Many of you curse at trucks in front of you, or fear the big trucks beside you and behind you. The big and bulky trucks are tall, averaging 13.5 feet in height, are as wide as the lane you are driving in, average about 70 feet in total length, and weight about 80,000 pounds or 40 tones.
Hours of Service
What you may not know is that truckers are regulated by insane bureaucratic rules to account for their every 24-hours, in increments of 15 minutes. They are the only workers who are relied upon for moving almost 70% of all food products, raw materials for production and manufacturing, merchandise, construction equipment and materials and everything else in between. They are also the only workers in America where they are legally enticed to work 14-hour days for a total of 70 hours per week. That would be like starting work at 6:00am and finishing at 8:00pm 5 days each week, not include breaks.
This insane system is called the “Hours of Service” Regulations (HOS). Essentially, the driver is told he can only drive 11 hours each day, and only work an additional 3 hours for loading or unloading (time and or effort), if he or she has had at least 10 hours of off-duty. Individuality totally removed from this system, requires all truck drivers to wait for the clock to tick the total 10 hours of “off-duty”, because a log book must be maintained to account for all off-duty and on-duty time, and accounting for the full 24 hour day. Many have enough sleep and rest after 7 hours.
Which tires you most: Shopping or waiting in line? One morning after your coffee and breakfast, you the reader sit in front of your desk looking at all the work you have to do, without touching anything for 3 hours. That is exactly what is asked of the trucker, sitting in a truck and looking at dawn going up, less than 30 minutes away from his delivery location. If he could get this one off early, he could get to the next one 585 miles away (for example). But the law says 10 hours off, so he spends an extra 3 hours watching everyone else get to work, knowing he will not get the second delivery off today either. So, if the temperatures are at either extreme, he will have to idle the truck until the opening hours of the next day to keep warm or cool. logistics in Manila
These regulations have the end result of putting tired truck drivers on the road, while the trucker deals with the HOS Rules, and all types of enforcement related to the driver, the truck, delivery and pick up appointments, road conditions and other drivers.
Many states like Ohio and Michigan, post a different speed for trucks, which is 55 mph. This may sound trivial, but for long-haul drivers, it is very significant. The HOS rules of 11 hours of driving, multiplied by 55mph means the maximum mileage is 605 miles, versus 715 miles each day. The 55mph means the driver completes 550 miles less in 5 days. Why is that important? Truck drivers are paid by the mile (plus other factors). The conclusion is that a driver is enticed to work the 70-hour week, at fewer miles and a smaller pay check. You might say “nobody drives the 55 mph!” and I might call you an idiot. Cincinnati Ohio is a good example, as is most of Ohio, where truckers are often pulled over, given a speeding ticket for barely 5 mph over the limit, while other smaller vehicles are permitted 70mph or more without hassle.
Ohio is a good example of while 55 mph is a bad idea, especially if other vehicles are allowed 65, 70 and 75. Drive from Toledo to Dayton on the 2 lane I-75 Interstate, and try to get around trucks passing trucks, one 58 mph passing a 56 mph, each not sure at which point a Trooper might pull him over for speeding. This is no exaggeration. The only thing slowing down all other vehicles is the slow truck passing a slower truck. Trucks are hated more, and many a driver will get the “bird”. Remember that all vehicles other than big trucks cause 80% of all accidents.
Park and Rest?
Most truckers, after driving 4 or 5 hours will eye stop options such as Rest Areas and Truck Stops. Other drivers (cars and other 4-wheelers) on the road find the Rest Areas appealing and will appreciate a chance to relax a little bid, stretch their legs and have a bio-break. Truckers don’t have that luxury in most states. Why? Because D.O.T. (Department of Transportation) or Troopers frequently use Rest Areas to perform surprise truck inspections. They look for the slightest problems and demand to see all paper work (registration, license, insurance, log book). A trucker can spend a not-so-restful 30-60 minute stop at the Rest Area. After the DOT or Trooper is finished with the driver, he is highly motivated to get out of there (without getting the rest). On his way back onto the freeway, he may witness a 20-year-old (or older) vehicle with poorly inflated tires, a bumper or fender hanging by a rope and duck tape and driving erratically to try to get in front of the truck.
Weigh and Inspection Stations
If you wanted to ship a box from your house to some other state, and called a shipping company, one of the first questions is the total weight of your shipment. There are some, knowing that that a trucking company is in no position to weigh or confirm the weight, often claim the weight to be less than what it really is. Since weight is the biggest cost factor, they stand to save a considerable amount, while putting the truck driver at risk of being overweight, and subject to stiff fines.
Entering most states, are “weigh and inspection stations” for trucks. This is an opportunity for the state to collect more revenue, as they attempt to enforce weight limits per truck axle, and total truck weight (usually 40 tones). Who’s shoulder do this go onto? The trucking company, your company, the government, or the trucker? You’re wrong; it’s on the trucker’s shoulder. He will pay the fine, unless he can get to a private scale before encountering the Weigh Station or surprise Inspection Station at the Rest Area. The trucker can attempt to fix the problem or return to the shipper to get some weight off (no luck after 5pm on a Friday – must wait until Monday or take the fool’s gamble).
