OOIDA at Trucking Safety Summit: It’s time to listen to truckers

August 5, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh began his career in trucking in 1994. Most of the industry’s major problems and concerns during that time still exist today.

“All of these issues have gotten worse since then,” Pugh said. “I’ve seen it. I lived it.”

Pugh, who joined OOIDA in 1996 and worked as a commercial truck driver for 23 years and recorded 2.5 million safe miles before coming off the road and going to work at OOIDA HQ  in 2017, provided his insights as a panelist for FMCSA’s 2020 Trucking Safety Summit on Wednesday, Aug. 5.

To improve safety and fix the problems that have plagued the trucking industry for decades, Pugh said it will require decision-makers to listen to professional truck drivers and for that to be followed by action.

“We have solutions, but solutions require action – action from regulators, from lawmakers and others in the supply chain,” Pugh said during his opening remarks. “These issues won’t magically disappear, and I sure as hell don’t want to have this same conversation in another 25 years from now.

“We’re committed to working with anyone who wants to make things better. We’re also committed to aggressively fighting against anyone who tries to make things worse.”

Some of the issues Pugh highlighted were the ELD mandate, hours of service, drivers not being valued in the supply chain, detention time, a lack of driver transparency, a lack of driver training, and the truck parking crisis.

ELD mandate

OOIDA has said that FMCSA should put its resources behind regulations that have been proven to increase safety and that the agency should remove regulations that have no benefit to safety. The ELD mandate falls in the latter category, Pugh said. In addition, a recent FBI bulletin stated that ELDs have created cybersecurity issues.

“It’s no secret that most drivers don’t like the ELD mandate,” he said. “ELDs have created more stress, more costs, and more fatigue. There is simply no safety justification whatsoever for an ELD mandate.”

Pugh said the recent changes to the hours of service that are set to go in to effect on Sept. 29, should put more flexibility in the hands of the drivers but that they don’t go far enough.

Valuing drivers

Allowing drivers to have more control over deciding when it’s safe to drive and when it isn’t, as well as placing more value on truck drivers, are keys to improving safety on the highways, Pugh said.

“Too many drivers are forced to haul cheap freight,” he said. “Too many motor carriers mistreat and underpay drivers. And too many shippers and receivers detain drivers for excessive periods of time. This has to be addressed. In the short term, FMCSA should move forward with OOIDA’s petition to improve broker transparency. And the industry must properly compensate drivers.”

Driver training

OOIDA has long advocated for an entry-level driver training program, saying that a trained driver is one of the best approaches to improving safety. Not coincidentally, OOIDA said the same thing a quarter-century ago at the FHWA Truck and Bus Safety Summit in 1995.

“We discourage FMCSA from further delaying the entry-level driving training rule, which is now pushed back until 2022,” Pugh said on Wednesday. “The initial delay granted earlier this year means that more new drivers will enter the industry without the basic skills needed to safely operate a truck. Driving a truck is a highly skilled profession. More proficient instruction would reduce crashes and prepare individuals for a safe and viable career in trucking.

“This should absolutely include a national training standard that requires, at minimum, several hundred hours of behind-the-wheel training. There is no other way to learn.”

Truck parking crisis

In addition, OOIDA supports the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, HR6104, which was introduced by Reps. Mike Bost, R-Ill., and Angie Craig, D-Minn., in March. The bipartisan legislation would set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to add truck parking.

Pugh said the crisis goes beyond the truckers themselves. A lack of parking can force truck drivers to park on the shoulder or continue driving until they can find a safe place to park.

“The truck parking shortage is a national crisis,” he said. “This is a safety issue for all highway users.”

Safety Summit

FMCSA’s 2020 Trucking Safety Summit was conducted as a virtual meeting on Aug. 5. The event, which was divided into eight sessions, was originally scheduled to be at Washington, D.C., in March. It was moved to a web-based format because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pugh served on the summit’s opening session, which include FMCSA acting Administrator Jim Mullen as moderator and ATA President Chris Spear, National Tank Truck Carriers Vice President Dan Furth, and Road Safe America President Stephen Owings as panelists.

Hair testing

Spear pushed for allowing motor carriers to use hair testing in lieu of urinalysis for its drug testing programs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was tasked by Congress to create hair testing guidelines. A final rule has cleared the White House Office of Management and Budget but has not been revealed.

OOIDA has voiced concerns about the potential biases involved with hair testing and has said it has not seen any evidence showing a connection between hair testing and crash reduction. Pugh added that hair testing looks back at exposure from six months ago rather than whether or not a driver is using now.

“Is the problem six months ago, or is the problem now?”

Mullen emphasized that there has been “zero movement” toward a mandate of hair testing. Rather, motor carriers would be allowed to use hair testing instead of urinalysis.

Speed limiters

Owings spent much of his time advocating for heavy-duty trucks to be required to use a speed limiter.

OOIDA has long contended that a speed limiter mandate would lead to more vehicle interactions, which would lead to more crashes.

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.