Charles Claburn considers himself a reasonable man working in an unreasonable industry. He has driven over-the-road for 26 accident- and ticket-free years logging three million miles. He believes that some of the rules under which drivers operate are detrimental to the drivers, the industry and the public. His group Truckers Stand as One hopes to call attention to issues that they would like changed by calling for a nationwide non-driving day on April 12.
We recently spoke with Claburn. Following are his edited comments.
What changes are you seeking?
The first is HOS (hours of service) reform that makes sense. There's nothing wrong with 14-hour days, but let us decide how to use that time. Let us take our breaks when we need them. The ELD is a tool and probably 90% of drivers don't have a problem with it. I've driven both ways with paper logs and ELDs. I haven’t had a violation either way, and the ELD ensures I’ll never have them. People thought ELDs would be an opportunity to force shippers to pay detention but it didn't happen. There are better ways to make these people accountable. You know as well as I do, that a lot of industry experts said that ELDs are going to be great for rates. It didn’t happen.
Parking is another major issue. We have been complaining about a lack of parking for decades. Zero; nothing has been done. Some say that we’re short roughly 78,000 truck parking spaces. It grows, what, a thousand to 1,800 a year from the previous study that was done about 20 years ago? The federal government says it's the states' responsibility. They have increased some parking spots but it's not enough.
We want something done about driver training. We'd like to see training and safety standards be the same for all drivers. These are our three largest issues, and I think our requests are pretty reasonable.
[The group is also calling on the FMCSA to have standard regulations and inspections and for drivers to be involved in making new regulations.]
Boycotts and disruptions like the recent one in Washington, DC, have not worked in the past. It just makes the public angry and nothing changes. How is this planned activity different?
The public doesn't like truck drivers anyway. From what I can see with back and forth banter on Facebook (the group has 9,000 members), more people are in support of not shutting down highways. I propose that people go to their state capital, simply stay home, or gather in areas where it’s safe to do so. A lot of drivers are hung up on what if an ambulance can’t get through, what if this, what if that, and they have some valid concerns. The biggest thing is that nobody wants to block the roads; I’m all for that. I’m all for doing this whatever way we can do this and have our message heard.
What about younger drivers who are afraid of losing their jobs if they stay out?
There is a risk to anyone who stands up for anything. But remember this, there’s a driver shortage; isn’t that what they keep telling us? If a company is going to fire you for taking the day off to support your industry, I’m pretty sure the driver can find a job tomorrow. The industry can’t have it both ways. They can’t say there’s a shortage and then say because a guy is going to participate in a movement to stand up for better industry standards that they’re going to fire them.
How do you think shippers will respond to the "drive-out"?
These are the people that will make the changes for us. When the trucks aren’t moving, who do you think the shippers and manufacturers are going to call? They’ll start calling their congressional representatives and asking them "what’s the deal?" Believe it or not, many shippers and receivers still don’t know about ELDs, about the hours of service, and about why drivers get upset because they’re sitting at the dock for hours. Many shippers and receivers really don’t know what’s going on out here.
President Trump during his campaign promised to help truck drivers. The administration runs the DOT and FMCSA. Did he deliver?
President Trump said what he said to get elected. I think Ray Martinez (FMCSA Administrator) is a good man. He is well aware of what's going on and we hope to hear from him about changes in the HOS.