I read all the headlines about freight companies desperate to fill job openings. We’re told there’s a driver shortage. Well, that’s what happens when you cut wages and benefits to the bone. Nobody sees it as a decent way to make a living.
When I hired on years ago, a union job with a pension was like hitting the lottery. Now, our contract is next to nothing when it comes to the union enforcing it and our pension is in trouble.
It’s up to Teamster members to get this industry back on track. And it starts with us taking charge and getting rid of the so-called leaders, both locally and nationally, that have no real answers or plans for getting us out of this mess.
We can restore the pride in trucking and it starts with getting involved in TDU and helping all Teamsters take back our union.
Louis Armstrong, YRC, Local 667, Memphis
September 24, 2014: YRC drivers are fed-up with pictures like this. It’s time to go beyond complaining and challenge subcontracting.
There is language in the YRC MOU that offers protections, if it is utilized and enforced. It’s time to do just that.
September 13, 2014: Yesterday the Laredo Texas Con-way terminal workers voted to join Teamsters Local 657, in a first-ever organizing win at the giant LTL carrier. Los Angeles Joint Council 42 just filed with the NLRB for organizing votes at three Con-way terminals in Los Angeles, Santa Fe Springs and San Fernando.
Is this the start of movement to organize in freight and trucking? We hope so! It’s certainly a good first step, and should spread.
Other locals are organizing at Con-way, and also among FedEx Freight workers. A conference call of locals was held two weeks ago and other one is coming up soon, to compare notes on freight organizing.
The Laredo vote among 113 drivers and dock workers at the busy terminal on the international border was 55-49 for Local 657. Los Angeles Local 63 and other locals in the initial stages of freight organizing have also taken local initiative.
The International union organizing department has so far not been involved. Freight and trucking have not been priority areas for the Hoffa administration. In fact, the Hoffa administration poured cold water on a drive at Con-way in Ohio, begun by local unions over a year ago.
Locals are taking initiative. The International union has the big resources to help coordinate this movement and drive it to victory.
Teamsters union organizing efforts are advancing at FedEx Freight and Con-way Freight, the two largest nonunion less-than-truckload carriers, according to National Labor Relations Board records.
At Con-Way, Local 657 led the effort for a representation election supervised by the National Labor Relartions Board that has been set for Sept. 12 in Laredo, Texas, according to NLRB officials.
Click here to read more.
In my many years covering trucking, I’ve been surprised by the industry’s steadfastly antagonistic approach to government attempts to impose new regulations and requirements to improve safety. By and large, fleets seem to look upon safety regulations as a burden to be resisted when possible and to be grudgingly endured only when active political resistance fails.
While I accept that most fleets strive to reduce accidents and injuries—which executives understand will keep damage claims and customer complaints down -- carrier officials seem to lead with their chins. In fact, short-term savings gained by delaying safety improvements are quite costly to the industry in terms of the public’s perception of trucking and are often harmful to the financial performance of fleets.
Click here to read more at Fleet Owner.
Comments on the proposed electronic logging device mandate cover the full spectrum of reactions, from outrage and disdain at Big Brother government to applause for a sensible and long-overdue safety rule.
Most of the 2,213 comments are from individuals who do not like what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is planning to do. Many include substantive suggestions for how to improve what the agency is proposing.
Click here to read more at Truckinginfo.com
Higher driving costs and falling pay have created a truck-driver shortage that's likely to worsen in the coming years.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates the U.S. is short 30,000 truck drivers — a number expected to surge to 239,000 by 2022.
In July 2013, new federal hours-of-service rules went into effect.
The key provision was a limit to the use of a 34-hour "restart." Drivers have a 70-hour-a-week cap on how much time they can be on the road. Previously, they'd been able to artificially reset that cap to zero if they took 34 consecutive hours off. Now, many are unable to do so.
As a result, according to a survey from the American Transportation Research Institute, more than 80% of motor carriers have experienced a productivity loss, with nearly half saying they require more drivers to haul the same amount of freight.
"Smaller 'owner/operator' firms are increasingly dropping by the wayside as the cost of operations and maintenance are simply becoming too expensive to stay in business," Paul Pittman, a planner at a North Carolina-based logisitcs company, told Business Insider by email.
So drivers are suddenly faced with the choice of leaving the profession entirely or moving to a larger company where wages are likely to be lower.
"As controls continue to tighten, many of the existing drivers currently employed are turning to other areas of employment simply to get off the road and escape some of the regulations implemented to govern their operations," Pittman said.
To hang on, small operators are forced to cut corners. For Jeff, a driver who asked to be identified by only his first name, the pay isn't the biggest issue — it's the compromises some firms are making on driver compliance.
