Explaining Real Problems in Trucking

trucker problems

Problems exist within many industries today, but most are not life or death situations. The trucking industry is no exception, there are countless problems, and some are about life or death situations. There was an accident on I-64 in Kentucky on Friday between two tractor trailers in which one of the drivers was killed. I want to use this to base a couple of scenario’s that I will create to show a couple major problems in trucking.

A major problem in trucking is a thing called “just in time delivery.” This is where the receiving (company) does not have any storage space for any “extra” material therefore can only take shipments when they are just about out of the material. Most companies operate like this, as it is a huge cost savings. These companies coordinate through the shipper and the trucking company and set up delivery appointments as most operate on a 24 hour period so trucks can unload at all hours of the day or night. Some drivers look at this as an advantage as they can get unloaded and be ready to grab another load. I look at it as a disadvantage and a major problem within the industry because drivers are driving tired and that is not safe.

The problem begins on the shipping side as they delay the driver right off the start by either booking too many trucks or by not having the load ready when the truck is scheduled to load. This can delay a driver for hours literally. The problem is when the driver is delayed in loading he or she still has to try to make the delivery time appointed to them because of “just in time delivery.” Even though the load may be delayed for hours. If the receiving company had a place to store more materials, then the driver after being delayed from loading, would not have to drive tired, and risk having accidents.

Most of the time a driver is not allowed to sleep or can’t sleep because of having to pull up when trucks move into a dock to load, or it’s just a company policy that a driver is not allowed sleep in the truck on the companies property due to insurance requirements.

Another reason a driver can’t sleep is because of anti-idle laws. If it is 75 or 80 degrees outside, then you can bet it will be close to 100 or more in the truck – how are you suppose to get rest? Same goes for in the winter time. But you say, they have auxiliary power units or APUs for trucks now to provide heat and coolness for resting comfortably without idling. This is true, but most companies won’t or have not purchased and fitted their trucks with the APUs as they don’t see it as being cost effective yet.

This brings me to my first scenario for the accident that happened Friday. The accident happened around 6:00AM in the morning. One tractor-trailer crashed into a tractor-trailer that was parked in the emergency lane, the one driver that hit the parked truck died as a result. In my first scenario I would say that given the time of the accident that the driver possibly could have fallen asleep and drifted off the road and hit the parked truck.

If the load was set to be loaded at 11:00PM the night before and the driver was delayed at the shipper for 4 or 5 hours, that would make it 04:00AM for departure – the driver has been up all night. But the load was originally scheduled to deliver “just in time” at 10:00AM the next day or 500 miles away. The company that needs the material can’t reschedule to give the driver rest from being up all night because they have no “extra” material – so the load must get there. Even though there is no-way to make up the lost 4 or 5 hours the driver was delayed. If there was no such thing as “just in time delivery” then the load could be rescheduled and the driver could get the rest needed to complete the trip safely.

My second scenario deals with inadequate parking. I know you have seen trucks parked on the shoulder of just about any road that has a shoulder on it, where a truck could pull over. Now not knowing whether the “parked” truck was actually parked on the shoulder or whether the truck was having problems or not, I can only assume for the purpose of the scenario that the driver was parked to rest. The lack of sufficient parking doesn’t give a driver many choices when it comes to needing to pull over and stop. States are closing rest areas because of lack in funding to operate them. But more rest areas, and safer parking places are needed for the trucks to park and rest or for breakdowns. This also could be tied into the first scenario too, as most drivers when they get tired will pull over to sleep and the load would just have to be late because no load is worth the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. But if there are no parking places, then they are left with only one option – that is to continue on.

The United States Department of Transportation has a mission statement saying: to “Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.” It seems to me that insufficient parking falls into the job the USDOT is supposed to be doing. This is a very real problem that has had previous studies done to show proof, but the USDOT seems more concerned with getting “distracted driving” laws in place for trucking without any such proof that the problem even exist in trucking – and “claiming” this will save the lives of people on the highways?

Just Friday the US Secretary of Transportation wrote in his blog as if he were “celebrating” the signing of the 10,000th road construction project. But, in 10,000 road construction projects none had to do with more and safer truck parking. This administration is “giving” money away to build and upgrade roads in to state parks, and bicycle lanes, and giving money to transit authorities (most of which are unions) that all taxpayers will have to pay back, but won’t give states the needed money to keep rest areas open or build more and safer truck parking spaces – a real problem.