In the modern era social media and the internet play a big role in the way that many people keep apprised of current events, it can also lead to the misrepresentation or skewing of the facts in many cases. How many of you have seen a headline on TV and just a few hours later you can catch the same general headline on three different channels and get three different stories?
While it is always nice to read a “feel good” story, it can sometimes cause some of the facts to be obscured by the angle of the person reporting it. Where and how does this affect the trucking industry? I’m going to provide a few examples:
Truck Driver Shortage
The truck driver shortage, as it is being presented by many media outlets, is in large part a myth!. Are there fewer drivers out there today? maybe but what are the reasons for it. Trucking companies are literally running to Washington D.C. and complaining that they can’t retain drivers or hire new drivers and they don’t know why and that is exactly what makes the headlines. Let’s get all of the facts out there as ugly as some may think they are. In 1991 the average starting wage for an entry level driver was .27-.29 cents per mile and here we are in 2012 and it is hovering around the .29 cents per mile mark. Based on an average of 2,500 miles per week it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the average pay only increased by $50 per week in 21 years.
Do you think that the carriers out there are going to let people know the facts of the matter? No way!.
Oh yes I know I went there and yes for some it’s a sensitive topic. As many of you may already know I supported Jason’s Law 100% on it’s own merits. The problems arose when people blindly supported it at any cost, the call went out on social media to support it and people stepped up to the plate and made numerous phone calls to government officials…….and the push was on. Unfortunately what happened was Jason’s Law was attached to a transportation bill that included several other new laws and changes to current laws that can adversely affect drivers across the nation. It also displayed the lack of communication between federal and state governments as the funds made available for Jason’s Law have to be requested by the states on an individual basis, on top of this the federal government did not notify government on a state level what the program entailed, this task was left up to the citizens. Yes that’s right it became our job to notify our home state and put a bug in their ear to request the funding just to do a survey on where more truck parking could be beneficial.
This was a fine example of everyone appearing to get what they wanted on the front side while the backside was loaded with tradeoffs, speculation and uncertainty. In essence a bill that could have been immediately beneficial to professional truck drivers and travelers of our highways has been tamed down and bogged down in political red tape, putting the effective impact date of the law some 3-5 years away from even getting out of the planning stage. How did this happen? The details were not completely checked before the big push began, the fuzzy “feel good” part of the story generated enough buzz to get people to enact it’s passing.
Federal Excise Tax On New Trucks
People have been jumping up and down because the government has proposed to get rid of the FET on purchases of new trucks in an effort to stimulate new truck sales to keep truck manufacturers in business. Many potential new truck buyers are all smiles about this because it means less money out of their pocket, they can go ahead and keep thinking that or they can check the facts of the matter. Do you think the government just wants to give up thousands of dollars on each truck purchase? They are not going to!! Instead they are going to pass along the cost to anyone that puts diesel fuel in a commercial motor vehicle by adding an additional fuel tax, yep that’s right we all get to offset the cost of other people buying a new truck in order to grant truck manufacturers a reprieve from the economy..
These examples are just a small sampling of subject matter that is out there where both sides of the story were not made abundantly clear, where a “feel good” theme helped to obscure the whole truth. In some cases it took excellent ideas from people from within the industry and minimize their effectiveness. Some people might call it one of several thing such as paying lip service, dressing up a story, or even disguising the truth. The only thing I can call it is wrong and at some point all of us as professionals within the industry need to put a stop to it. Take five minutes while drinking your morning copy to double check facts or read through a copy of a proposed bill before you decide to endorse or support it’s passing. We cannot continue to function as an industry whose individuals continue believing everything they see on TV or hear on a radio show, we have to become active as individuals to do some of our own fact checking. If you are going to get all of your information from other people then you just might be letting everyone else make your decisions for you as well and they might not be in alignment with your best interests.