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No Truck Idle Risking Health and Safety of Truck Drivers

Smart Way EPA

Smart Way EPA

The last year for the professional truck driver has been filled with many challenges.  The recession has caused many drivers to take a significant cut in pay, drivers still endure negative retaliatory DAC comments by former employers, “fleecing” scams still exist, owner operators maintain their struggle with high fuel costs, HOS rules that cause conflict with shipper and receiver appointment times (creating fatigue from lack of sleep), the talk of new DOT medical requirements, and lets not forget CSA 2010, which has the entire industry buzzing.

With all these issues to contend with, I find none more inhumane than the “no idle” and “limited idle” laws and rules which are being enforced for large trucks by either the states or the trucking companies.  These regulations are disguised  as “being green” and “environmentally friendly,” attracting praise and recognition  from the general public towards the trucking companies  who voluntarily enforce them.

These trucking companies are more than happy to enforce  such idling regulations, as it not only gives a positive recognition from the general public and the conscientious “go green” advocates, but it also creates a larger profit and bottom line. How perfect is that?

Trucking companies are so concerned with the environment that they have teamed up with the  Smart way EPA program, creating their own strict limited idling rules for their drivers. This program gives awards to companies that are most compliant and “eco friendly”, and many times you will see these company trucks proudly displaying their partnership with Smart Way, sharing their enthusiasm for caring for “Mother Earth” and fuel conservation….But here comes the truth….the other side of the coin.

What the general public doesn’t realize is that by carriers creating limited idling rules, truck drivers health and safety is being placed in harms way. I don’t need to tell you what it feels like to be in your vehicle when it is either extremely cold or hot. Many of us turn on the ignition and cannot even wait the 5 minutes that it takes for the air or heater to work, and yet these laws and “carrier idle driver rules” are being enforced against their drivers, expecting them to sleep in 90+ degrees and sub-freezing temperatures without air or heat.

There are some companies that have trucks with an APU ( Auxiliary Power Unit)  on board for their drivers, but not all companies and not all of their trucks.  If you think about it, why would they?  The APU’s are too expensive.   After all, they do not have to sleep in these inhumane temperatures, right?  It is only the dog sleeping in there, I mean the driver . . . wait, I forgot, you are not allowed to have an animal in the truck under those conditions . . . drivers ok, pets not ok . . . what’s wrong with this picture?

Many of the Smart Way Partners are winning awards for being the “best ” in compliance ( SMART WAY EPA AWARDS), by forcing their drivers to abide by limited idle rules so they can receive and be recognized for their gallant efforts towards improving the environment and conserving fuel.  Yet, they are risking the health and safety of their driver employees.

So the next time you see a truck proudly displaying their Smart Way Partnership, give them a call and ask them what percentage of their trucks have an APU for their drivers, ensuring their drivers’ health and safety?  It is  just another way of asking them, ” Do you treat your drivers humanely?”

Many others within the trucking industry are concerned about this limited and “no idle” enforcement. Here’s another post by TruckerDesiree  of RealWomenInTrucking who has also written in detail about it.

Also Rhianna Weir, the Madison Trucking Examiner, has an interesting challenge for those of you  who may or may not believe just how serious a problem this is.

2010-  The Year of Safety!!!

For your additional reading enjoyment I wanted to share this article in the McDowell News, ” New State Rules Have Truckers Sweating.”

The article explains new rules in the state of North Carolina:  The North Carolina Environmental Management Commission now requires that operators of heavy-duty trucks refrain from idling their engines.   I wrote a lengthy response to the article, however, it was not posted, so I’ll post my response here.

Response 7/17/10  by Allen Smith

“I find it always amazing that those who wish to appear to be advocates of various causes or missions, will often do so at the sacrifice and expense of others, not to mention the total lack of respect and the disregard of another human life.

I wonder if Sheila Holman would be quite as emphatic and passionate about her remark, “Exhaust from idling trucks is a significant source of air pollution that we can’t ignore,”“The idle rule will help improve air quality while conserving large amounts of fuel”,  if she or her family and friends were the recipients of the sacrifices required to reach these goals. In other words, I would like to know how she would feel if she and her children were made to sleep in a 100 degree closed truck ( 60 days consecutively) and then be expected to work a 14 hour day, driving 80,000 pounds down the highway safely and alertly.

Tell me Ms. Holman, would you be quite as worried about the air quality or saving fuel then?  Answer:  I DOUBT IT.  How easy it is though, for Sheila Holman, National director of the NC division of Air Quality, to so boldly, proudly and confidently share this air quality improvement solution with so many, accepting applause and recognition for doing such a marvelous and sacrificial job as she rides off in her air conditioned car and sleeps in her air conditioned home.

My suggestion to her is that if she truly believes this is the way to improve air quality, then she should request that herself, her staff, her family and friends, refrain from turning on the air at night, so they may also share in this much needed conservation and sacrifice.

Now, as far as the other statements:

“The EMC points out that some truck stops have power connections, so truckers can plug in their rigs and not have to idle the engine to keep warm or cool.  The release also points out that a truck can have more than one source of power installed.”

Let’s start with the “some stops have power connections”. Well EMC, that means that “some do not.  It also means that the driver pays for that, not the trucking company. . . Which brings up another fact that the general public should be aware of . . . drivers continually survive on limited wages, which by the way, the trucking companies have significantly reduced further because of the recent economic recession. Many of these drivers are new drivers, receiving sometimes as low as 18 cents per mile (between 200-400 dollars per week, depending on how many miles they drive).  Figuring that many send home most of this to their families, how much do you feel they would be able to spend keeping themselves cool or warm, depending on the weather?  I doubt many can even afford the 10-15 dollars per night for these luxuries of heat and warmth, let alone a motel room, which some extremely ignorant and naive folks have even suggested.

