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Drivers Are True Collateral Damage of CSA


The premise of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s CSA program was to finally hold both motor carriers and truck drivers accountable in adhering to the established safety regulations in place for the trucking industry. It was in fact, described by many, as a good thing for the industry as Rickey Gooch of Justice for Truckers points out that the FMCSA had stated that their intent with the CSA was to “greatly raise shipping prices and to force bigger pay for drivers.”

It is no secret that for decades, motor carriers have pushed professional drivers into situations that have caused them to blatantly disregard the FMCSA’s Code of Federal Regulations. However, in all fairness, there have been many drivers as well who have purposely set aside the regulations, but for the most part, the reasons why between carrier and driver have all been for very different reasons.

A high majority of trucking companies have and continue to place the movement of the freight above and beyond the safety of the driver as well as the regulations. Dispatchers continue to assign loads to drivers who do not have the hours available to perform the job within the limits of the FAR’s.

Mr. Gooch points out, “Dispatchers have been one of the least regulated entities in the transportation industry. The temptations for dispatchers to over motivate drivers to deliver loads that are mathematically impossible to deliver have been ignored for the most part by carriers.”  (Ref: Today’s CSA Update).

This form of dispatching has less to do with temptation, but rather the standard mode of operation for most motor carriers. When choosing between customer and driver safety, the customer most often will come first. The majority of carriers operate this way in complete indifference to the regulations due to the fact that they have been able to so for decades. The majority of drivers who have disregarded the regulations have and do so, for the most part, for a difference reason, mainly in fear of losing their job.

Truck drivers who refuse to violate HOS rules or to operate the CMV in a way that would violate a Federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Regulation are protected from any kind of retaliation by the trucking company, under the STAA, 49 U.S.C. Section 31105. However, this law seldom sways carriers from continuing to terminate drivers for doing just that. Therefore, even today, as both driver and carrier face the enforcement of the CSA, drivers’ are still taking their chances against the FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, rather than facing employment termination in a fragile job market.  Even so, professional commercial drivers are proving to be the true collateral damage of the CSA.

As news releases report that commercial vehicles are being shut down by the FMCSA, the numbers are most often misleading as it pertains to the number of vehicles and not the number of actual companies. A report from May 27, 2011 shows that 315 commercial buses were removed from the highways due to safety issues; In September of 2008, news reported that 1,200 buses were placed out-of-service due to regulatory violations and just today, 03/25/2013, bus company, Rimrock Trailways and Rimrock Stages was shutdown due to the same reasons.

Most recently, trucking company, General Trucking Inc., was given a shutdown order after finding a company-wide practice of violating federal safety regulations, including disregarding driver qualification requirements by dispatching unqualified drivers, inadequate monitoring and controlling of driver compliance with hours-of-service requirements, and dispatching and operating unsafe vehicles which were grossly overloaded; a clear example of how drivers are responsible as well as maintaining safety regulations, yet remain silent in reporting due to fear of termination.

In the example above, where 315 buses were shutdown, 127 drivers also faced the order and as the 1,200 buses were placed out of order, 225 drivers faced the same fate. As the CSA continues its wrath on the bus industry, it is only a matter of time before the agency will turn its focus on the trucking motor carriers. Both driver and carrier have responsibility in public safety: the carrier is to adhere to the regulations as it applies to the driver and the driver must adhere to their responsibility for reporting such infractions by the carrier.

The media likes to report large numbers such as 1,200 because this number looks good; however, it is the number of  vehicles, not “companies.” One carrier can have thousands of vehicles, but which looks better for the news?

  1. “Officials shutdown 1,200 commercial vehicles today …” or
  2. “Officials shutdown 2 companies today …”

As carriers continue to abuse the system by ignoring the regulations set-forth by the FMCSA and intimidating their drivers to do the same in fear of losing their jobs, one company with 1,000 vehicles could face a shutdown causing 1,000 drivers to pay for the infractions of one carrier.

