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.
In a decision issued August 11, 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has found that truck owner Terry Unrein fired truck driver Rebecca Barnhard for refusing to drive a truck with a defective steer tire and for complaining that a headlight on the truck operated only intermittently. Unrein owned and operated five trucks, and transported goods under contract with Gulick Trucking.
OSHA ordered Unrein to reinstate Ms. Barnhard to her former position as a truck driver, to pay her back pay, and to pay her attorney fees. OSHA also ordered Unrein to post a copy of a notice at its work place indicating that Ms. Barnard had won her case, and that the Surface Transportation Assistance Act protects drivers from retaliation for making complaints about violations of commercial vehicle safety regulations, and for refusing to drive in violation of a commercial vehicle safety regulation.
Ms. Barnhard states, “I am delighted with OSHA’s decision and feel that my decision to refuse to drive an unsafe truck has been vindicated. My employer wanted me to take shortcuts to sidestep DOT regulations and I am happy that the law protected me when I refused to take shortcuts with safety.”
Mr. Barnhard was represented by Paul O. Taylor, an attorney with Truckers Justice Center in Burnsville, MN. www.truckersjusticecenter.com
Swift Transportation’s 20,000 workers haul goods in almost 14,000 big-rig trucks that travel the interstates and back roads of the United States every day. The company’s performance is closely tied to the nation’s economy, which has been looking increasingly sunny lately.
So it was surprising last month when Swift’s stock plummeted nearly 18 percent in a single day. The tumble came for an odd reason. It wasn’t because there was too little business — but rather, too much.
“We were constrained by the challenging driver market,” the company said in its quarterly earnings announcement. “Our driver turnover and unseated truck count were higher than anticipated.”
In other words, Swift had plenty of customers wanting to ship goods. But in a time of elevated unemployment, it somehow couldn’t find enough drivers to take those goods from Point A to Point B. How is that possible? The reasons for that conundrum tell us a great deal about what has been ailing American workers and why a full-throated economic recovery has been so slow in coming.
Consider this: The American Trucking Associations has estimated that there was a shortage of 30,000 qualified drivers earlier this year, a number on track to rise to 200,000 over the next decade. Trucking companies are turning down business for want of workers.
Yet the idea that there is a huge shortage of truck drivers flies in the face of a jobless rate of more than 6 percent, not to mention Economics 101. The most basic of economic theories would suggest that when supply isn’t enough to meet demand, it’s because the price — in this case, truckers’ wages — is too low. Raise wages, and an ample supply of workers should follow.
But corporate America has become so parsimonious about paying workers outside the executive suite that meaningful wage increases may seem an unacceptable affront. In this environment, it may be easier to say “There is a shortage of skilled workers” than “We aren’t paying our workers enough,” even if, in economic terms, those come down to the same thing.
The numbers are revealing: Even as trucking companies and their trade association bemoan the driver shortage, truckers — or as the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls them, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers — were paid 6 percent less, on average, in 2013 than a decade earlier, adjusted for inflation. It takes a peculiar form of logic to cut pay steadily and then be shocked that fewer people want to do the job.
Millions of able-bodied Americans need work, yet there aren’t enough middle-income jobs for them. That is especially the case for men without advanced educations, who have seen their wages depressed over the last few decades. Trucking would seem to be an excellent option.
It’s not an ideal job for everyone. There is no question that trucking is hard work, necessitating long hours and longer stretches away from family. But that’s why it is well compensated, at least in comparison to other jobs not requiring college degrees. The average pay for a long-haul trucker is just shy of $50,000, according to the A.T.A., and an experienced trucker with a good safety record can make significantly more than that. The work typically offers lavish benefits that are increasingly rare for nonunion blue-collar employees.
The job can be learned fairly quickly. In some industries, companies complain of shortages of workers for jobs that require years of advanced training, like certain engineering specialties. Trucking is not one of those industries, however.
A person can get a commercial driver’s license after a course that can be as brief as six weeks of intensive study. Moreover, there were actually fewer truckers working last year (1.585 million) than five years earlier (1.673 million). Some of the missing workers could presumably be coaxed back into the industry if the money were right.
To be sure, the trucker-shortage picture is more complex than this, notes Bob Costello, the A.T.A.’s chief economist. He says these complications make a straightforward story of truckers simply being underpaid not quite fair.
For example, new safety requirements mean that individual truckers drive fewer miles than a decade ago: An average long-haul truck can now cover 8,000 miles a month, down from almost 11,000 in 2007, according to the trade association. This helps account for downward wage pressure. And the trucking companies themselves are typically working on thin profit margins and serving customers on long-term contracts, which means that if they simply raised pay sharply to recruit more truckers, they could end up losing money.
But every industry has its special challenges, and the trucker shortage — and falling inflation-adjusted wages over the last decade — are part of a bigger story.
The reasons are the subject of endless debate, and you can pick the one you prefer to emphasize: technological change, globalization or a decline of union power. But wages of workers without advanced skills have been under downward pressure in the United States and across the developed world over the last generation. The deep recession and slow recovery have only made the trend more pronounced.
That has led to a mind-set in which executives sometimes think of line workers as merely resources to be tapped at the lowest price. Companies have been able to keep wages low: It’s hard to demand a raise when your colleagues are being laid off or there is a long line of job seekers. Some corporations may have come to view this as a natural state of affairs.
By now, wage income is as low a percentage of gross domestic product as it has been since 1947, while corporate profits are at postwar highs. These are two sides of the same coin. Money that once accrued to workers now goes to shareholders.
Yet there are some indications that this state of affairs may not last: The shortage of truckers is one piece of evidence that the balance of power is shifting. In recent earnings calls, executives from companies as varied as JetBlue and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group have expressed worry about rising wage pressures.
The trucker shortage is already resulting in higher wages in parts of that industry. There have been $2,000 signing bonuses from companies looking to poach truckers and, as Kevin P. Knight of Knight Transportation mentioned in that trucking company’s latest earnings call, per-mile pay increases have been working out to 5 to 10 percent jumps in driver pay.
Executives may bemoan higher pay for workers because it could cut profit margins. But after a generation in which the median American household has seen flat to declining inflation-adjusted income, wage increases are a welcome corrective. When workers begin to have more leverage in salary negotiations, it is a sign of an improving economy, not a liability that businesses should be complaining about.