In what was called the “Good Old Days”, truckers were known for their strong-willed, tough-as-nails persona, never to back down from a regulatory fight.
Running the road was their way of life, just give them the load, step back and let them do what they do best. All they asked for was a decent week’s pay for a decent week’s work.
Back in those days, trucking companies treated the driver like part of the family; at that time, they actually appreciated and respected the professional truck driver.
Then along came government
As time changed, it was obvious some things were necessary, such as:
- The NTSB which was established in 1967 as the federal government’s primary accident investigation agency for all modes of transportation.
- The United States Department of Transportation (DOT ) established on October 15, 1966 to ensure a “fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.“
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, established in 1970 by the Highway Safety Act of 1970.
- The FMCSA, established January 1, 2000, who’s job is to improve the safety of commercial motor vehicles and truck drivers through enactment and enforcement of safety regulations.
As highways and interstates grew more crowded, obviously the need to establish further regulatory bodies were inevitable. However, as is the case so often with government, the hunger for power and money overtook common sense and decency:
- Many motor carriers began to look at drivers as a “dime-a-dozen” and saw the ability to make more money by exploiting drivers as cheap labor
- Company paid CDL training programs were developed, which most keep the new driver in debt and working for thirteen to twenty five cents per mile
- New CDL license requirements gave us CDL training schools which for many, haul in thousands of dollars for the schools while leaving many CDL graduates with no job after completion.
As the industry grew larger and more efficacious, the driver became less important and money became the overpowering goal. Through the years, drivers became worn down by the constant bombardment of regulations, rules and policies and for many, they have come to see the industry that they chose for their profession, become a relentless, constant attack against their personal livelihood:
- The ATA welcomes new Cross Border Trucking Program
- FMCSA proposes EOBR mandate
- States enact Anti-Idling Laws
- New HOS rules to take effect
- NTSB proposes cell phone ban for truckers
- FMCSA establishes Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program
During the 2011 National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, it should be pointed out to the ATA and regulatory agencies that “Appreciation Week” should be an event held all year long. It is a good “week” to have, but then we will go right back to normal operation and treatment of our professional truck drivers.
Truckers’ Resistance Broken
On October 19th, 1954, The Hartford Courant, published 1923-1984, came out with the headline: “Truckers’ Resistance Broken, Drivers Say.” The story began with:
“Nine trucking companies today made good their threat to file a 10 million dollar damage suit against a striking AFL teamsters union and those firms that have signed contracts on the union’s terms.”
Needless to say, the companies won and the drivers were defeated. Now, in 2011, perhaps we are seeing that the resistance of many drivers are also broken. All too many comments from drivers show that their wills are broken and perhaps today’s professional driver no longer has the “fight” left in them.
As big trucking associations baby-spoon truck drivers with acts such as an “Appreciation Week”, next week . . . it will be “business as usual.”
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog
On the other hand, not all drivers are broken. There are still those drivers who voice their opinions and concerns to the FMCSA, NTSB, the ATA and others. There are still drivers who are not intimidated by these organizations and associations and continue to stand up for their rights through their blogs, articles, books and other forms of technological communication.
There are still, and always will be, those drivers that are unwilling to back down from a just cause.
© 2011, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.