Rickey Gooch sums up his message to carriers this way:

“Do you really believe the DOT will let all of the illegal dispatcher actions continue on and there will never be a judgment day? Do you really? Do you think that the DOT would be talking about our dispatcher problem if they were not going to take action against owners, dispatchers, safety managers and drivers? You have been keeping the records for them to do it with. The DOT is coming and just don’t be surprised when you and your staff are not ready.”

Drivers must stop holding back in standing up for their rights when faced by the common pushing by carriers and by those drivers who continue to show disregard for the rules. Either way, sooner or later, when the CSA catches up with their carrier, they will find themselves out of a job, making them nothing more than collateral damage.

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By: Allen Smith

Allen Smith is a 37 year veteran who started at an early age in a household goods family moving business. He began driving straight trucks in 1977 and moved to the big rigs in 1982. His experience within the industry includes; owner operator, company driver, operations manager, and owner of a long distance HHG moving business, taking many of the long haul moves himself when needed. Allen Smith, a truck driver advocate who is driven by the desire to help others succeed within an industry where injustice, unrewarded sacrifice, and lack of respect and recognition exists. Allen and his wife Donna are hosts of Truth About Trucking ”Live” on Blog Talk Radio. Other websites include AskTheTrucker, TruckingSocialMedia, NorthAmericanTruckingALerts, TruthAboutTrucking, and many Social Media websites. In 2011 Allen and Donna hosted the first Truck Driver Social Media Convention, designed to create unity and solutions for the trucking industry. This is now being extended through the North American Trucking Alerts network as those within the industry join forces for the betterment of the industry. Allen strongly supports other industry advocates who are also stepping up to the plate to help those who share honesty, guidance and direction. He believes that all those involved in trucking need to be accountable for their part within the industry, including drivers, carriers, brokers, shippers, receivers, etc… The list of supporters and likeminded people grow daily, networking together and sharing thoughts and ideas for the betterment of trucking. He has coined the popular phrase "Raising the standards of the trucking industry"

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3 Responses to Drivers Are True Collateral Damage of CSA. - Post a Comment

  1. Kathy

    “As carriers continue to abuse the system by ignoring the regulations set-forth by the FMCSA and intimidating their drivers to do the same in fear of losing their jobs, one company with 1,000 vehicles could face a shutdown causing 1,000 drivers to pay for the infractions of one carrier.”
    After working for one of these ^^ companies(12 trucks) I can tell you that FMSCA is doing a good thing by shutting down them down. I was forced to drive beyond the hours of service in order to keep the job, drive trucks that were seriously lacking the DOT requirements. Nothing mattered except making money. In cases like this and as a new driver when no one else will hire you, what do you do? I did end up quitting after a week and was blessed with a great position but thats not always the case, many drivers have to get the experience so they stay. I know a lot of drivers feel picked on by the DOT and its sad that 1000 drivers lose their job but as long as their record is fairly clean there are many other companies to drive for. Im not an advocate for too much government intervention but I applaud the FMSCA and the job they do in getting these horrendous companies off the nations highways.

    • Allen Smith

      And you make my point precisely, Kathy. These carriers should be shutdown and it is long overdue! The side effect of this, for many drivers who are operating in compliance, or at least trying to, end up falling by the wayside due to the actions of the carrier(s) that have been going on for way too long. The CSA has been a long time coming and now, these carriers are paying the price for their long-operating practices. I am no way saying that the CSA is a bad thing or a program that is not needed, quite the opposite! It is just a shame that so many good drivers are being effected by these carriers’ failure to operate within the guidelines of the FMCSA regulations.

  2. alex

    I quit driving in 2006 because of the very same problems described here. I think the CSA is about 30 years overdue imho. When i was driving the main problem was the inflexible shippers and receivers who ruled the dispatch office. These trucking companies are so fearful of losing their contracts that they have no problems intimidating truck drivers into break the law.

    As well intentioned as this crack down seems to be. i still don’t think that they are addressing the root problem. Here’s to hoping they can fix the real problems in this industry so i can get back to what i enjoy doing instead of working a boring job which barely pays the bills.

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