Weight is only important because the highway engineers, knowing that most trucks will weigh 40 tones, design the roads so they will be destroyed by 2 years worth of 30-tone trucks riding on them. Thank God they don’t build bridges like that. It’s also an opportunity for law enforcement to inspect vehicles, force repairs and generate more revenue through fines and surcharges.
The patients running the asylum in many cities have long ago decided to make it illegal for the big trucks to drive in the left-most lane if the highway is wider than 2 lanes. What does this mean? Well when cars and other considerably smaller vehicles attempt to merge unto the interstate, they see a truck coming at them. Hopefully, the driver of the smaller vehicle has learned how to merge unto a highway correctly. And when the 70 mph car in the left most lane decides to get off at the next exit, will he slow down and signal, or will he actually speed up and jump in front of the very last truck in front of his exit? You are wrong again, he will indeed speed up, not signal while crossing 4 lanes or more and make his exit, totally unaware of what 2 or 3 trucks had to do to save his life and the life of the other drivers around the area.
And when the guy driving in the old pickup truck with a raggedy old chair and other furniture loosely tied down in the pickup box, decides to drive 45mph in the second right lane, what are the options for the truck driver in this situation in Atlanta Georgia? He cannot pass on the left, because it will cost him $150 or more to go there. He cannot stay behind the pickup truck, because the raggedy old chair is liable to bounce out onto the roadway and create some carnage. So he will pass on the right, which is the same lane your grandmother is trying to merge unto in her old Grand Marquis or Cadillac, approaching the highway lane at 30 mph, because she believes she can go 55 mph only when all 4 wheels of her car are fully in the lane on the highway (the Michigan Merge). Meanwhile, looking from above in an office building, you can notice that most vehicles on that highway are in the right 2 lanes, and 3 left lanes are slightly being used. The real question is; why are the patients running the asylum?
Deliveries and Pickups
Eventually the big truck makes it to his delivery, late 1 hour after a 2-day 1200-mile trip. He’s immediately told he’s late. And as the scumbag he is considered to be, he must show some I.D., and told to go find Dave, as if he knows who Dave is. Dave will remind him he is late, and tell him he must wait until 2 other trucks are taken care of, because he is late. They conclude he should have planned better and left earlier. What the morons don’t realize is that a 1200-mile trip can include many surprises such as weather, accidents, construction zones with detours, equipment (truck) problems, driver problems (fatigue, illness) and any combination of these. Other locations the truck driver will go to will lecture him on how to backup to their loading docks, complain about the condition or cleanliness of the trailer, and the condition of the material delivered. Occasionally, the shipment will be refused, or the driver told to return the next day.
Signage and Other Suggestions
Town and city planners seem to have no clue about how important the road infrastructure is to their economies as well as the safety of their citizenry. Planning for the big trucks which will arrive in the early hours of a Monday (or any weekday) morning should include street signs at least a half mile from the traffic signal (i.e.: Main Street – next signal), which would reduce many unnecessary U-turns down the road. The street signs should be visible and legible at least 500 feet back, and not nested behind a telephone poll behind trees. “Low Bridge”, weight restricted bridges and “NO TRUCK” route signs should visible before the big truck makes the turn. “Industrial Parks” should be identified at least one mile before the turn. Highways and Interstates with “No Merge Area” ramps should lockout the right lane at least one-quarter mile prior to the ramp.
Expect the Big Trucks
Businesses that know they regularly receive shipments via big trucks should; have a 24-hour directions line to each facility; advise which roads are strictly restricted; prevent employees from parking close to loading docks; post signs on their property as to where a truck driver can find the Shipping and Receiving offices and docks; should remove posted antiquated rules they no longer adhere to; offer bathroom and public telephone; and control their Shipping and Receiving Department personnel to prevent them from making trucks wait more than 3 hours past their opening hours (attention Wal-Mart); allow a quarter-hour grace delay/early arrival for each 100 mile of distance a trucker is coming from. The numbered address should be visible and truck/no truck entrances clearly marked.
Numbers versus Names
Radio stations broadcasting accident and congestion reports in large cities should use the Interstate numbers as oppose to or in addition to the local name of the highway. An accident blocking the right lane at the Dan Ryan off-ramp for 71st St in Chicago means nothing to truckers from out of town, but if they said the accident was at the off-ramp of exit 59C on I-94, truckers will understand. The same can be said for anyone giving driving directions; use the Interstate, US or state highway number, along with the exit number, followed by “Right – Heading East” or “Right – Heading West” and so on.
Drivers at Work
Lastly, when you see a truck on the road, be assured he is working. He is not going on a fishing or hunting trip, not going on a vacation to Disney Land, not going to dinner for an enjoyable evening. The truck in front of you could have just started his 11 hour jaunt, or could be somewhere on his 10th hour. He’s carrying America’s economy on 18 wheels, but hasn’t earned any respect yet. Give him space whether you respect him or not. Truckers are now looking to combine their efforts into a nation-wide protest (i.e.: www.truckright.bravehost.com), outside unions and associations, since no one seems to be concerned for the good of the trucker.