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Wal-Mart Trucking Abuses Kill

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The man who fell asleep at the wheel of his truck and rammed the back of Tracy Morgan’s limousine of course worked for Wal-Mart and had not slept for 24 hours.

This is not surprising at all. Wal-Mart has long been accused of pushing truckers to the limit. All the companies push drivers to the limit for profit, endangering not only the drivers but also everyday drivers on the road.

Of course, Republicans think that drivers falling asleep at the wheel is OK:

Days before Morgan’s accident thrust trucking safety into the news, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation that would undo rules that only went into effect last year that mandated certain rest periods for truck drivers. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) added an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill that would suspend a regulation that truck drivers rest for 34 consecutive hours, including two nights from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM, before driving again.

“With one amendment, we’re doing away with rules we worked years to develop,” Izer said Monday.

Another reminder that “moderate Republicans” are only moderate on social policy; on labor issues they are as bad as any Tea Partier.

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  • panda

    I am by no-means a “both parties are the same” type of person, but if the Senate appropriations committe approved this amendment, at least a couple of Democrats had to vote for it…

    • Nobdy

      Democrats aren’t great on labor issues, that’s obvious, but they are at least less actively trying to destroy protections. They may be willing to ‘compromise’ (give in) on important issues but there’s a big difference between a weak ally and an active antagonist.

      • joe from Lowell

        Your comment is pretty much correct as a description of Democrats in the aggregate, but since when do the Democrats aggregate? There’s a reason the term “herding cats” was invented.

        It makes sense to talk about where “the Republicans” are on labor issues, because there is very little diversity of opinion. “I say we shoot him.” “I say we hang him.” “I say we hang him then shoot him.”

        Democrats? You can probably arrive at a median Democratic position on labor issues by averaging out Sherrod Brown and Mark Pryor, but there wouldn’t be many more Democrats who hold that position than who hold Landrieu’s or Brown’s.

        • ThrottleJockey

          In a vote in which the Democrats held a majority its grossly misleading to suggest that its just the GOP that feels this way. It would have been better to say, “Republicans and some Democrats…” Otherwise you come across as more partisan than principled.

          • postmodulator

            I don’t get you, man. You genuinely don’t seem stupid, and yet you are constantly, constantly, missing the point of other peoples’ comments. Jotto truthfully contributes more meaningful stuff.

            Who cares if he comes across as partisan? I hope to fuck he comes across as partisan!

            • Tom Servo

              Concern trolling matched only by GoDeep

            • ThrottleJockey

              Who cares if he comes across as partisan? I hope to fuck he comes across as partisan!

              There’s a time and place for all things. Politics has its season, but principles are eternal. Hypocrisy abounds among partisans. Why wouldn’t you call out Democrats for not supporting labor? If labor and unions are your big issue you damn well better call out the Democrats who don’t support them. I respect people like that.

          • Tom Servo

            Yeah who gives a fuck? We’re talking about political fucking parties here. Jesus.

          • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks

            Oh, heavens. We wouldn’t want to be partisan in politics, would we?

            • ThrottleJockey

              How about being honest? Like mom said, its the best policy!

              • Origami Isopod, Commisar [sic] of Ideology for the Bolsheviks

                ~~whooooooooosssshhhh~~

                • The Dark Avenger

                  I wish all this politicking in our legislatures would stop.

    • Possibly the same Dems who had to be arm-twisted into signing off on Obamacare.

      • JKTHs

        And checking the Committee website, there’s a few of them types.

  • mark f

    I didn’t know any specifics of Wal-Mart’s record, but as news about charges against this guy was breaking yesterday it sure felt to me like he was bearing responsibility for something he was pressured into. My father-in-law drove trucks for the last few years, and sleep requirements are often something the delivery schedule forces you to fake meeting while shouldering the liability of getting caught or worse.

    • postmodulator

      I had a friend drop out of college to become a trucker — he’d read a bit too much Kerouac, we thought at the time — and he said that the way it basically worked was that your employer stressed to you the importance of obeying all the rest time regulations, then structured your pay so that if you actually did you wouldn’t make diddley-squat. That way they got the plausible deniability and the speedy delivery too.

      This was probably around 1995, but it seems impossible for any labor conditions in America to have improved since then. (Wow. I didn’t realize I believed that until I typed it. I’ve made myself sad.)

      • ThrottleJockey

        How much of the blame the Employee bears vs the Company is an interesting question. I’m not sure that incentives for on-time delivery necessarily make the company culpable unless they’re also turning a blind eye to truckers who violate the law. If I’m not mistaken on time performance is a factor in pilot’s pay and most people don’t feel the like the airlines operate unsafely. I’d like to hear more on the subject. Just because you give someone a bonus for doing X,Y,Z doesn’t mean that you expect them to break the law trying to get it.

        • The companies expect workers to break the rules as much as possible in order to get the products delivered faster. This is a very different scenario than the airline industry.

