Is a new Independent Trucker program about to be unveiled by the ATA ? According to American Trucking Association President Chris Spear, the ATA will be announcing the formation of the Independent Contractor Ambassadors Program, a program which appears to be designed to bring independent truckers into the fold of the ATA.
This announcement was part of the Annual ATA meeting ( Oct 27-31) where many ATA concerns for the trucking industry were discussed according to FreightWaves article
Spear speech to ATA reveals organization plan to reach out to independent drivers
The trade association OOIDA has long been thought to represent professional driver, however, some drivers feel that their efforts are focused more towards Owner Operators, Independents, and small fleets, not company drivers.
When the article announcing the ATA’s Independent Contractor Ambassadors Program hit the Social Media scene, the reactions were swift and fierce by all truckers, including Owner Operators and Independents. The most common of all replies by drivers to this announcement of recruiting independents into the ATA was ” The ATA does not represent me.”
Many of these comments included expletives which we won’t include in this article, but it displayed the shear disdain drivers have for the ATA. Most believe the ATA represents the interests of large carriers, not company drivers, owner operators, or independent truckers.
Our immediate Social Media response after reading the article was:
“Reading this article I can see what the ATA plan is, the writing is on the wall.
ATA wants to pin the owner ops against the company drivers to give them more leverage in their fights with FMCSA, Congress, etc…; Example; Denham Amendment, ELD’s and ATA Meal & Rest Break Petition……
These are the same owner operators they screw with their lease purchase programs.
The reason they want to do this, is becausc they need “drivers” to push their agenda.
Their war is on company trucker wages: Denham Amendment and” paid for all time “
What o/o’s need to understand is that when company drivers wages suffer, all wages suffer, including o/o profits.
ATA will use independents like foot soldiers to fight against the interest of company drivers and for the interest of the Mega’s, shooting themselves ( the independents) in the foot while doing so.”
Another response which came out immediately was from TruckerNation.org, a trucker advocacy group founded by Tony Justice. This group and organization is best known for its’ fight against the ELD mandate where they introduced a Petition to the recent FMCSA ANPRM for Revising Current Hours-of-Service Regulations for Interstate Truck Drivers
TruckerNation FB group response to article:
“There is only one organization that represents truck drivers whether they are O/O or company drivers, either or, we are all truckers… Its been in our mission statement (TruckerNation.org) from day one! Its funny watching these other organizations now trying to make themselves appear as though they represent opposite sides of the industry that they work for???
Prime example right here of how to gauge when you doing something right.
Don’t let this snake in your garden!!!”
For years the ATA has lobbied for more regulations against the interest of professional drivers, including introducing the ELD mandate in Map21. Among other differences, the ATA has fought for speed limiters, the Denham Amendment to Override State laws which protect driver wages and safety, increasing Federal truck size and weight, lowering age for interstate drivers to 18, and trucker wages.
Company drivers vs Independents
Trucker wages are not directly being lobbied per say, but by introducing legislation to Congress, specifically the Denham Amendment, the ability to control how and when truckers have to be legally paid, would impede the long sought possibility of wage reform, which includes being paid for all time working, including detention time.
The Denham Amendment is written in such a way, that if passed, it would result in revised Federal law which would relieve carriers from the obligation of having to pay drivers for anything other than their piece work wages or the miles they drive, no matter how many hours they work.
The Denham Amendment does not affect owner operators or Independents directly, but indirectly it does greatly, creating industry standards and establishing how all drivers’ time is valued and compensated.
Company drivers are paid primarily for the miles they drive, not the number of hours they work. Because of this, ATA understands well that drivers want as many miles as possible so they can earn more. It’s called piece work wages. You only get paid for what you produce.
