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Another FMCSA Pilot that will prove or disprove NOTHING

September 17, 2020

The boutique idea of the day seems to be to allow 18-year olds to drive big trucks in interstate commerce. There is an upcoming Pilot Program weighing the pros and cons of allowing 18 to 21-year olds to test drive an apprentice program which NASTC believes will be meaningless.

We haven’t commented on this issue yet as all of our carriers must carry insurance and to my knowledge there are no underwriters out there allowing small carriers to hire anyone without a minimum age of 22 and having two to three years of over-the-road experience. Why not let the underwriters share with us why this is so? Most of them have been vetting, screening, and disqualifying drivers for a myriad of reasons for years. When they support lowering the age for CDL drivers, we’ll consider this issue. At the risk of being more cynical than usual, this push reflects the assumption of a real driver shortage and another reason for large carriers not to address their embarrassing driver turn-over ratios. Also, with 100% plus turnover, where will the 18-21 year olds go after the large carriers sour them on our industry? Could this change actually exacerbate or create a non-existing driver shortage?


david owen
David Owen
President
The National Association of Small Trucking Companies
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
800.264.8580


Why Hair Testing?

September 17, 2020

In 1991 when testing for drugs was required for all carriers regardless of size, the positive rate for the general population was over 15% and the positive rate for professional truck drivers was 9.5%. Today the positive rate for drivers in the long-haul niche, has hovered just above or just below 1% for the past three years. This is the one regulatory area where the polices implemented have worked extremely well. Also, over the years as our industry’s positive rate declined so did the numbers for big truck/car fatalities go down almost as a direct correlation.
large truck fatality rate

I can’t really get over how the regulators seem to be obsessed with unreachable and unrealistic “utopian” type levels.

  • “I’ll never rest until there are zero fatalities”
  • “Mandated ELD’s will save 17 lives annually”
  • “Insurance minimums need to be increased 400% even though 99.94% of crashes fall below the existing minimum”
  • “Speed kills. Ergo, governed trucks will save lives and conserve energy at the same time”
  • “in rural America, small companies and owner/operators are buying medical certification under the table from main street, small town medical doctors – We need a CME registry”
  • “We need a comprehensive safety accountability program to correct the many flaws in SafeStat”
  • “These pesky small guys are just not having enough accidents to measure”
  • “We need a drug testing clearing house to successfully keep drug addicts off the road”

This kind of regulatory thinking aimed at the less than 1% is expensive, not measurable, and in the end, doesn’t save lives or reduce accidents. As a matter of fact, it usually makes matters worse, not better. Note that the steady decline in fatalities per 100,000,000 miles driven started going back up in 2010, coincidentally the same year the mother of all regulatory insanities, CSA, was implemented.

So now we come down to the one, solidary success story over the past 3 decades, drug testing, and the ATA and the mega carriers want to screw that up with HAIR TESTING.

WHY? – If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Instead of attacking a systematic symptom, why don’t we look for the disease? As we’ve been saying for years, the problem (the disease) is in driver turn-over. In the full-truckload, long haul space there are probably a dozen carriers with more than 10,000 power units and as of today, all of them have turnover rates north of 100%. Can you imagine in the current environment having to hire 10,000-11,000 new drivers each year? No wonder they want to move the minimum driving age to 18 – They’re having to find, hire, vet, orient, train, and yes, drug test 1,000 new drivers per month! The answer doesn’t lie in changing pre-employment drug testing procedures from urine to hair. The only way to attack the disease is to force companies with that kind of turn-over to quit growing until their turnover goes down below a certain threshold.

Unfortunately, this issue will never be appropriately addressed because these same 12-20 mega fleets dominate The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and in many ways politically control CVSA, FMCSA, the Motor Carrier Safety Committee, and, to same degree Congress and the Dept of Transportation.

If you go back to those six or eight cynical examples of justification for regulatory change you will find a strong, underlying competitive advantage for large versus small with no improvement in actual safety i.e., crashes, property damage, injuries, and medical expenses.

Hair testing, governed trucks, and increased insurance premiums do not pass NASTC’s smell test.


david owen
David Owen
President
The National Association of Small Trucking Companies
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
800.264.8580


Breaking News

September 17, 2020
Tax rates on diesel and gasoline will go up in New Jersey to offset declines in fuel consumption, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic,” (TT, September 7, 2020). This increase of 9.3 cents per gallon will bring the effective rate on diesel fuel to 57.7 cents per gallon, or about 10 cents per mile. To paraphrase a quote from our leadership in Congress, “Let no crisis go unpunished.”

