I know; the word alone brings up thoughts of trouble, lawlessness, and fear in many people. Now, before proceed, you need to know one thing, a TRUCK delivered everything you use in your daily life. I stick by the line “Without trucks America stops”. Now if I may, let me speak a bit about “truckers” and enlighten you a bit.
There is a large misconception out in the general public about Truckers stemming from TV news programs to Hollywood and all the way to too many street corner conversations in between. If you were to ask the “average Joe or Jane” what their impression of a “trucker” is you would likely hear “Someone that can’t hold a REAL job”, “A trouble making nomad”, “A liar and cheat” and any number of other not so nice derogatory metaphors. I am here to tell you this could not be further from the truth today.
Drivers go thru several months of full day classroom training before going out for truck handling training all before they access their first public road.
To get a passenger license you take a small multiple-choice test and a short possibly 10 minute driving test in what is likely a secluded area without any other traffic. Truckers on the other hand must take a written test for each portion of their license called “endorsements”; these allow them to operate specific portions of commercial vehicles. To pass this written test a driver must become familiar with a 660 + page book containing laws and regulations for operating heavy trucks around our country as well as learn Hours of Service regulations. All these need to be complete before they can take their driving test. Once the written is completed and passed, then they take a “hands on” test to inspect, maneuver, and drive which will last upwards of one to two hours when completed.
How many passenger car drivers today know how to inspect their car for safe operation? How many know how to diagnose and repair portions of their vehicle to get them to a safe “repair” facility for complete repair? I will bet the percentage is very low.
On an average day as a trucker, you would begin with a pre trip inspection of your truck and trailer, check your load for security, and begin your logbook, now you can begin to drive. Throughout the day there are many challenges the average motoring public does not see or even know exist. These can include low bridge clearances, road weight restrictions, noise ordinances, commercial traffic time of day restrictions and so on, all of which as a driver you will need to understand, obey and find legal ways around to complete your day.
Throughout your day at every stop not only do you need to handle the paperwork for your customer but you will log the stop in your logbook accounting for the time, this may happen once per day or however many times per day needed to complete what the day has planned for you by your company. At the completion of your day once parked, you will need to complete your logbook with a post trip inspection, gather up all the shipment paperwork you generated for the day and bring them into the dispatch office. All this sounds easy right; well it takes on average 10 to 12 hours each day to do this, how many people knew that? Most truckers out there call it “truck drivers half day”!
According to our government, commercial heavy trucks make up only 5% of vehicles on the road today. This is a very small percentage to handle all of today’s commerce. With new laws and regulations adding to this regularly we are facing a loss of drivers, this is fact not fiction unfortunately.
By 2021 our government has mandated heavy trucks to increase fuel mileage by 40%, sounds great right? I agree, it does, although it is going to take more than you may think to accomplish that. Engine builders alone will not be able to accomplish the changes since trucks are not “manufacturer specific” like cars. A separate company, motors, transmissions, axles, brakes, and body parts (which are the named manufacturers of heavy trucks) manufacture each component of a heavy truck.
As we change the overall requirement of the vehicle we will have to redesign each component to match, that is a lot of expense to add to the bottom line. This cost will have to go somewhere that “somewhere” will be to the consumer.
Big picture is trucking is not an easy job, actually it is quite difficult. This is not a job for everyone, which is beginning to show. The more our government regulates “hours of service” and adds costs to the truck companies, the less a driver makes in his or her paycheck.
With our program of short sea shipping, we will be able to add efficiencies to the trucking companies. This will add jobs, and much needed revenue to the truck companies allowing them to keep drivers pay equivalent to their work. Together with trucks, trains and ships we can take back the #1 spot in the world of commerce.
By Pat Roche