CVTA Attended Veterans Transportation Career Opportunities Forum

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Recently Mike O’Connell received an invitation to the Veterans Transportation Career Opportunities Forum. Mike and Cheryl Hanley asked John Diab and Cindy Atwood to attend in his place.

/CVTA_JohnDiab_VAT_ForumThe forum focused on careers in the trucking, transit, and motor coach sectors. Participants discussed the importance of working with truck and bus companies to recruit qualified and safety-conscious Veterans for the critical jobs that need to be filled. The DOT is striving to remove barriers that stand in the way of our veterans’ success and connecting them with job opportunities that they deserve. This meeting gave motor carriers and other stakeholders a chance to tell DOT and DOL how they can assist in making the transition for veterans easier.

Together, DOT and Veterans Affairs have launched the Veterans Transportation Career Center, a web site to help veterans find jobs in the private sector. On this site, veterans can learn what training and certification are needed for civilian jobs, determine what career fits best with their background, and search for available jobs in their field. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is doing what it can to make obtaining a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) easier for veterans with military driving experience.

In May, FMCSA proposed a rule allowing states to waive the CDL skills test for military drivers with two years of safe driving experience. Today, 39 states are offering or preparing to offer this option, and DOT is encouraging the other states to do the same.

The latest transportation bill, MAP-21, requires DOT and FMCSA to examine the gaps between military training and the requirements for a CDL. This study will provide us with the information needed need to work with the military and the states to fill those gaps.
There are significant grants available from DOL and DOT that CVTA members are not currently able to access. There was an indication that privately owned schools were not held in the same esteem as Community Colleges. CVTA is striving to change the perception with the Departments of Labor and Transportation.
Our friends from ATA specifically Boyd Stephenson did a wonderful job of supporting CVTA and its members schools. His comments were very favorable and we believe had an impact on the group. We thank Boyd and ATA for their continued support.

The session ended with a commitment to work together. We all realize that providing opportunities to talented and skilled veterans is essential to strengthening America’s transportation system. The DOT promised will continue to work with an ever increasing wide range of partners to help veterans find success in transportation fields.


ODAPC Confirms Heroin Testing Change

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DOT Safety Regulation Update Fast-Fax™
Week of October 8, 2012
Foley Services Your Single Source for DOT Compliance

The Department of Transportation’s Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance confirmed changes to the process by which heroin is identified in a urine sample. Under the new rules, testing for and identifying heroin use should be more streamlined.

Under the new rules, Laboratories and MROs will no longer be required to consult with one another about testing for morphine usage when the laboratory finds 6-AM in a urine sample. In a Final Rule issued on Wednesday, October 3, the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance chose to enact the rules unchanged from the Interim Final Rule issued on May 3 (see Fast-Fax 736).

6-AM and Morphine

Opiates, one of the ‘drugs’ tested for under the DOT 5-Panel are in fact not a unified, single substance, but instead a broad family that includes legitimate medications and illegal substances. Morphine, an opiate, is a legitimate pain management medication. Heroin, also an opiate, does not have any legitimate usage.

Heroin differs from Morphine in a variety of ways. Most importantly, in terms of drug testing, it is marked by a unique metabolite — 6-AM. When laboratories test your urine sample, they look for these metabolites as a sign of drug use. While heroin use may produce Morphine metabolites, it will also always produce 6-AM. However, Morphine (or any other drug) will never produce 6-AM: only Heroin will.

By this process, the MRO can tell if the positive test can be explained by the use of legitimate medication or not. Heroin has no legitimate use, so the MRO will know the positive cannot be explained away.

So What Has Changed?

During the last revision of the drug testing regulations, the DOT was confronted by industry figures who claimed that a provision of the rules was unnecessary. Under the current rules, if a laboratory finds 6-AM, the must consult with the laboratory about whether traces of morphine were also found in the sample. These traces would be lower than the normal cut-off level but higher than the laboratories’ minimum level of detection.

That was quite complicated, and, according to many of the experts that contacted the DOT, not necessary. DOT has agreed, and, in the Interim Final Rule, has removed the complicated relationship entirely.

The new regulations were scheduled to go into effect on July 3 of this year. ODAPC did not explain why they were delayed.

How Does This Affect You?

This is one of those ‘behind-the-scenes’ regulations that won’t affect you very much at all (unless you get a heroin positive). In reality, you probably won’t notice any changes.

The change does, however, streamline the process of identifying a heroin user; hopefully speeding up the time it takes to get the individual off the road.

Avoiding Trouble With Opiates

It is safe to claim that opiates are the cause of more unintentional violations of the regulations than any of the other controlled substances that the DOT tests for. Safety-Sensitive personnel need to be very careful when they are being prescribed a painkiller, as failure to follow the rules can lead to very serious consequences. Most importantly, they need to ensure that the doctor prescribing the drug knows that the patient drives a truck for a living.