Unfortunately, this knee-jerk reaction to replace lost tax revenue will take place in most states as the natural route of least resistance but represents only a temporary and short term stop gap to the real problem of fiscal responsibility. Instead of piling on a greater tax burden that will increase costs for everything, why not try some of the things all businesses have to do to address downturns, like:
  • Budgetary responsibility
  • Reduction of pork, waste, and fat
  • Production accountability at all levels of government
  • And, yes, living within your financial limitations.
As a taxpayer and small business owner, I’m discouraged and disgusted with government spending at the local, state, and federal levels. I’m disgusted with office holders who are only focused on maintaining their power source 24/7 and not doing the job they were elected to do. I’m disgusted with the never ending “beg” for more and more money. I’m disgusted with the sorry and corrupt dealings of government officials from both parties and at all levels of government.

I’ve done my part, but I’m tired of having to do government’s part as well. It’s only my opinion and, I’m well entitled to express it, but “The Bible”, “Atlas Shrugged”, and “1984” should be required reading for all citizens of the US who are allowed to vote.


david owen
David Owen
President
The National Association of Small Trucking Companies
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
800.264.8580


Insurance Increase Part 2

July 22, 2020

Dear Member,

In a recent email release, I brought to your attention the unnecessary, short-sighted, and unwarranted proposal to increase truck insurance minimums from $750,000 to $2,000,000 that was inserted into the House of Representatives “Moving America Forward Act”. Since the House is controlled by the Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, this proposal is on their ever-increasing wish list and reflects the extreme views espoused by the far left often referred to as “The Green New Deal”.

I only received two negative emails in response, one calling me a moron and the other chastising me for “politicizing” a non-political issue. The first one, I choose to ignore, but the second one I will comment on: Over the past 31 years, NASTC has tried diligently to fairly offer both sides of political issues because we certainly realize that we have members with a vast myriad of political positions many of which don’t reflect our personal beliefs. However, as a need-driven business association, we have and will continue to strongly advocate for issues that support capitalism, business (small business in particular) and less, not more, regulations and government interference. Below are some of the latest reactions from many key stakeholders:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “Rather than pursuing a bipartisan bill, the House is preparing to take a partisan vote on H.R. 2, the ‘Moving America Forward Act,’ which would move further away from real and meaningful investments in our failing infrastructure. The Chamber does not support this legislation. With historic unemployment and tremendous unmet infrastructure needs, now is clearly a time for bold and ambitious action. There is nothing bold, however, about voting on a bill that does not and will not have the bipartisan support needed to become law.”

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO): “As the organization representing all 50 state departments of transportation (state DOTs), the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) writes to express our disappointment that the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee on June 18 unnecessarily turns back the clock on so many bipartisan surface transportation reforms previously agreed to by Congress. “The Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology, & Efficient Review (STARTER) Act, introduced by T&I Committee Ranking Member Sam Graves, clearly recognizes AASHTO’s core policy principles and our call for an increase and prioritization of formula-based federal funding provided to states and for increased flexibility, reduced program burdens, and improved delivery of projects. Unfortunately, these critical principles are absent in the Move Forward Act.”

Competitive Enterprise Institute: “In short, H.R. 2 is monstrous behemoth of a bill that would harm America’s surface transportation. However, it is also a likely harbinger of what lies in store in an America that rejects free markets and limited government.”

Americans for Tax Reform: “The inclusion of such provisions clearly demonstrates that H.R. 2 is a performative measure meant to appease progressive constituencies and politically-favored industries rather than a serious attempt to fund our nation's roads and bridges. Americans for Tax Reform urges lawmakers to vote “NO” on H.R. 2.”

FreedomWorks: “…this near-incomprehensible mass of text primarily contains provisions that would have detrimental impacts on both our economy and our liberties and prioritize partisan politics over actual infrastructure improvements. H.R. 2 is a fully partisan bill and seeks to implement a partisan, progressive agenda thinly veiled as a condition of essential infrastructure investment. In short, though investment in our infrastructure is badly needed, the strings that Speaker Pelosi has attached to such funding in H.R. 2 make this legislation untenable.”

National Association of Manufacturers: “The economy remains fragile. Manufacturing alone lost 1,370,000 jobs between February and April, and although 225,000 manufacturing jobs returning in May was a positive sign, we have a long way to go. For manufacturers, the prospect of a surface transportation authorization is a bright spot that can have the impact of supporting long-term economic growth, mobility and sustainability …. Manufacturers support efforts to improve mobility, the environment and broader efforts to build resiliency into infrastructure but [the bill] would add new paperwork burdens and additional red tape to execute major infrastructure projects.”

