Trucking has gained a romanticized image in popular media, from Hollywood movies to Youtube videos. Truck drivers are often portrayed as outcasts that are getting paid lots of cash to live a lonely life driving their big rigs across endless stretches of highways. But while this idyllic view of trucking has some grain of truth, the reality is that it is a grueling job that requires lots of teamwork, diligence, and focus.
Because they drive the biggest vehicles on the road and the fact that they are the driving force in a highly competitive freight sector, truckers are always under constant stress from many sources. So it’s no surprise that the trucking industry is chronically short of experienced drivers, who prefer to live a more peaceful life closer to home.
So what are these common peeves that truckers experience? We’ve asked around and listed down these top five most complained about problems in the trucking field:
5. Rude or aggressive drivers
Most motorists don’t know how difficult it is for truckers to maneuver their vehicles through traffic. Given the size and position of the driver on the cab, they have a difficult time adjusting to smaller cars that suddenly appear in front of the vehicle, especially when they start to slow down. Surprise lane changes are also a headache, as drivers have to make an exceptional effort to steer tractor-trailers weighing upwards of 80,000 lbs to avoid an accident.
4. Delays at customer facilities
If you’ve been driving long enough, you’ve probably endured hours of waiting at the shipper or receiver. Some drivers have even reported delays of six hours or more. This, of course, has a serious impact on the driver’s bottom line, using up their service hours waiting at the loading docks. Also, even if the driver is compensated for the time lost due to delays, being held up for a significant amount of time can make it difficult to find parking and allocate time to eat, shower, or rest properly in order to meet their timetable.
3. Lack of parking spots
One daily worry of drivers around the world is finding a safe and secure place to park. It’s an unspoken rule for truckers around the US that if they’re not at the rest area or truck stop by 10 p.m., it would be next to impossible to find a free parking space. Some cities also limit where drivers can park, forcing them to place hazard triangles and park in an undesignated area where they’ll be more vulnerable to crime.
Another downside of the chronic parking shortage around the US is that drivers are forced to allocate time to prepare or even drive earlier in order to beat the rush, eating away at what’s supposed to be their free time. Some truck stops have also begun to offer reservations on parking spots, which, while practical, also means an additional expense, especially for owners/operators.
2. Hours of service
Drivers have also pushed for rescinding the 30-minute mandatory break after their first eight hours of driving. Enforced in 2013 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the rest break, combined with the split-sleeper berth provision for trucks, is meant to alleviate stress around Hours of Service (HoS) requirements. However, drivers note that because the break is mandatory, there are instances where they will be forced to rest even when they are not tired and still fully capable of driving. Some also point out that 30 minutes is also inadequate to become fully rested to work and that the constant stress of trying to comply with the strict schedule may lead to more health woes than alleviate them.
Thankfully, because of the concerns from the industry, regulators have since made the mandatory break more flexible to the needs of the driver. Originally, drivers were only able to split their time into 8- and 2-hour time periods. Now, they have the option to split their off-duty time into 7 and 3 hours, which in turn do not count against a driver’s 14-hour driving allotment. This allows more leeway for drivers to get enough rest when they need it and avoid congested parking areas to meet their scheduled breaks.
Arguably the most frequent complaint made by truck drivers is the Electric Logging Devices or ELDs. Introduced in 2015, ELDs have become the mandatory method for drivers and carriers to document compliance with HoS requirements. But while ELDs were designed to streamline HoS compliance, drivers have criticized these devices for supposedly limiting their driving time and cutting their earnings as a result. In addition, because the ELDs are constantly monitoring the truck, concerns have also been brought up. It has even resulted in drivers deciding to shift to other careers rather than comply with the new regulations.
As the list has revealed, the problems truck drivers often face involve road safety, accountability, and compliance with the myriad of regulations governing the industry. While some of these are being addressed and even declining in severity, they remain a concern for both drivers and carriers alike.