          • cpinva

            this is also a policy the commercial transportation system has been following for decades. way back, before the Reagan era, I worked for a bus company while in college. the DOT has/had very strict guidelines, on how many continuous hours you could drive, and how much sleep you needed between driving stints. each driver kept a DOT log, subject to spot inspection any time. and those logs were perfect in every way. of course, they in no way represented the actual drive/sleep times, as those were kept in another DOT log, the one used to actually pay drivers by.

            think of it as the classic, second set of accounting records, only with mileage and time, not dollars.

        • postmodulator

          As he explained the math, it wasn’t a bonus, it was “I could follow the rules but then I wouldn’t be making a living wage.” This wasn’t a guy who grew up farting through silk, so his idea of a living wage was pretty modest.

          I suspect that this is a strategy trucking companies follow pretty deliberately. I suspect further that airlines don’t follow the same strategy because bad PR is a much more serious problem following an airline crash.

        • Murc

          I’m not sure that incentives for on-time delivery necessarily make the company culpable unless they’re also turning a blind eye to truckers who violate the law.

          … they do if they’re structured such that you can’t make a living wage without the incentives, and the incentives are structured in such a way that you can’t earn them unless you break the law.

          If I’m not mistaken on time performance is a factor in pilot’s pay and most people don’t feel the like the airlines operate unsafely.

          In fact, the issue of pilot rest has been a hot topic at many times in the past, with many people coming to the conclusion that the airlines were, in fact, operating unsafely.

          I’m not sure why you’d structure that sentence the way you did. How people “feel” an airline operates with regard to safety has no relation whatsoever on how safe an airline is actually being.

          Just because you give someone a bonus for doing X,Y,Z doesn’t mean that you expect them to break the law trying to get it.

          Again, it very clearly does if they can’t earn the bonus without breaking the law.

          If I’m giving a “bonus” for on-time delivery that would require someone to drive for sixty hours continuously to earn it, I am encouraging them to break the law. That shouldn’t be allowed.

          • mark f

            It’s not just missing the “bonus,” either; it’s also knowing who’s likely to get laid off or not pull assignments, and that’s the same drivers who don’t make the bonuses.

          • New pilot rest and work hour rules were recently passed.

            Unfortunately they left cargo airlines exempt from the new rules.

            But don’t worry. If I mistakenly land on top of a 747 full of passengers, at least their pilots will have been rested.

          • Malaclypse

            I’d highly recommend this book, which shows the same sort of pressure being applied, mainly by the US Post Office (but, of course, through layers of subcontractors) to pilots in Alaska, which frequently fatal results.

        • As far as I know, time performance is most definitely NOT a factor in pilot’s pay.

          It certainly isn’t where I work. It’s possible that some airline operates that way but I don’t know of any.

          Here it is right from my Operations Manual:

          Safety is the most important consideration in all —— operations.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Then why are pilots so ruthless about on time departures? I’ve seen them pull away from the gate even though a dozen passengers on a connection were running full out to catch the flight? If its not a factor in compensation, is it a factor in retention and hiring?

            • DrS

              How is leaving on time a safety concern? Unless of course they are leaving on time with a known mechanical problem.

              Not sure how that relates in any way to the issues at hand, but it is from you so expected.

              • ThrottleJockey

                I didn’t say it was a safety concern, but then I know you have trouble maintaining more than 1 thought at a time.

            • I can imagine you typing this with your tongue out.

            • wjts

              Because having a plane not depart on time has knock-on effects for other aircraft arriving at and departing from the airport in question.

            • At any medium to major airport, departures and arrivals are scheduled very tightly*. It is very helpful and much quieter to stick rigidly to your flight plan.

              *ie, watch video of O’Hare in operation. How the ATCs prevent full-blown alcoholism is beyond me.

            • Bufflars

              Didn’t the FAA also recently come out with penalties if airlines don’t meet a certain, relatively high, percentage of on-time arrivals? This seems like the main driver for pilot timeliness, although I have no idea if it is directly tied at all to pay.

              I think this is tied into what seems to me to be more generous or exaggerated flight/travel time estimates which are now used to try to game the late arrival stats. Seems like if my flight leaves on time (or actually, they mostly seem to leave the gate a bit early now) I usually get into my destination about 15-20 mins before the official arriaval time, which didn’t seem to be the case when I flew in the past.

              • Pilot pay is a scale based on aircraft, seat (Captain vs FO) and route.

                Captains make more than First Officers.
                Bigger planes generally pay more than smaller planes.
                International flying pays more than domestic.

                The only thing I can do to increase my pay from one month to the next is to pick up an extra trip.

                Be thankful we don’t get a bonus for getting there quicker. If we did, some idiot might try to fly through a thunderstorm instead of taking the long way around it.

            • It’s probably the policy of their airline. They may not give the Captain discretion to delay the flight to wait for connecting passengers.

              That sort of policy comes from management, not the crew force. The company in that case considers an on time departure higher priority than a missed passenger connection.

              The Captain can normally delay for safety reasons, but that’s not a safety issue.