Consumer Technology Association: “…the bill leaves the U.S. standing still on transportation innovation, while the rest of the world moves forward.”

Association of American Railroads: “At a time that desperately calls for politicians to come together to meet pressing challenges, including infrastructure, the bill woefully misses the mark. Throughout the crafting of the bill and even during the markup, past precedent of bipartisan collaboration was largely absent.”

Americans for Prosperity: “On behalf of Americans for Prosperity activists in all 50 states, I urge you to vote NO on H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act…. The bloated $1.5 trillion bill envisions more federal involvement in infrastructure than ever before, while simultaneously dispatching billions of dollars in wasteful spending on non-infrastructure-related projects and handouts to special interests. Passed out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee without any bipartisan support, this bill is little more than a big government wish list.”

National Taxpayers Union: “H.R. 2 also doubles down on costly regulations and fails to address the underlying inefficiencies of expensive government mandates. Instead of identifying rules and regulations that artificially increase costs for projects with federal funding, H.R. 2 includes many provisions that increase these federal burdens.”

American Commitment, American Consumer Institute, Center of the American Experiment, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Center for Individual Freedom, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Hispanic Leadership Fund, The John K. McIver Institute for Public Policy, Let Freedom Ring, Nevada Policy Research Institute, Rio Grande Foundation, Tea Party Nation: “On behalf of millions of taxpayers and consumers across the country, the undersigned groups urge Congress to oppose the “Moving Forward Act” (H.R. 2). The legislation’s unnecessary extension of renewable investment and production tax credits would subsidize well-capitalized, politically connected corporations at the expense of struggling households, perpetuating unfair, inefficient Robin Hood-in-reverse policies.”

American Farm Bureau Federation, American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, Agricultural Retailers Association, National Tank Truck Carriers, Petroleum Marketers Association of America: “As Congress turns its attention to addressing our nation’s infrastructure needs, we urge you to shape this legislation so that costs and benefits are shared fairly among all users of our nation’s transportation infrastructure. We are concerned about provisions included in H.R. 2, The Moving Forward Act, that singularly benefit electric vehicle (EV) owners, a small and affluent segment of the driving public, at additional cost to all other Americans…. H.R. 2 would also encourage states to authorize utilities to use their monopoly power to increase everyone’s electricity bill to pay to install electric vehicle charging.”

Associated Builders and Contractors: “ABC urges members to oppose this bill and the several anti-competitive provisions outlined below…. we are disappointed that that the bill excludes many critical priorities for the construction industry while implementing harmful policies that will be detrimental to our nation’s ability to effectively and efficiently rebuild and modernize its infrastructure.”

National Association of Convenience Stores; NATSO, Representing America's Travel Centers and Truckstops; Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America: “Unfortunately, the Moving Forward Act includes provisions that will deter private sector investment in charging infrastructure, which will result in fewer charging options and less competition for the consumer…. NACS, NATSO, and SIGMA strongly oppose this legislation.”

National Association of Small Trucking Companies: “… we write in opposition to H.R. 2, the INVEST in America Act, noting especially an amendment, mandating higher motor carrier insurance minimums, adopted in markup to an already egregious bill.”

Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association: “OPPOSE Final Passage of H.R. 2, which includes a provision that would more than double the minimum level of financial responsibility for trucking companies, including many small businesses. Inclusion of this provision (Section 4408) was a poison pill for OOIDA and our members, forcing us to vigorously oppose a bill we initially supported. “Section 4408 will do absolutely NOTHING to improve safety on our highways. There is not an ounce of reputable research that indicates imposing such a dramatic increase in insurance coverage do anything to reduce crash rates. In fact, federal research reveals how unnecessary this proposal is by confirming only 0.06% of crashes result in damages that exceed today’s minimum coverage limits. “What this provision will do is destroy small trucking businesses in every corner of the country. Increasing the minimum insurance requirements from $750,000 to $2,000,000 in the midst of a major economic downturn would be nothing short of disastrous for many small motor carriers and owner-operators, who are currently struggling to stay in business due to historically low freight rates.”

Alliance for Automotive Innovation: “… other provisions are structured in such a manner that they undermine our shared objective when it comes to vehicle safety and related technologies…. Rather than advancing U.S. leadership and innovation in defining the future of advanced automotive safety technologies – including automated vehicles – that can significantly reduce the number of fatalities on our roadways each year, the Moving Forward Act seeks to prescribe specific technologies, not a path to the future. This approach risks delaying the advancement and introduction of important safety technologies to American consumers and undermines U.S. competitiveness in the global market.”

American Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute, American Public Gas Association, Association of Oil Pipe Lines, GPA Midstream Association, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America: “… pipeline infrastructure projects requiring permits cannot be expedited without provisions that will reduce unnecessary permitting delays standing in the way of putting America back to work. The intentions of H.R. 2 or any new infrastructure program cannot provide their benefits as soon as we need them if federal reviews of proposed infrastructure projects take five or more years to complete. Congress can take further steps to make project permitting more efficient and predictable.”

American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers: “… the current federal review process is broken and in need of reform. It is now common for pre-construction reviews to take at least five years, with the inevitable litigation adding many more years, cost, and uncertainty.” I’m sure there are comments on the other side of this issue but I don’t believe our membership as a whole wants to hear them since passage of this piece of pork would damage all small trucking companies in our group.


david owen
David Owen
President
The National Association of Small Trucking Companies
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
800.264.8580


Who's Really In Charge at FMCSA?

July 22, 2020

Dear Member,

Who’s really in charge at FMCSA?

Former Administrator, Raymond Martinez seemed to be doing the best job in the history of the agency as far as interacting with all stake holders in the industry. He had spear-headed five proposed changes to the Hours of Service that reflected the industry’s twenty-year plea for flexibility, a reform of the 14 hour rule and the forced thirty-minute break which in effect, had worsened the artificial deadline put upon drivers to cram their day into a 13-hour shift. He was NASTC’s keynote speaker at our Annual Conference in 2018, recognized our organization as a valuable voice representing small carriers and was scheduled to come back in 2019 to our Conference. We were appointed as one of 26 entities on the panel negotiating the proposed pre-CDL driver training rulemaking. We met him on two or three occasions in Washington D.C., at the Dallas Truck Show, and obviously at our Annual Meeting. We endorsed and signed on to his initiative to improve safety and awareness through his “Our Roads, Our Safety” Program. I can’t help but believe we provided valuable input to the proposed hours of service changes which were put on hold and revamped after he was moved from his position and replaced by his second in-command, Jim Mullen as the interim administrator.

I fear that he got too familiar with NASTC, OOIDA, and actual truck drivers and owner/operators to suit the large company power structure that has had a political chokehold on FMCSA since its inception.

This leads us back to the original query, who is in charge?

Is it Derek Leathers, CEO of Werner Enterprises, and acting administer, Mullen’s former boss?

Is it Chris Spear, The American Trucking Associations powerful lobbyist and czar?

Is it CVSA, an ad hoc conglomeration of former bureaucrats, safety, and enforcement people?

Is it The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee which has totally ignored 99.9% of the industry for the past 30 years by excluding representation with the one exception of Todd Spencer who represents OOIDA?

Is it Joan Claybrook with PATT? (Parents Against Tired Truckers) Or, is it a combination of MADD, PATT, CRASH, Public Citizen and the new safety group called Institute for Safer Trucking, all of whom are represented on The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee?

Is it the unholy “Alliance” that thinks as a group they’re too large to fail?

Is it the Teamsters or some other transportation union?

Or, is it the nationwide network of billboard ambulance chasers who are torturing innocent companies shamelessly for profit?

Unfortunately, it’s a combination of all of the above who seem to work endlessly to harass the safest and most productive 99.9% of long-haul trucking – the small, family-owned, rural based, irregular route carrier who has carried the load for us all through every crisis we’ve faced, including the one we’re coping with today.

I’m not sure I can tell who is truly in charge, but I can tell you definitely who isn’t, Raymond Martinez or NASTC.


david owen
David Owen
President
The National Association of Small Trucking Companies
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
800.264.8580


National Transportation Safety Board Sleep Apnea

July 16, 2020

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is once again applying pressure on The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to “create a more robust medical certification process on the federal level to identify and treat commercial drivers at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea”.

This several decade long conundrum has been going on from the early nineties to now and quite frankly, has been handled by the agency, safety advocates, Congress, and the medical community in such a way as to make matters worse, not better.

At the core of the problem lies a very inconvenient fact: WE ALL HAVE SOME LEVEL OF APNEA or HYPOPNEA. No one makes a 100% on an apnea test. The healthiest, youngest, and most physically fit all have some level of apnea. An AHI (Apnea hypopnea index) of two to five is found in the healthiest portion of our population and they are not even considered mildly afflicted at this level (the score indicates the number of episodes or “events” per hour, during sleep). By the way, all mammals stop breathing while they sleep.

So, when you read that a driver “was likely fatigued due to an untreated sleep disorder related to obstructive sleep apnea”, that is rarely a true statement, but plaintiff’s bar loves it because it’s a catch phrase that incriminates almost everyone, every time.

