Our friend and fellow truck driver advocate, Hal Kiah, shares his thoughts about the trucking industry and explains why he believes truckers are leaving their driving careers.
As a veteran driver, Hal has been instrumental in the last few years, aiding and mentoring other drivers via social media and personal communication.
Mr Kiah is presently part of the North American Trucking Alerts (NATA)website and Facebook Page, which had it’s preview on 9/6/14, and is scheduled to launch in October 2014. The theme of NATA is “bringing awareness and accountability to the trucking industry”
“Veteran driver Hal Kiah’s insight of the trucking industry
Trucking is an industry where everything that makes this country what it is, revolves around what trucking is, which is the men and women who make the wheels roll through the country, and deliver the products this country relies upon to market. Without those men and women behind the wheel, whether it is in an 18 wheeler, or a straight truck making the local delivery, this country will come to a stop… Fast!
The average person is totally unaware of this because they are fully used to seeing product on the store shelves, at the dealership, the local convenient store, or even at the factories people work at, making everything we have…Everywhere!
Only recently, have companies started seeing the writing on the wall, observing that truckers, especially the more senior truckers, have been walking out the door and handing the keys back to the trucking companies, finally walking away from a lifestyle that they came into because they WANTED to, and loved doing.
Reason?? There are a number of reasons;
(1) Driver Wages- Drivers have been getting paid at what are essentially early 70’s rates. This has been keeping drivers on the road for not just a Couple of weeks at a time to make their bills and help them put some money in the bank, but much longer, with no visible increase in the money they work for, and need, in order to just make ends meet at home to feed their families, pay rent and utilities, car payments, you name it. Drivers only get paid while the wheels are turning, which means that much of their time parked and waiting, doing paperwork, inspections, or anything else work related without the truck moving, is not compensated for.
(2) Companies have been treating drivers like a commodity that is available without restriction, giving drivers the feeling (and justifiably so) that companies believe drivers are a “Dime-a-dozen”, behaving as if there is no end to the supply of drivers out there.
(3) There are some trucking companies out there, (and trucking schools) that have their own driver training program for new drivers, and many senior drivers believe that these schools are entirely inadequate. Drivers are basically “pumped” through many trucking schools with just the basics of operating a truck, without the necessary training to get both driver, rig, and load, down the road safely.
(4) Drivers have been constantly facing more and more regulation changes in addition to what they were already facing, with a group, or groups, of people constantly pushing for changes that make NO sense, and whose colleagues have never operated a big rig, nor have even sat or ridden in one, to know exactly what is involved with not just driving these rigs, but getting from one end of the country to the other, Safely.
(5) Thanks to the thinking of “people in the know”, drivers have suddenly realized that they are classified by the Department of Labor as no more than “Unskilled Labor”. Professional drivers know that it take far more skill to operate these rigs today than ever before; Knowing how to have a truck properly loaded, so that it is within legal weight standards, making turns in such a way as to avoid accidents, knowing how to make the rig get up and down steep grades at proper speeds, knowing the equipment well enough to know what needs to be fixed, having the knowledge to load and haul oversized loads with specialized equipment without having damage done to either, handling hazardous materials loads and how they must be loaded for safe transport, safely getting them transported past communities, so that in the event of an incident, communities will not be adversely affected.
All these things, and more, require many skills that not everyone has the capabilities to perform, making truckers some of THE most skilled people out there. Professional drivers come from various backgrounds and life skills;
military personnel, former police, firefighters, medics, office managers, doctors, lawyers, teachers. Every branch of life there is in this country has some very skilled people now working in the trucking industry, that are more skilled than people realize.
The regulations changes mentioned are one of the major reason that drivers are leaving the industry, and with drivers leaving like they are, the shortage of QUALIFIED drivers is just going to grow and grow, with no end in sight, unless something heavily drastic and necessary takes place. It’s going to take more than just trucking companies stepping up to make the changes. It’s going to take shippers, receivers, manufacturers, ports, Everyone, to include the general public… to get involved with helping these drivers be more than just a bunch of “meat behind the wheel”.
Another thing that HAS to take place, is much better “driver education” programs at local schools, with INSTRUCTORS being properly trained in how to educate today’s young drivers in sharing the highways Safely with the bigger equipment on the road, telling new drivers things like, “Just don’t be scared around the big trucks” and then assuming, that’s all it takes. This just will not do!
It is time, past time actually, that something finally takes place, to fight to change what is going on, and to see to it, that the situation that this country faces, is changed, for the better. And not just by truckers, and trucking companies, but by everyone, because without everyone participating, these changes cannot take place, and it has to be with a unified effort. In other words, we must all be accountable.
Without truckers, and the rigs they drive, companies cannot exist, freight cannot make it to market, products cannot be produced, food, clothing, medicine, all the necessities of life, cannot make it to the public. But given the Right steps, These changes CAN, take place!
© 2014, Hal Kiah. All rights reserved.