Now, it is well known throughout the industry that drivers are delayed at docks for hours and hours, sometimes more than 24 hours, and many of them are not paid. Not only are they not getting paid for these hours, but their hours on their 14-hour clock are ticking, limiting
1) Their ability to drive more miles to earn more money
2) Limiting their time available to find parking
ATA and carriers relish the fact that drivers are only paid for the miles they drive. It keeps them hungry, fighting for as many hours as that they can get, especially since their wages have NOT significantly increased in 4 decades while the cost of living has skyrocketed in that same amount of time. ATA knows all this and wants to keep it that way.
But what does this have to do with Independent Truckers?
Setting standards among company driver wages and how they are paid directly affects freight rates and owner operator profits.
Recent ATA Meal and Rest Break Petition
Since the ATA has lost the fight to include the Denham Amendment into 5 different pieces of legislation, they have now gone back to the FMCSA to petition them again ( they lost this petition 10 years ago) to Preempt State Labor labor laws in order to control how and when drivers are to be paid.
Basically, CA state labor laws require carriers to provide Optional Meal and paid Rest Breaks to their drivers as well as paying them for all non driving tasks, including detention time. These laws do not affect single truck owner operators or Independents.
Both the Denham Amendment and the Meal and Rest Break Petition were a topic of discussion for ATA.
So Is the ATA in the best interest of Independents?
The fact is that when Company drivers wages remain stagnant and are only paid for their production, owner operators and independents profits will remain limited. It is a race to the bottom, as owner operators try to keep up with large carriers and their low wage employees as well as their” Mileage Only” pay scheme and free waiting time. By allowing company drivers to stay waiting for hours at the docks without pay, it sets a standard for independents to do the same in order to compete.
Many owner operators refuse to be a part of the race to bottom however, setting their own demands, winning the battle by maintaining high quality scores and credibility within the industry.
Detention Time- Bringing it all together-
At the ATA annual meeting, ironically was the topic of detention time. As mentioned earlier, an objective of carriers is to keep wages low, not have to pay for all time worked (Denham Amendment) and keep drivers hungry for more miles since all other time worked is mostly not compensated.
With that said, the mention of HOS and detention time was brought up by ATA. Spear said that ELD data coming in would allow “common-sense improvements” to existing rules, and that it would “allow us to tighten the reigns on detention time.”
But then the article continued with an alarming statement regarding split sleeper berth and the possible FMCSA and ANPRM and HOS changes
A scenario, that if a driver was going to be laid up at a distribution center for a lengthy period of time, an allowable 6-4 split on the 10 off-duty hours would enable a driver to possibly spend all of his detention time in the sleeper berth—or elsewhere on the truck—rather than being limited to the 2 hours of the currently mandated 8-2 split.
Is this one more way to preserve hours, to drive more, rather than be paid for all time worked? This may be appealing to Independents, but for a company driver, being told to use their sleeper berth while waiting at the docks, rather than be paid, may not be as persuasive.
Does this mean that a driver should use “sleeper berth” rather than on duty not driving in order to preserve hours? And why do drivers want to preserve their hours?
Because their wages are low, they are paid by the mile, and are governed by a clock
This formula does not work.
ATA knows drivers want more hours because they’re only paid by the mile so according to this article, it appears that a revision of HOS sleeper berth, although we agree with the idea of Split Sleeper, could be used as just another way for the ATA to avoid paying detention time and push drivers to drive more.
PRODUCTIVITY would EXCEED Safety once again
Instead of offering paid detention time, once again their solution appears to be for the driver to use other options while waiting at the docks. I wonder how the FMCSA feels about this?
Our opinion is that the only reason the ATA wants to bring Independents into the fold of the ATA is to bring them on board to fight ATA agendas against company drivers such as the Denham Amendment and the Preemption of States Rights.
Their tactic to do so is FEAR. Fear that “the states labor laws are coming after Independents next” This is not true. Labor laws are to protect drivers.
When company drivers wages go up, so will rates and Independent Profits. We are at a time when company drivers are at the threshold of real driver wage reform, and paid in supplement to their miles driven.
Divide and Conquer may be the answer for the ATA, but it would be a disaster for Independents and ALL drivers.