The next part of the conundrum is the direct cause and effect relationship that is implied with apnea (which we all have), fatigue, and crash causation. That is, if we all have apnea and untreated apnea causes fatigue, then it should follow that we’re all fatigued, all of the time. The truth is that untreated extreme apnea or hypopnea can compromise restorative rest (REM sleep) and over time, that may create a sleep deficient, that may, over time create chronic fatigue. If untreated, over time that may create narcolepsy which may result in one falling asleep while driving. So, the quantum leap directly from untreated obstructive apnea/hypopnea to an unsafe, falling asleep driver is just that, a lawyer’s dream that criminalizes innocent drivers because they’re male, over fifty, have a neck, and they snore.

Let’s apply the same quantum leap to another profession that like truck driving is very safety sensitive – medical doctors.

  • They all have apnea
  • They all, as humans, make mistakes (that’s why they call it a practice of medicine)
  • They all work long, hard hours
  • They all, from time to time, become fatigued

Have you ever heard of a malpractice case built around untreated apnea? At some point in time, NTSP, FMCSA, PATT, CRASH, and MADD must come to the realization that truck driving and medicine are not practiced in a vacuum by perfect practitioners and that drivers and doctors are human like the rest of us, sometimes are well-rested, have good days and bad, sometimes make stupid mistakes, and all the micro-managed regulations that can be dreamed up, will not create a perfect world where there are zero deaths or zero accidents.

Twenty-one years ago, October 25, 1999, Joan Claybrook, a co-founder of PATT (Parents Against Tired Truckers) addressed a driver fatigue symposium in Washington, D.C. and claimed that over 60% of America’s truck drivers had obstructive sleep apnea and “that was equal to, or worse than, driving drunk”.  Over the past two decades, that accusation has been repeated over and over and has been literally taken to heart. Unfortunately, the personal and painful hyperbole is nowhere close to factual and more unfortunately, Congress, FMCSA, Safety organizations to include CVSA, MADD, and Public Citizen, have bought into this statement as the truth. That has everything to do with the mess that’s been made of The Hours of service regulations, attempted apnea guidance, electronic logging devices, the Certified Medical Examiners Registry, and to a large degree, that debacle of all debacles, CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability).

Let’s not make this same mistake with the apnea question and drivers again. Let’s start looking for and treating narcolepsy the real culprit that causes drivers to fall asleep while driving or, if we do go back to STOP-BANG protocol to provide the regulatory standard for apnea, then we must apply this same standard to all people in all safety-sensitive areas, not just transportation professionals.


david owen
David Owen
President
The National Association of Small Trucking Companies
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
800.264.8580


Tennessean Article

June 11, 2020
Finally!!

Thank you, Jessica Bliss and The Tennessean for a positive article about truck drivers - and, on the front page also!

Thirteen-year driver veteran, Harold Hyde was rightfully highlighted in your 6/10/20 front page article. He was lauded as a "hero" and recognized rightfully for a job well done. As most heroes, Mr. Hyde very modestly claimed he'd only done his job, that anyone would have acted as he did, and that the hero moniker was unwarranted.

This isn't false modesty on his part. What is a little-known fact is that professional drivers save thousands of lives daily across this country simply in the course of doing their respective jobs.

What is sad is that in today's litigious society Mr. Hyde, and his company, Old Dominion Truck lines, took a terrible risk in stopping or trying to help in any way. What would have been the resulting outcome had this event not finished with a miraculous happy ending?

What if the autistic child had been injured when moved? Or, worse yet, had died? What if, when he blocked the highway, an accident occurred? What if the driver's actions caused long traffic delays and people were late for appointments? The driver, the company, and the industry would have been thoroughly vilified by the press, the driving public, and by the billboard ambulance chasing plaintiffs bar.

Did you know that for over thirty years now when a truck and car have an accident, the car is at fault 72-76% of the time? Did you know that fatalities in truck/car accidents have gone down from 6.1 per 100,000,000 miles traveled in 1975 to 1.3 per 100,000,000 miles in 2017? Did you know that the insurance community settles most claims against trucking companies out of court regardless of accident facts or fault?

The simple truth is that professional truck drivers are true heroes. They have certainly proved that over the past five months during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic shut down. They unselfishly continued to do their jobs, often risking their health and their families' health ensuring that food, fuel, medicine, and other essentials were accessible and abundant to us all.

I guess what I'm trying to convey is that it's so refreshing to see the transportation industry and one of its drivers recognized in a complimentary and positive way. There should be more of this all the time, not just in the midst of a crisis.

david owen
David Owen
President
The National Association of Small Trucking Companies
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
800.264.8580