In the spirit of truckers heading to Washington, we wanted to share about our own fearless leader Shelley's trip to D.C. this past fall. Shelley, along with representatives from other small South Dakota truck lines, went to Washington D.C. to meet with the federal Department of Transportation. Senator Rounds arranged the meeting and attended part of the meeting until his duties called him away. Staffers from his office and the offices of Thune and Noem were also in attendance. During their meeting, South Dakota trucking companies had the chance to make their voices heard—especially when it came to issues surrounding the ELD Mandate. Continue reading to hear what they talked about and what you can do to move forward!The Big Issue: Soft 14 vs. Hard 14
K&J was in a unique position during the meeting in Washington. Many of the other companies attending the meeting were small lines—many having less than ten trucks—and had not fully transitioned into electronic logging devices; therefore, Shelley said, those companies had a lot of concerns about the new ELD technology, the cost, live-stock restrictions, and cybersecurity.
And while we understand why those things need to be talked about, Shelley said the biggest concern she feels drivers face is the hours of service rule. It isn't a big secret that many in the trucking industry have been lenient when it came to the 14-hour rule that went into effect 2003. Until the ELD Mandate, however, there was no real way to actually track it other than the honor system. Now that there is, things have become much more difficult for drivers. "If we start pumping in comments to our elected officials, our voice will be heard," Shelley said.
Healthier Drivers Are Better Drivers
Driving a truck sometimes makes it really difficult to stay healthy, and this mandate makes that problem even more realistic. "We talked about the physical health of drivers deteriorating because of the hard 14," Shelley said, noting that many drivers don't have time to stop, and therefore are not able to stretch, eat proper meals, and hydrate.
Another key in staying healthy and safe on the road is enough sleep, and sleep is another thing that suffers under the mandate. "I reported that I had veteran drivers, who have driven for over 30 years, tell me that they were never as tired as they are within the hard 14," Shelley said. She also spoke to the DOT about the way the mandate demands drivers to push through at times they would not have before: "In the soft 14 environment, if they needed a two hour nap they would take it. In the hard 14 environment, they don't take it and they end up driving when they should be sleeping," she said.
The Government is Here to Work for You...
No matter how you feel about politics, both federal and state governments affect the trucking industry. And while it can sometimes feel as if we are isolated in the great plains of the Midwest, Shelley made sure South Dakotans were heard, and said that the offices of Senator Rounds and Thune have continued to work with trucking companies.
Not only is our local government in South Dakota working to make the ELD mandate better for all involved, but so is the federal government! The Department of Transportation started a study that is scheduled to last two years, at the end of which the mandate might be altered and reformed to better fit the needs of the industry. Shelley said she hopes that while the study is ongoing, the DOT might consider relaxing the hard 14 to alleviate some of the pressure on and concerns of drivers.
Legislation is in the Works
Rep. Brian Babin of Texas recently proposed legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would alter the 14 hour rule by allowing drivers to essentially "pause" their 14 hours for up to 3 hours. This would allow them to take a nap, go for a walk, cook a proper meal, or avoid the worst traffic times and work their 11 hours within up to 17 hours, rather than within 14. This legislation is referred to as The REST Act and it is a great step in the right direction.
...As Long as You Make Your Voice Heard!
The OOIDA can only fight so many battles for you. A huge benefit of living in South Dakota, Shelley said, is that our representatives want to do right by their constituents. But for them to be able to represent you accurately, you must make your voice heard by calling and emailing your representatives! "We need to stand up," Shelley said. "Let's get loud, let's be professional, and let's make our voice heard on what we need changed. Because I guarantee you, the more letters and the more phone calls they get, the more they will listen."
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