Boycotting Virginia

New York, NY

The slow freight means we’re enjoying two extra days at home this week. We must be the only truckers thrilled with more home time right now.

Don’t get us wrong. We want the miles. We have bills. But there’s no point sitting in a truck stop waiting when we can be sitting at home doing our taxes!

We are on the war path. We are boycotting Virginia. We’re asking everyone we know, four-wheelers and truckers to avoid spending any money in the state of Virginia. Buy no fuel, no cigarettes, no liquor – the commodities that allow states to rake in huge income from taxes – no lottery tickets, no food. Nothing.

We’ve been observing an unofficial boycott for several months, only peeing in the state, since we discovered that Virginia has a two hour rest area maximum. Truck drivers are regulated by a federal law which says drivers after driving 11 hours, must rest for 10 hours. There are already too few truck stops to accommodate the trucks on the road that carry the nation’s food, clothing, furniture, toilet paper, diapers, cars, car parts, iPods and the list goes on because everything, I mean EVERYTHING that that we buy comes by truck. Teams drivers, two drivers virtually always have someone who can drive, but solo drivers must shut down every day.

There is a shortage of parking in the Northeast from Virginia north to Maine and on the Westcoast, San Francisco south to San Diego.

Granted, there are always people who abuse the system – look at Obama’s cabinet picks, who, oh my gosh, didn’t realize that they had to pay taxes!! – and drive their hours out completely and stop on the first exit ramp they see for 10 hours. In my relatively short experience, I do not think that is the majority of drivers. Most drivers do not want to spend the night on an exit ramp. It is dangerous for the trucker.

We have stopped stopping between 2200 and 0800 except at a fuel island for 15 minutes to switch drivers, because we have been mostly unable to find a safe, legal place to stop and sleep for a few hours in the middle of the night. All our driving has been during a recession with fewer trucks on the road, I can’t imagine what it’s like when the economy is booming.

Virginia is actively ticketing drivers who stay over the the two hour limit or park on ramps.

Here’s the situation, on one hand there is a federal law, stop driving after 11 hours and rest for ten, on the other hand, there are state laws that limit where and for how long trucks can stop. Then there are little laws by municipalities and townships that also limit where and how long trucks can park. Keep in mind, almost all rest areas are on the federal Interstate system which was built for transcontinental trade.

Part of the issue here is the ongoing, and ever widening disconnect between city dwellers and their understanding of what goes into providing a city life. We have no idea that the toilet paper in our bathroom travels on several trucks from raw materials to packaged goods

The Virginia State Patrol says it’s not their problem to ensure that truckers have a place to stop and sleep. Their responsibility is to enforce all laws equally. They say truck drivers must trip plan better or they can stay in hotels if they need to sleep. The Virginia State Police says it’s protecting the public.

First, Hours of Service laws were passed because it was decided that truckers falling asleep at the wheel endangered the public. Second, it’s very common that truckers are delayed at shipping facilities, not to mention by traffic and construction. We have been delayed. You’ll remember our HazMat fiasco in Chicago where the shipper did not have the correct placards for our truck so we could not legally leave the loading dock. If that had been a solo driver, she could well have been out of hours when the one hour load turned into a three hour problem.

Third, stay in a hotel? – can you hear the incredulous tone in my voice – forget the cost! Where do you park the truck?!?

The truck is the problem. Loaded in our truck are the raw materials and finished merchandise responsible for almost  75 percent of the American economy. The truck is the equivalent of a seven-story building, about 20 car parking spaces. The tractor alone takes up four spaces. Many of these loads are high value. The driver is not allowed to leave the truck unattended for longer than it takes to pee and bring food back to the truck. Does Virginia want Hazardous Materials left unattended in hotel parking lots? HazMat loads depending on commodity, cannot be parked within five feet of a public roadway and 100 feet of a public gathering place – I don’t think a hotel wants a load of flammable liquid in its parking lot. Or even a truck filled with cleaning supplies and flares, like our last HazMat load, marked dangerous.

Trucking companies are largely silent on this issue because the system has been designed to push back onto the individual driver, the least able to fight, the most vulnerable in the economic equation.

The lack of places to stop is becoming an epidemic. Shippers post signs saying drivers cannot do paperwork on their property. Filling out the driving log is a legal, government requirement

All the laws, idling, logging, etc., fall onto the driver. If the driver is not in compliance the driver is ticketed. If the driver has her license suspended she cannot work and she cannot get another job. Drivers are a dime a dozen now. As many as 80% of truckers are independents. It is an industry of individuals and individual workers, who like individual consumers have little time and energy to spare to fight the big fights so they are abused by big government and big corporations neither of which live up to the law.

Look at the peanut/salmonella situation in America. Since Reagan started the get-government-out-of-my-backyard movement thirty years ago, the layers of the Food and Drug Administration, charged with the responsibility of protecting Americans’ food – the only commodity we need for survival – have been peeled away leaving no one with authority watching over it. Industry is allowed to police itself. As we learned, watching the documentary The Corporation, the only interest a corporation has is in protecting itself to provide profits to shareholders. In fact that is the first and only responsibility and obligation of a corporation is to provide profit to shareholders, it’s called the Fiduciary Trust. That’s what happened with the peanuts. No one was watching and now everyone is shocked – how can that be! Where was the government? Sacre bleu!

We have adult supervision because we know that kids in sandboxes left to themselves get out of hand at times.

I’m sounding a little like a nut – no pun intended – but as a friend pointed out to me, democracy in a civilized society was designed to allow one to swing their arms freely as long as they don’t hit anyone else – a fancy way of saying adult supervision. We have lost this under riding principle of democracy.

This quote from the Land Line magazine sums up the trucker position on Virginia.

OOIDA (Owner Operators Association) members from Dothan, AL, wrote their lawmakers and attached the LandLine magazine article as “another example of what difficulties we must endure to do our jobs for the American economy and consumer.”

“Every day we are faced with inconsistent and ridiculous state laws, regulations and policies that fly directly in the face of our federally-mandated requirements regarding hours-of-service,” they wrote in the letter published by LandLine. “We hope that you will take a serious look … and help us meet our federally mandated requirements without state intervention with unsafe and unreasonable interference.”

In journalism, the strategy is “follow the money.” So I did a little math because everything should come down to the dollars and sense of it.

The
re are 200 gallons in a diesel tank and at least 100,000 trucks must stop in Virginia each week to fuel. Seventeen-cents of each gallon of diesel goes directly to the state of Virginia in tax – according to the list I found online.

One truck 200 gallons times 17-cents equals $34 times 100,000 trucks is $3.4 million in taxes in a week! Increase the pain by avoiding purchases of cigarettes, liquor and food to avoid those taxes. This is how consumers vote, with their wallets.

One thought on “Boycotting Virginia

  1. Unfortunately there is IFTA which forces taxes to be paid according to miles driven in a particular state. But the rest makes a lot of sense to me by avoiding any participation in that particular state which has exemplified a total lack of participation with industry and the law. Also clearly a hostile attitude directed at one specific industry, once again showing second class account of a group or individual.

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