Indianapolis commuters are in for a treat on Thursday when truck drivers take it to Interstate 465 to protest regulations making their jobs too inflexible.
Truckers involved in the “slow roll” protest argue that the regulations in question decrease how much time they can drive per day. And as the nation faces a shortage of truck drivers, retailers are more pressed than ever to find efficient ways to get their goods delivered fast.
But as 400 to 500 drivers descend on Indianapolis early Thursday morning, supporters of the law will say that it was put in place for their own safety — and that whatever unintended consequences it has produced, such as higher end prices to consumers, are to be ignored. But when truck drivers themselves are protesting, it’s clear that the rules aren’t accomplishing what their proponents said they would.
In order for us to understand why truckers are tired, we must first look at what triggered the current regulations.
Restricting Truck Drivers’ Freedom Makes Them Less Safe
Since 1938, the federal government started regulating the trucking profession. That’s when the Hours of Service (HOS) law was put in place, limiting the number of hours truckers can drive in a single on-duty window of 14 hours.
According to the law, drivers may work for a maximum of 11 hours, taking 30-minute breaks within a 14-hour window and then take 10 consecutive hours off-duty. But up until 2017, drivers kept paper logs to prove they were following the HOS law. And those are easy to forge, proponents of new regulation argued.
In 2012, President Barack Obama passed an act installing the Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) mandate to put an end to the truckers’ freedom. The law became fully enforceable five years later.
With most trucks now having to carry logging devices, drivers have no power over their logs as it’s all registered automatically. The result? Drivers may no longer drive for longer hours or take shorter breaks. That means that many drivers are forced or pressured to make it to their destination within 11 hours, making roads much less safe.
In an interview with Business Insider, trucker Dalton Jackson said that by the end of 2017, his job had become more dangerous thanks to the law. In addition, he said, his pay had been cut.
"With the time limits we're on now, it puts us at a rush,” Donald Day, another driver, told reporters. “So now we can't just sit back and run at a slow pace, so to speak, or a safe pace.”
To make matters worse, the ongoing truck-driver shortage that was first reported as a problem in 2016 is worsening things for consumers.
As fewer people signed up to haul goods across the country, matters went from bad to worse in 2018 thanks to the ELDs. Because the law limits drivers’ flexibility, they become less efficient and less likely to work longer hours. As a result, many drivers gave up altogether.
With retailers finding it difficult to get their goods on time as a result, trucking companies started to offer potential drivers higher wages while shippers had to up their freight rates to keep up. Needless to say, this increase in trucking and shipping costs is translating into more expensive goods.
Products the average consumer relies on such as food, dairy, flour, and even ice cream are all more expensive as a result. And even Amazon Prime users felt the difference, as the company had to increase its membership prices because of the higher costs associated with the ELD mandate.
In light of these disastrous consequences, there is only one thing truckers and consumers alike should be chanting — and that is, “Thanks, Obama!”
As truckers across the country join the hundreds gathering in Indiana this week, they will remind onlookers as well as the press that the law designed to keep them safe is actually making their job more dangerous, all while their earnings dwindle and consumer goods become more costly.
It’s almost as if the government made problems worse by trying to make our lives better.