Thoughts and Concerns for 2011

February 1, 2011

Recently, I was setting at a table with a couple of people in the trucking industry as they discussed what 2011 may hold in store. Of course, everyone had concerns, and some hope for trucking, but most of all, they said they did not have confidence in where we are going as truckers, as drivers and as Americans.

As I sit here today writing this article, the trucking industry is viewing a huge sea of change.  The coming year, trucking will experience a great number of changes required by all levels of government from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) through the CSA 2010 (2011?).  FMCSA, through Administrator Anne Ferro, just gave notice to the press they will publish the new rules for Hours of Service and proposed expansion of it’s Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBRs) before January 1, 2011.  Other concerns include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with their truck mileage and emissions requirements, whether the IRS will continue to allow the “Independent Contractor” classification or require everyone to be classified as an employee.  This continues on down to the local level by city ordinance, changing Truck Routes and Idling rules.

In addition to changes that will impact our industry, there are numerous changes that will affect us on an individual level.  Changes in areas such as taxes we have to pay or whether or not we will have to issue or receive IRS Forms 1099 for every $600 we pay out or receive, or will there be new deductions that will allow us to keep more of our money.  Home Foreclosures and their effect on everyone’s home, the ability to get and keep health insurance that will protect our families at a rate we can afford are also issues that will impact us as Americans.  Will we keep our jobs until we have enough money to retire, will social security be there for us at a realistic level of support, how old will you have to be to collect the social security that you have paid into all your working life.

Plus other serious questions about the health of our economy, which currently has 9.8% Uemployment, and unemployment insurance running out in many states.  Can we keep this up, or should we look to Greece as what to expect.  All this concern boils down to:  Whether our politicians will quit fighting and really decide to help the American people.

The consensus from the group was: “Hell Yes!”  We are truckers and Americans, we can and we will overcome these issues.  It will take everyone doing their part, working smart and planning like you have to take care of yourself.  If you can get to where you are not relying on anyone and can take care of yourself and your family, you will make it just fine.

Some suggestions from the group: Protect your credit and live within your income.  Protect your family first, then and only then can you afford to enlarge the number of people you actively protect.  Some among us will fail.  A much wiser man once said that the poor will be with you always, and I believe him.  However, that does not mean you should not be generous with what you can share to help others.  There are plenty of truckers who need some help through no fault of their own, just make sure you are not taken advantage of when you go to help others.  Help through your family, your church or a recognized charity in your city.

Protect yourself and your ability to make a living.  If you lose your health, you lose everything.  Make a daily effort to eat healthy, seek exercise suited to your physical condition, and participate in things to strengthen your mind.  Read daily or go online and take classes in things that interest you.  Protect your ability to drive, which means protecting your CDL.  The new CSA changes will have a huge impact on your ability to get and keep a job.  Challenge each and every traffic ticket you receive whether you deserved it or not.  Challenge each inspection violation you receive through the DataQ Challenges available in the CSA.  Challenge every mistake in your Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) because every carrier will view your PSP before offering you a job.  My experience as an attorney in trucking for the past 20 years has shown that 20% of all my business comes from mistakes the government makes in their paperwork such as MVRs and PSPs.  Protect yourself by monitoring your own MVRs, PSPs and even your credit report.

Educate yourself about your profession.  Actively seek out classes or courses your carrier may offer to gain more knowledge about trucking, its rules and regulations and where it is headed.  Learn all the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) rules and regulations because they control the Who, What, When, Where and Why you are able to drive a commercial vehicle.  Try to become the go-to driver when the carrier/shipper needs to make sure the load is there safely and on time.  Embrace technology that is specific to trucking such as electronic logs, lane violation alerts, smart-phones and of course learn about Tweets and Facebook since the social media is the cutting edge.  There should be no reason you are unable to call home every day and have a video conference on your phone with your family.  See them and let them see you when you are talking, it really make a lot of difference and is well worth the money.

Be realistic. This world is not perfect so expect some bumps in the road. You will have disagreements with your family, your boss and others while you are on the road.  Learn not to burn, by that I mean learn to let it go and put it behind you.  Forget that grudge, forgive and move on and I guarantee you that you will feel better and be happier even if the other person doesn’t do the same.

Plan ahead. Tax time is coming up soon.   Have you decided how you will go forward next year to be in a better tax position than this year? Plan a family vacation, it will cost you so save some money, and you can take those memories and photos with you wherever you go.

Plan ahead is the theme through all these suggestion for truckers and as Winston Churchill once said: “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

• You can contact Jim C. Klepper at www.interstatetrucker.com or
www.driverslegalplan.com.

The information, advice and opinions in Legal Lane are entirely those of Jim C. Klepper.