FMCSA Administrator sees the road from the driver's cab in two-day truck ride-along
Just a few days ago, I finished a ride-along with Leo Wilkins, an owner operator I met at the OOIDA Safety Awards presentation in Kansas City. Leo has logged 21 years of accident-free driving, and from Sunday morning until Monday afternoon, I rode with him from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, to St. Louis--with stops along the way in Harrisburg, Indianapolis, and Riverton, Illinois.
My goal was to experience what drivers experience when they are on the road and see how the programs we put in place at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration really mean to an owner operator.
FMCSA Administrator (right) joined Leo Wilkins in his 2012 Peterbilt 379 from Marlboro, MD, to St. Louis. Photo courtesy OOIDA.
I saw first-hand the challenges drivers face and that the shipper and receiver play a large part in those challenges. I saw how traffic, weather, and the stop at the weigh station can make trip planning so difficult for our nation's commercial drivers. I also saw how safety rules like the 14-hour driving window--while necessary to prevent fatigue--factor into the driver's job.
For most of us, when we plan a road trip, it happens on time and without delay, and it doesn't affect our livelihood. For many commercial truck drivers, however, trip management is at the mercy of the shipper, and the shipper’s demands are always changing to fulfill the receiver’s needs.
Drivers are often kept waiting at the dock for their load; then they must secure the load. All of this counts as part of their 14-hour driving window, but they aren't paid for the time spent waiting and securing the load. Imagine your own frustration if you had a limited window for earning revenue, but control of that window was in someone else's hands.
What you don't see when you pass a tractor-trailer on the highway is that truck driving is hard work. More than once, I watched as Leo navigated us through unsafe conditions created by passenger vehicles driving aggressively and unpredictably near his rig. Thanks to Leo's skill and patience, other drivers never even seemed aware of the potential danger they had instigated.
I want to thank Leo Wilkins for this eye-opening opportunity. These two days gave me a first-hand look at how we need to continue our commitment to building safety into the entire trip, from shipper to receiver and everywhere in between.
Anne Ferro is Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.