"With how my lifestyle is [the pay is] pretty decent. I don’t go out and blow money on speed boats, or the best electronics, or hookers and blow," Jeff said. "I’m married and I have four children. We prioritize our finances. Two years ago we finally bought an HDTV. My main issue is the safety aspect."
His primary issue with trucking companies is the pressure they put on drivers to violate federal rules. Jeff worked for a small outfit in the Midwest. The owner of that company, he says, wanted him to take a dry van load from Hubbard, Ohio, to Syracuse, New York, which is about 327 miles.
Jeff explained that this trip takes longer for trucks than it does for cars, because trucks carry heavier loads, and it takes longer for them to speed up and slow down. It would take a truck about five hours and 15 minutes from Hubbard to Syracuse.
The owner, whom Jeff didn't want named, asked him to drive back to Hubbard empty, do a drop-and-hook (drop one trailer, hook another) and take another trailer up to Binghamton, New York, the same day. And the trip from Hubbard to Binghamton is about five and a half hours, meaning a round trip would only leave him about 30 minutes of driving for the day and legally Jeff couldn't.
"When you're non-compliant as a driver you run the risk of fatigue and the risk of hurting other people," he said. "And as a driver it's my license on the line." Jeff said he was asked by multiple trucking companies to falsify his logs, but he refused to.
"I consider myself a safety-oriented driver, and I have found that is a bad thing," Jeff said. "Because since I got my CDL [commercial driver's license] in 2008, I have worked for about 10 different trucking companies. That doesn't look good because it looks like it is job hopping ... I'm sticking to my guns."
Time Away From Home
Another problem is lack of time spent at home. Todd Feucht of Wisconsin says drivers can expect to spend as little as 52 days at home a year. Feucht, who hauls oversize loads, averages about three to five weeks. Last year he was home 54 days, including his vacation days. "Back in the day you were treated like a knight, but now you're treated like a peon," Feucht says.
All of this helps explain why the turnover rate at large truckload carriers was 92% annualized in Q1, according to the ATA. Turnover refers to the rate at which drivers leave the industry and are replaced.
"One-hundred percent turnover doesn’t mean that every driver left," ATA chief economist Bob Costello says. "If you keep a driver for 90 days, the rate generally drops in half. However, there are a group of drivers that churn, and they generally stay at a carrier for a short length of time (just weeks or a couple of months). Many drivers stay with a carrier for years."
Meanwhile, drivers with less experience or bargaining power get squeezed. Feucht has been driving trucks for 20 years and thinks trucking companies need to be more honest when recruiting.
The new drivers are "greener than grass," he said. Those who attempt to lease trucks quickly discover the significant cost of maintenance and overhead. Young drivers who go this route end up having very little to show for it.
"I meet these guys at truck-stops and they can barely afford to eat ramen during the week," Feucht told Business Insider. "They're dropping $850 on a truck a week."
Truck drivers typically get paid hourly or by the mile. Some get a percentage of the load. If you're getting less than 33 cents a mile "you're getting ripped off," Jeff, a 36-year old truck driver from Ohio, told Business Insider.
The truck drivers suggest if these companies want to see this turnover decrease they need to focus on improving pay, improving training for new entrants, and they need to not push them to violate federal regulations.
There may finally be some movement on this front. Last month, Swift, one of the largest haulers in the U.S., announced it would refocus expenditures on better labor conditions for employees, including higher wages.
"After assessing the current and expected environment, we believe the best investment we can make at this time, for all of our stakeholders, is in our drivers," the firm said in its earnings release. "Our goal is to clear the path for our drivers by helping them overcome challenges, eliminate wait times and take home more money."
August 15, 2014: The Central States Pension Fund has given YRCW an extension until 2019 to repay $109 million that YRC owes the pension fund. This was revealed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission and in the 2014 First Quarter Report filed by the Independent Special Counsel on July 30.
That report, along with the Financial and Analytical Report obtained by TDU, indicates that the fund’s assets fell from $18.7 billion to $18.5 billion during the first quarter.
YRC has owed the $109 million to the fund since 2009, when it failed to make required payments, and has twice extended the deadline for making a balloon payment. The latest extension came by vote of the Central States union and management trustees in January, 2014. The trustees are reluctant to strain YRC’s weak finances. YRC makes interest payments of $550,000 per month.
While $109 million is small compared to the fund’s assets, it is still a very significant debt obligation to the troubled fund, as some YRC Teamsters and Central States retirees have already noted.
Central States lost $209 million in assets in the first quarter because the investment return of 1.7% could not keep up with pension payments.
Meanwhile, the Central States Health and Welfare Fund continues to run in the black and build up its outsized reserves. As its number of Teamster participants has more than doubled, with the addition of UPS part-time and full-time members, future reports will bear watching closely. Many UPS Teamsters recently put into the Central States Fund (TeamCare) are finding that certain benefits are falling short of promises made by the Hoffa-Hall administration.