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Saturday, September 18, 2010

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, AskTheTrucker. All rights reserved.

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