Drivers are a little hard to understand in one key respect, and I say that after having spent more than 40 fulfilling years in their company: they won’t organize themselves into an effective lobbying group. Or is it that they simply can’t?
Maybe it’s just an impossible dream.
There are most certainly reasons why they should exhibit solidarity in an effort to improve their lot in life, especially the over-the-road contingent. The issue that springs first to my mind is the lack of truck parking facilities almost everywhere you look. What a drain on efficiency that represents. What an awful source of frustration.
That’s bad enough on its own, but now combine it with idiotic Hours-of-Service rules and the straitjacket of electronic logging devices. I don’t mean, by the way, that HOS measures are inherently stupid, rather that the ones we have effectively exclude those that don’t live with ordinary sleep patterns and deny them adequate rest. They also don’t fit some types of trucking. Trucking, after all, is not a precise art. ELDs just make things worse, and penalize drivers who need to waste an hour trying to find a safe place to park. Or shut down early when they’re lucky enough to find one.
It’s an utterly ridiculous situation. What did regulators think when they tightened the HOS screws, that they could just leave drivers out in the wind – or more literally on the side of the road — while things sorted themselves out? I think that’s exactly what happened.
The problem is simply stated: take an inability to park the truck and mix it with an unforgiving electronic cop and what do you get? High blood pressure and wasted time. That said, lots of folks do like ELDs because they can take dispatch out of the mix – if you also take parking out of the equation.
If ever there was an issue that demanded solidarity amongst drivers, you’d think the parking schmozzle would be it. We hear the moaning and groaning, for sure, but the reaction overall seems to be simple resignation.
But this isn’t about specific issues. I’m writing about the driver’s apparent unwillingness to organize so as to influence government policy.
Over the years there have been quite a few efforts to build driver and/or owner-operator associations but none of them has truly worked. Some of them aimed for quasi-union status but mostly they just aimed at gaining a seat at the decision-making table. Without a lot of success, even though regulators actively want input from the steering-wheel crowd. Or at least they say as much.
The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, an 80-year-old body made up mostly of provincial and territorial government officials, along with federal representation, is one venue where individual truckers and small fleets could theoretically be heard. The CCMTA does not involve politicians, I hasten to add, nor does the organization include trucking associations – contrary to what many people seem to think. It is not an offshoot of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. Anyone can attend their meetings. Its broad responsibility is to engineer the control of motor vehicle transportation and highway safety.
I know drivers, owner-operators, and small-fleet owners who have invested time in the CCMTA’s HOS and then ELD deliberations. By and large, with jobs to do and mouths to feed, they couldn’t sustain their presence at such meetings. And others who did make their voices heard seem to have been dismissed. Just the other day I read comments from a western cattle-hauler who couldn’t convince CCMTA delegates that HOS rules as presently constructed don’t offer anything like the flexibility he needed. He quit the business as a result and is now pulling tanks.
The only thing that might conceivably change that kind of response is a strong and unified voice – and crucially, a charismatic leader. We don’t have either on a national or provincial scale and probably never will.
A week before I wrote this, I asked an old-school driver friend of mine why that’s the case.
“We’re not looking at the bigger picture of the power we have as an industry,” he said. “We as an essential industry need to influence any type of government decisions and or plans. The parking situation is ridiculous.
“Everyone is scared to lose their job… No one is going to take the first move and organize. Unfortunately it’s an all-about-me attitude today. Back in the day we helped each other, but with today’s drivers they aren’t interested in the industry, it’s become just a job, and not a lifestyle.”
It may be a little more complex than that, but I believe my friend is on the money. At the heart of it all, I fear, is something I’ll call the ‘little guy complex’. Drivers see themselves in a poor light, at the bottom of the ladder and powerless to change anything. They’re also inherently independent. Altering those mindsets wouldn’t be easy.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on all this.
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