OOIDA drops truckers’ truth bombs at Senate hearing

February 5, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh testified on Tuesday, Feb. 4, in front of the U.S. Senate Transportation and Safety Subcommittee to discuss the current state of the trucking industry.

Pugh, a truck driver for more than two decades who still holds his commercial driver’s license, used the hour-and-a-half hearing titled “Keep on Truckin’: Stakeholder Perspectives on Trucking in America” to speak on behalf of truck drivers across the nation. He gave lawmakers an outline of things they can do to give professional truckers more control behind the wheel and their work day, leading to an improvement in highway safety.

Below are a few of the nuggets Pugh provided during his testimony.

On the current state of trucking

“From the perspective of small-business motor carriers and professional drivers, the state of the trucking industry is dysfunctional. This is because too many people who know virtually nothing about trucking have an oversized role in shaping trucking policy. Drivers feel the negative effects of this firsthand, myself included.”

“The hours-of-service rules are broken. There are hundreds of regulations that have nothing to do with highway safety. The lack of available truck parking is a national crisis. Enforcement is often motivated by profit. And drivers work extremely long hours with notoriously low pay.”

“Washington has allowed trucking policy to be overly influence by executives looking to maximize profits, activists who’d like to regulate truckers to oblivion, state and local governments who view truckers as rolling piggybanks, and self-proclaimed ‘experts’ who don’t even know what the inside of a truck looks like.”

On truck drivers’ view of Congress

“If you ask most drivers what Congress has done recently to improve their profession, the answer would be simple … nothing. In fact, most of our members would tell you that Congress enacts laws that drive people away from the industry and decrease highway safety. This isn’t a partisan attack against Republicans or Democrats, but rather an honest reflection of how truckers view Congress.

On other problems truck drivers have to contend with

“Too many drivers are forced to haul cheap freight; too many motor carriers mistreat and underpay drivers; too many shippers and receivers detain drivers for excessive periods of time; too many safety advocates seek mandates that don’t work; and too many motorists don’t even attempt to operate safely around big trucks. I make these claims based on firsthand experience. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it.”

On trucker drivers being the solution

“Most truckers don’t wear suits on a daily basis. They don’t have advanced degrees in engineering or economics, but they know trucking. Truckers aren’t the problem. They are the solution, and Congress should treat them accordingly.”

On what lawmakers can do to help truck drivers and improve highway safety

  • Repeal the failed electronic logging device mandate.
  • Repeal the overtime exemption for drivers in the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Provide dedicated funding for new truck parking capacity.
  • Create a fair process for drivers to appeal inspection violations written in error.
  • Fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure in an equitable way.
  • Do not mandate speed limiters.
  • Do not mandate front and side underride guards.
  • Do not mandate higher insurance minimums.
  • Do not enact a truck-only vehicle miles traveled tax or expand tolling authority.
  • Do not pass the DRIVE-Safe Act.

On the DRIVE-Safe Act

“Contrary to what other associations repeat, constantly, there is no driver shortage. The notion of a driver shortage isn’t supported by facts, data, or reputable research. In other words, it’s a myth. We oppose this bill because it’s a solution in search of a problem, and we urge Congress to reject it.”

“I would agree that I learned the skills on how to operate a truck and maneuver a truck very well in the United States Army, and I’m very thankful for that. But I think there’s still more training that needs to be issued. Because driving a truck in military life … is much, much different than in civilian life. You’re usually in convoy. You usually had people overseeing where you were going. You had designated routes, and you weren’t just turned loose. When I turned 21 and went to work as an over-the-road trucker, I was just turned loose. Again, I was fortunate to be trained with the skill, but as far as the knowledge and the real-world knowledge of what’s out there … I was lucky. I didn’t have any accidents or anything happen, but that real-world knowledge would have been nice to have had a little more training on before I was just turned loose.”

On speed limiters

“As someone who actually drove a truck, speed limiters are not a good thing from the driver’s perspective. There have been many occasions in my truck – and I’m sure that you notice it in your car – that every once in a while I need the ability to get out of harm’s way whether that means speeding up momentarily or whatever to get away from something for the safety of myself and the people around me. If I’m governed, I don’t have that control … They don’t want to not be speed limited because they want to drive 100 miles per hour. They don’t want to be speed limited because they want to have complete control of their vehicle.”

On truck parking and safety for drivers

“You asked what Congress can do for the safety of drivers. I’ve heard about the safety of cattle. I’ve heard about the safety of the motoring public, and I agree that all is very important. I’ve heard no one talk about the safety of the driver. Truckers do die too. Truckers know better than anyone how dangerous the highways are. I saw horrific things when I drove a truck.”

“What Congress can do is find some dedicated funding and support the bill that OOIDA is working on for places to park. That’s one of the biggest crises we have in trucking right now. Our drivers are forced to follow the rigid hours of service. They are forced to use ELDs. Just like the cows need a safe place to be, so do our truckers.”

Complete written testimony by OOIDA Executive Vice President Pugh can be found here.

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 nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.

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