In fact, this is good advice for any time a safety-sensitive individual is given a new prescription. If the individual is sent for a test, and has been taking a prescription opiate, the initial test will come back positive. The MRO will investigate, including contacting the prescribing doctor. One of the questions asked will be ‘were you aware of the patient’s job and would you still have prescribed this medication if you were?’ If the Doctor assures the MRO that they knew and that the medication will not affect the patient’s job-skills, the MRO will declare the test negative. If, however, the patient had not told the MRO that he or she was a truck driver the likely result is a confirmed positive test.

Ensure that all safety-sensitive personnel know to talk to their doctors BEFORE they start a new medication.



Editor: Roxanne Swidrak, Vice President, Operations • 1-800-253-5506 • • Vol. 112, No. 758 • © Foley Carrier Services, LLC. 2012


Mike Card Elected ATA Chairman

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LAS VEGAS — Mike Card, president of Combined Transport, Central Point, Ore., was elected American Trucking Associations’ 68th chairman at ATA’s annual Management Conference & Exhibition here Wednesday.

“It is a tremendous honor to be selected by one’s peers to represent them,” said Card, who succeeded Dan England, chairman of C.R. England Inc., Salt Lake City, in the one-year position.

“It is not secret that our nation and our industry are at a crossroads,” Card said in a statement, “with looming changes in hours-of-service, a steady, but still slow, economic recovery, a federal government threatening to impose even more onerous regulations on our industry — while all the while underinvesting in the highway system we depend on.”

Speaking at ATA’s annual MCE banquet Wednesday evening, Card said being named chairman was “the highlight of my life [and] I’m going to do everything I can to expand the influence of ATA’s voice.”

He also said he is planning a trip to Mexico City in a few weeks to talk with Mexican trucking industry officials, as well as ATA’s Canadian counterpart, to help with cross-border trade issues.

“Mike is emblematic of what makes our industry great,” ATA President Bill Graves said in a statement. “The son of a driver-turned-entrepreneur and the leader of a family business, Mike will be a tremendous ambassador for ATA and for trucking,” Graves said.

By Transport Topics


Back to the Future: The Current and Coming Driver Shortage

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LAS VEGAS - At least one industry analyst has predicted the driver shortage could reach 500,000 by sometime net year. The American Trucking Associations recently reported that driver turnover at large truckload fleets is now at 106%, the highest level since early 2007. What's driving this shortage, and what can be done about it?

That was the question addressed during a panel discussion this week at the American Trucking Associations' annual Management Conference and Expo in Las Vegas.

The name of the panel was "Back to the Future: The Current and Coming Driver Shortage." Kenny Vieth, president and senior analyst at ACT Research, started off with a blast from the past. An article from a 1914 issue of Traffic World noted, "employers complain of the great difficulty of securing drivers who are competent … and yet a majority of truck owners will hire the men who will work cheapest."

Vieth asked whether we really are looking at a driver shortage problem today, or if it's really a driver retention problem.

"If you have 100 % driver turnover, finding drivers is not the problem, retaining drivers is the problem," he said.

Vieth showed a chart comparing the pay of truck drivers to that of food service workers. Back in 1981, a driver was making nearly five times the salary of a food worker. In 2010, that had dropped to only about twice as much. "The pay in relative terms was halved compared to a food service worker," Vieth said.

Vieth also posted graphs comparing turnover in the truckload sector with National Private Truck Council benchmarking statistics. NPTC numbers were pretty stable at around 10 to 12%. These drivers get home more often and have better pay and benefits, he said.

The Pay Question

Derek Leathers, president and chief operating officer for Werner Enterprises, also talked about driver pay, showing how since 2006, the average weekly wages for truckers has stayed largely flat (except for a dip during the recession), yet the consumer price index, a measure of inflation, has mostly continued to rise throughout that period, meaning that same pay is buying less.

However, the panelists noted, an across-the-board pay increase may not be the answer. They prefer more targeted pay increases, ones linked to things such as performance or the difficulty of a particular type of trucking job within a fleet. Drivers who are able to get home more often, for instance, may be happy with lower pay than those who are required to be away from home for long periods.

When asked about the possibility of pay by the hour instead of by the mile, the panelists were uncomfortable with that idea.

"I think it's dangerous to disconnect how we pay our drivers from how we get paid," Leathers said.

Equally important to pay, panelists said, are "softer" issues such as benefits and home time, a good corporate culture, CSA coaching, improved driver services like terminal amenities and technology to provide better connectivity between the driver and his family.

Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express, honed in on how the rest of the company relates to the drivers. "We will spend millions of dollars on technology, and that's all well and good, but we won't train a dispatcher to teach them how to communicate with a driver."

