Wheeling out Solutions to Truck Drivers' Complaints

USA TODAY, January 1999 | Go to article overview

Wheeling out Solutions to Truck Drivers' Complaints


After a series of personal chats with professional drivers at various truck stops, Ed Trout, chairman of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), Alexandria, Va., cites their top-10 "gripes" and says the trucking industry's largest trade group thinks "they're justified and is doing something about it." The complaints, in descending order of severity, are:

1. Aggressive driving and road rage.

2. Hours of service (currently based on 10 hours on, eight off).

3. Increasing congestion.

4. Lumping (drivers having to load and unload their trucks themselves).

5. Unreasonable shipper demands (time and distance insistence for deliveries that tax the drivers' endurance, sometimes resulting in speeding and driver fatigue).

6. Lack of respect from shippers, receivers, and dispatchers.

7. Increasing high crime in rest areas.

8. Unreasonable treatment by law enforcement.

9. Low pay

10. Unsafe inspection sites.

Trout describes aggressive driving as the "stepchild of road rage, the latter being the most severe form of malady on today's highways. Our recently completed focus groups with professional drivers showed that even the most expert driver is literally afraid of reckless drivers." In defense of truckers, he points out that the accident rate of large trucks dropped 35% from 1986 to 1996, even while driven mileage increased 40%, adding that "Federal Highway Administration data also show that, in 71% of all fatal car-truck accidents, the car driver was at fault."

The ATA is pressing the U.S. Department of Transportation to replace the regulations governing the amount of time both car and truck drivers spend behind the wheel with rules based on sound science. "Highway fatigue is a problem for drivers," Trout indicates. "In the case of truck drivers, the present 10 hours on, eight off formula that has stood for over 60 years plays havoc on the body clock."

Regarding increasing congestion, he feels the Transportation Equity Act will alleviate the situation to some degree, with new infrastructure for the 21st century.

In the case of lumping, Trout maintains that the trucking industry has to realize that the average five hours a day that drivers devote to this task, when they don't hire someone themselves, would be more productive if the driver were on the road, "doing his primary task of delivering goods. …

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