Let’s move on to the APU units which would solve all the idle problems, right?  Well yes they would, in a perfect world that is.  Company drivers have no authority over this. The Carrier decides whether or not they want to place APU’s in their trucks in order to accommodate their drivers health and comfort. MOST DO NOT!!  Yet, many of these companies are receiving awards for their “green efforts” again, on the backs and sacrifices of others while they themselves enjoy the comforts and luxuries of daily life.

I will end with this:  It is this kind of inhumane thinking and treatment which contributes to the former 128% turnover rate of drivers as an ongoing problem. Many people do not stay in trucking, or bounce from company to company, hoping to find a “good company”.  What is ironic, is that they define good as one which will not exploit or abuse them.

What keeps the trucking industry moving is the continuous influx of new drivers, those who do not know that they will be treated badly because they have been told the sugar coated “happily ever after” recruitment story. Many of these drivers leave the industry, and so the truck driver turnover rate continues.  One day, drivers may get fed up . . . and God help us all if that happens. Think about it, and then be concerned: No food, medicine, NOTHING!

What’s the saying?  “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”  Furthermore, stop telling truck drivers want they can or should do, until you have lived their life.

© 2010, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.

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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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9 Responses to No Truck Idle Risking Health and Safety of Truck Drivers. - Post a Comment

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Allen Smith, Chuck Emanuele. Chuck Emanuele said: No Truck Idle Risking Health and Safety of Truck Drivers … […]

  2. Q-Ball

    Amen… amen.

  3. Alan;

    Like much of the ‘green’ movement, it appears there are detriments to these policies. The basis of green policy should be market-driven efficiencies, not government mandated or subsidized.

    Thanks for the article.


  4. Allen Smith


    You sent me a FB email that I will get back to you on. I just haven’t had a chance yet…I haven’t forgotten.


  5. […] no idle law is being pushed by the Smart Way EPA program and many trucking companies are beginning to instigate […]

  6. Thomas

    I invite anyone to come ride on one stretch out with me any time of year.I have to be away from my fam. for a min. of 45 days at a time to make 2000 a month if I am lucky. I have no apu but vent window screens for when its hot and a pair of -30 sleeping bags I double when its cold.If you think you can hang.BRING YOUR A**!!!. I WILL SHOW YOU THE TRUTH UNCUT UNCENSORED. PLS SHOW MY EMAIL SO THE TREE HUGGERS CAN CONTACT ME.

  7. Berry Henson

    The no idling laws are the main reason I do not go back to trucking. I have driven in heat and extreme cold and I will not sacrifice myself for a job. I currently drive a school bus and make no money, but I get to sleep in my own bed each night and stay cool and warm. Until truck driving companies and the governments decide that they want stuff delovered in order to keep the economy going then I will have nothing to do with them. They are slave drivers and they don’t care about their drivers. So to hell with them!

  8. Barnabee

    Hi Allen

    I’m not driving truck, but drive Commercial Motor Coach over a decade.Not only the state but in Canada to.
    The rules ??
    Let start with 11 hours driving and 4 hours on duty/day.
    Not even a street dog would survive that.
    Idle law?
    You said right, non of the “Big Shot” how invented this enslavement low experienced what it take to survive on the above mentioned brutal conditions.
    I would call the idle law this way:

    “Idle law= Save a leaf, kill a human”

    Would be a eye opener bumper sticker.
    In may humble opinion at list 70% of accident involving commercial heavy vehicle the driver fatigue factor coming from the above mentioned discriminatory low and they enforcement’s.
    Sitting in the hot sidewalk drinking cold water for hours then go and drive cross country will not make you rest at all.
    Unfortunately nobody will care if the company can save couple of gallons of Diesel/day on you (the dog) sorry it could not be the dog.
    To do that to a dog or cat, living any animal in a hot car it is considered to be a criminal act by federal and state laws. !!!
    The only solution I see here to get a god layer and find a loophole to reclassify my human status to for example to DOG.
    In that way I would be not only allowed to run the A/C or heat respectively to the condition, but federally mandated to do so.
    I think a dam god layer can get me of the hook, if I have a dog or cat in the cabin so I run the A/C or the heat for the pet,not for me the second-class human.I’m just pet sitting because I care and or follow strict animal protection laws.

    Unfortunately writing any state representative will not change anything, since they not in our situation,and they would not do any of our job at all under current laws, and that is a fact.

    Currently I drive a 2016 Motor Coach and there is not a single air bag in that DOT approved commercial vehicle at all.I’m 100% sure the officials created this Idle law and the rest of the harsh situations for us, have several air bags in his or her government issued vehicle also unlimited idle time for them self.
    After all we the taxpayer fit the bill for all the unjustified expenses.

    This is my 2 cents comments for the above mentioned DOT regulations.

    Allen, can you tell me if is there a new 2016 idle law for Florida??
    I did google it, but could not find anything new regarding Florida.

    Thank you for your effort, and the rest of the operators supportive inputs, at list we try to have a voice here in your Blog.
    Again unfortunately we all have better chance to hit the lottery jackpot than have any of the unjust mandates to change on the subjects.



    • Allen Smith

      Truck Idling Laws By State

      List of Truck Idling Laws by State for diesel trucks

      Truck Idling Laws By State is a compilation of information for diesel truck drivers. This information is intended to be a general overview and may not be complete. It should not be relied upon as a complete source of state, county and local restrictions as they are always changing.

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