truck. Not only does this create an “unlevel” playing field among carriers, it’s just plain risky business.

What’s the answer? In my opinion, and as much as it pains me to say it — regulation.

The recommendations are just that — recommendations. There is no requirement for them to be followed, although prudent carriers will ensure their medical providers do so. This is an evolving situation, but until the recommendations become regulation, they will be subject to misinterpretation, misapplication and abuse.

In the interim, make sure your medical providers are educated on the subject. Talk with them about the criteria they are intending to use to determine if a sleep study or other treatment is warranted. Forewarned is forearmed. None of us wants to go before a jury and have to prove there is no way we could have known or suspected one of our drivers involved in a crash had sleep apnea.

Tim Shephard
Vice President
Safety and Risk Management
Howell’s Motor Freight Inc.
Roanoke, Va.

Buying American

The U.S. government recently reached an agreement with Canada to exempt certain Canadian raw materials and manufactured goods from the “Buy American” provisions in the stimulus bill. In return, the Canadians agreed to open up provincial and local procurements to U.S. firms.

The move should be embraced by anyone who favors free trade, economic recovery and job creation.

The Buy American provision, no matter how well-intended, is a jobs killer, not a jobs protector, especially when applied to our northern neighbor. More than $1.2 billion in goods and services crosses the border every day, most of it carried by trucks. But that tells only half the story. The sheer volume of trade is impressive — the greatest exchange of goods and services on Earth.

But what is unique, and so essential when it comes to jobs, is the deep integration of everyday economic activity.

Preventing firms on either side of the border from bidding cross-border on state/provincial and municipal projects only hinders and delays the business activity the stimulus was supposed to stimulate. In exempting Canadian firms from Buy American, the Obama administration got this one right.

Earl Eisenhart
Transportation/Trade Policy Consultant
Government Relations Services