Letters: Truck Weight, IdleAire, Truck Driving Schools, CSA 2010, Classifying Drivers

These Letters to the Editor appear in the Feb. 22 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Truck Weight

The letter from [an official] of Road Safe America that appeared in the Feb. 1 edition contained a number of misstatements and misunderstandings (click here for previous letter).

First, nothing Congress did in December allows 120,000-pound vehicles on Vermont roads, as the official suggests. To the contrary, no additional weight whatsoever is allowed . . . it’s just where 90,000-pound and 99,000-pound trucks can be operated. Under state law, 90,000-pound and 99,000-pound trucks have been allowed to operate off the interstate in Vermont for many years now, with a permit. Under the new federal law — and after implementing legislation that was enacted last month here in Vermont — those same 90,000-pound and 99,000-pound vehicles can now use the interstate.

So, contrary to the letter, no additional size and no additional weight was authorized by Congress. What was allowed was operation on the interstate by trucks that have been allowed on other state highways in Vermont for many years. We think operation of these vehicles on the interstate will be a win-win both for Vermont truckers and members of the general public.

Edward Miller Jr.
Lobbyist and Legal Counsel
Vermont Truck & Bus Association
Northfield, Vt.


I was surprised to pull into an IdleAire spot only to find out it had closed its doors (click here for previous story). What a loss to the trucking industry. With all the talk of healthy drivers, “no idle” areas, no emissions and using less fuel, why lose something that worked?

I know that not all drivers used this service. There were only so many sites with IdleAire hookups, and sometimes drivers would park in those spots and not use the equipment offered.

Also, I have seen some sites say that if you are a member and don’t use the equipment, you have to vacate the spot.

I’ve only been out trucking for two years now, and with IdleAire, to me it gave the trucker a little taste of home, you might say.

It is also cheaper than running your truck: One hour on IdleAire at the gold-card level was $1.85 per hour, while truck engines can use 1½ gallons of diesel per hour or more — and at today’s fuel prices, you figure it out.

As for the health of drivers, with IdleAire you could have heat or air-conditioning, so without it you can’t sleep well either way.

Our government talks about the emissions from trucks and wants cleaner engines, so they give money for this and that. My question is then, why don’t they give money to IdleAire so it can keep helping truckers? And not just truckers: I have seen motor homes and regular pickup trucks using IdleAire, too.

You used to see a cloud around truck stops from all the trucks running, and that had started to be a thing of the past. Well, now what? More and more areas are going to enforce no idling or limit time, which isn’t good for these truck engines, and if it is very hot or cold out, that limited time doesn’t do a driver any good.

I felt I had to express my opinion on this because IdleAire has helped me out in many ways, and this is a major blow to the truckers who are out here days, weeks and months on end, away from home. When will this country wake up and care about what really matters?

To my fellow truckers out there: Be safe, and God bless.

Patricia Sexton
Sandusky, Ohio

Truck Driving Schools

I want to thank Mike O’Connell, executive director and counsel for the Commercial Vehicle Training Association, for his comments in the Feb. 1 “Opinion” column, “Truck Driver Training: The Reality” (click here for previous opinion).

I am a proud CVTA member, and our school is Tennessee’s only private truck-driving school accredited by the Council on Occupational Education. Yet, our East Tennessee national Workforce Investment Act decision-makers think we are not worthy of funding for training our people, who are so desperate for work.

There are many jobs, but no funding for them. It doesn’t matter how good your credit is if you don’t have a job. Try getting a loan to go to school.

O’Connell is right about never hearing the good things our schools do, and there are many wonderful schools in this country.

I have not seen a shortage of jobs; I have seen an increase. I am very proud to have owned my small trucking company since 1960. Thank you again, Mike O’Connell — you said it all.

Nichola Pauline Singletary
Smokey Mountain Trucking Institute
Sevierville, Tenn.

CSA 2010

As implementation day for CSA 2010 — the Comprehensive Safety Analysis program — gets closer, there is bound to be a flurry of concerns emerging. One of the major concerns should be with enforcement: How exactly is this going to be conducted?

Is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration going to go on a national hiring blitz for auditors? What are the expectations of FMCSA’s ability to conduct all the targeted areas of safety/compliance audits as they present themselves?

As it now stands, there simply are not enough enforcement personnel available to conduct current audits, let alone what will be necessary once CSA 2010 is in place. There will be too many audits to perform and not enough auditors to perform them.

Because the audit criteria will change to target only — even just one deficient area of concern — there automatically will be more audits to perform.

We all know how flawed the SafeStat system has been in gathering accurate information from the states — and especially so with regard to accidents. Yet FMCSA still uses this flawed information, in part, upon which to base a safety/compliance audit, even though the information was removed from SafeStat years ago because it was not accurate.

This same information source will be what generates an audit going forward. The carrier involved should not have to be the one to clear up inaccurate information for FMCSA, especially after they show up at your door.

How easy is it to get bad data removed with FMCSA’s DataQ system for filing concerns about federal and state data made public by agency, and what is the success rate in doing so?

To begin with, we should demand accurate state reporting. We are held accountable for compliance assurance, so why aren’t the states?

As for not holding the driver accountable for his or her inaccuracies and/or violations with the onset of 2010, that is not acceptable. The drivers are the propelling force behind an audit. Without holding them accountable while doing their job, the company is still at their mercy.

Companies simply cannot continue to attempt compliance assurance after the fact; the time to address violations and accountability is at the time the violations are observed.

Lawrence Hartung
Director of Safety
deBoer Transportation Inc.
Blenker, Wis.

Classifying Drivers

I just read an article in Transport Topics Online about a California judge ruling against a company for “misclassifying” its drivers as independents rather than employees (click here for previous story).

There was no information in the article about the exact conditions of the classification. Is there any way to find additional information?

For instance, were the drivers using company-owned vehicles, or were they driving their own? Were drivers supposedly purchasing the trucks from their “employer?”

One of the main Internal Revenue Service qualifications in classifying someone as “independent” or “employee” is “Does the individual have a substantial investment in the tools needed to do the job?” In the case of truck drivers, owning a truck is definitely substantial, no matter to whom you’re making payments, and if they qualified as independents under IRS rules, who is the State of California to deem otherwise?

Judy LaFleur
Selland Auto Transport Inc.

Editor’s Note: Yes, we do sometimes not provide enough information in our shorter stories. In this case, the California attorney general’s office said that Pacifica had exclusive authority over its drivers and provided all of the trucks, equipment, fuel, repairs and other business-related expenses for these workers.