"Nothing is more important than network design," Leathers said. In 2008, only 38% of Werner drivers got home at least once a week. Today that number is 71%. The freight hasn't changed significantly; it's all a result of more efficient and thoughtful routing.


The panelists explained that changing demographics will make it harder to find drivers, as fewer younger workers enter the market and more of the older, experienced driver pool reaches retirement age.

Burch said the average driver currently is 48 years old.

"I would encourage you to identify the average age at your company," he said. "At mine it's 55. There's a lack of interest from the next generation." Burch said the average age of a truck driver training student is 42 years old.

"The other thing that's a concern to us is the less-than-truckload driver age is even older," Leathers said, "and there's a clearcut financial incentive for drivers to transition out of truckload into the LTL industry."

The Training School Conundrum

Panelists lamented the general lack of respect for truck driver training. At a time when the government is trying to create new jobs, they say, trucking can put to work a large number of people - but they have the hurdle of paying $4,000 to $6,000 for the training needed, and sources of financial assistance have been drying up.

"We need to train, we need to develop, and most important, we need to communicate and mentor young drivers," Burch said. "This industry keeps kicking the can down the road."

Lou Spoonhour, board member emeritus for the Commercial Vehicle Training Association, said if the industry wants to attract new drivers, it's going to have to start hiring more new training-school grads.

"Until recently, when I talked to fleets at job fairs, I used to hear a pretty strong refrain -- all the trucking companies wanted experienced drivers. I would ask the question, if you all want experienced drivers, how is anyone ever going to start in the industry?"

Spoonhour asked fleets to help the driver training school industry in its lobbying for more funding. "When our carrier partners are there with us, and the carriers are saying, 'I can hire every one of the graduates from this school, it does have an impact," he said.

Werner, which does hire new-training-school graduates, agreed.

"We've got to push our government to consider all jobs to be important and quit picking and choosing as they have of late," he said. "Funding toward our industry has been drying up, with funds being diverted to perhaps more sexy alternatives."



Driver Shortage Requires Industry Action, Experts Say

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John Sommers II for Transport Topics

LAS VEGAS — The shortage of truck drivers will worsen as the economy recovers and as the federal government adds more regulations, so it is critical the industry retains current drivers and attracts younger ones to the profession, a panel of experts said here Tuesday.

Ensuring drivers have more time at home, providing reliable equipment to company drivers and offering pay incentives and bonuses are all important steps that fleets should take, according to the discussion at American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition.

Derek Leathers, president and chief operating officer of Werner Enterprises, said that through schedule adjustments, about 71% of his drivers get home at least once a week. That has helped lower turnover and attract more applicants.

Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express, said fleets need to set up mentoring programs so younger drivers gain valuable experience until they are old enough to drive trucks on their own.

Lou Spoonhour, president of Driveco Truck Driver Learning Center, urged ATA and fleets to join with training schools to tell lawmakers how important it is to increase funding for programs that can get new truck drivers on the road in as little as six weeks.

Kenny Veith, president of ACT Research, said the industry’s high turnover rates show that the problem is more about retention than an insufficient number of applicants. He was optimistic in saying that federal regulations will limit the total driving pool, thus tightening capacity and allowing for higher rates. As a result, he said fleets would more easily be able to boost driver pay and keep more of the existing driver workforce.

The session was moderated by Howard Abramson, publisher and editorial director of Transport Topics Publishing Group, and was sponsored by Freightliner Trucks.

Additional coverage of the discussion will appear in the Oct. 15 print edition of Transport Topics.

By Transport Topics


Graves on Challenges From Regulations, Sluggish Economy

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John Sommers II
for Transport Topics

LAS VEGAS – The trucking industry continues to face challenges, from federal regulations and a sluggish economy, to the threat of more tolling on the nation’s highways, said Bill Graves, president of American Trucking Associations.

“I honestly do believe that anyone who is operating in the trucking industry is at a crossroads – in fact you’re facing an entire series of crossroads – each one a decision point sending you in directions that will ultimately determine success or failure, profitability or loss, growth or stagnation,” Graves said Oct. 8 at the opening session of ATA’s Management Conference & Exhibition here.

The nation’s biggest problems are “the sluggish economy, a very dysfunctional federal government and the people of this nation who lack confidence that the economy will get better and that our government as its currently assembled in Washington isn’t capable of getting the job done,” he said.

Graves singled out the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program as a key example of how Washington is threatening trucking’s success.

He said the program will make the highways safer, but needs to be altered to ensure the data provides an accurate picture of carriers’ safety records.

Despite other challenges such as hours-of-service, more tolls and rising fuel prices, he said trucking was still well-positioned for the future.

“The essentiality of the industry and the demand for freight movement by truck – a growing demand for freight movement by truck – is unquestioned,” Graves said. “The long-term macro outlook for trucking has never been better, but the near-term micro view continues to be very challenging.”

By Transport Topics