            • Tristan

              Because there’s other planes coming in and a finite number of gates, you idiot.

            • ironic irony

              Because other passengers might have connecting flights they have to catch at other airports? Why should they miss connecting flights because other people can’t get to the airport on time (or whatever)?

              C’mon now, there can be a myriad of reasons for it.

        • Tom Servo

          You’ve got to be kidding me. The companies are not just turning a blind eye (which is enough culpability) they are encouraging it through their compensation structure and through more overt means sometimes.

    • Linnaeus

      Over at Balloon Juice, there’s a post about this as well and there’s a comment from a truck driver who says that Wal-Mart’s safety practices for trucking are better than most.

      • mark f

        Thanks for those links.

      • N__B

        there’s a comment from a truck driver who says that Wal-Mart’s safety practices for trucking are better than most.

        Doesn’t mean they’re good.

        • Linnaeus

          True, they may not be. The impression I got from that comment thread, though, is that Wal-Mart’s trucking practices are actually pretty good. I could be mistaken, given how the company generally regards its workforce.

          • N__B

            I wasn’t criticizing: I don’t know either. I would expect a huge corporation to have some minimum standards that should be better than the bottom of the barrel, but this is W-M we’re talking about.

            My experience with safety practices in construction is that the big companies are better than the worst small ones but not as good as the best small ones. It makes sense: the combination of standardization of practice with a big company and the corporate philosophy of quarterly profits uber alles seem to rule out the bad and good extremes.

  • gorillagogo

    I don’t think Wal-Mart is alone in these types of abuses. My sister got her CDL a number of years ago and complained about the ridiculous schedule she had to keep, and she worked for some other trucking firm. Same for an old neighbor of mine that drove trucks.

    • Definitely not alone. Wal-Mart is certainly quite bad, but not necessarily worse than a lot of other companies.

      • DrDick

        From the available evidence, Wal-Mart is pretty horrible on labor issues throughout the organization.

  • Remember, this all happened before a celebrity got seriously hurt.

    Of course, he’s a “Blah” celebrity.
    And a comedian/entertainer.
    So, there’s that working against truck safety.

  • Ronnie Pudding

    If he was driving for 24 hours, he was breaking current regulations, correct? So you need to do something about enforcement.

    How is it even enforced? How do they know what a trucker is doing?

    • Lee Rudolph

      States (some more actively than others) have police (around here, state police) pull over all commercial vehicles (or all above a certain size, or whatever) passing a given point on a given day, and inspect the drivers’ logs. There may be other mechanisms. It doesn’t seem to happen very frequently, I assume because that budget has been cut like so much else (and also perhaps because of pressure). I also assume that, since at least the heyday of CBs (and much more so now), there are easy ways for drivers to evade such stops.

      • I would assume that those weigh stations along the interstates would be a good way to calculate either how long or how fast… or both…a truck’s been going.

        • Lee Rudolph

          Sure, though (again, around here) many of them aren’t used very often that I can see (and sometimes places that used to be weigh stations appear to be used for non-weight-related log checks, though my observations may be defective).

          • Here’s what I think happens: the weigh stations on I-95 are usually not manned on the weekends. The crash occurred on a Saturday, so its likely the last time this guy pulled over was sometime Friday during the day, leaving a large swath of time when he would have been presumed to be rested but was in fact plowing through to get a delivery done.

            • BigHank53

              Also, the various states don’t exchange information. When someone passes through a weigh station in Georgia, there’s no way to tell where or when he started driving: Alabama that morning or Oregon last Tuesday.

      • FridayNext

        When my brother drove a truck in the 80’s and 90’s they tracked him with a GPS unit. That technology has improved and has gotten cheaper since then. It seems to me you could keep permanent records of all trucks and drivers permanently with the technology we all have in our phones.

        And then it doesn’t seem that hard to me to hold the owners responsible for tracking their drivers 24/7, keeping electronic records of those movements, and auditing them periodically either at random or in case of an accident, traffic violation, or some police or weigh station attendant perceives a problem.

        It does seem that difficult or invasive, but whether the willingness in congress, regulatory, or enforcement agencies exists is another matter. Though I think it is in the owner’s interest to know where their shit is all the time, I suspect they use the info to reprimand for breaks of appropriate length, not for too short or too few breaks.

        • FridayNext

          I meant it DOESN’T seem that difficult or invasive. Sorry.

          • drkrick

            Absolutely. Since transportation was one of the first industries to overcome privacy issues to start piss testing years ago, GPS tracking should be a no-brainer.

            Except, of course, that the last thing the trucking companies want is to lose their plausible deniability about what they know is going on.

  • Hogan

    To no one’s surprise, Fox news commentator and professional douchecanoe Tucker Carlson doesn’t see the problem here.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      Tucker looks like he’d be in bed with a teddy bear after a glass of warm milk, with his wig on a mannequin, by 9 pm at the latest

      • Autonomous Coward

        You could say that FOX would be, at that time, all Tuckered out!

  • Barry Freed

    …the Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation that would undo rules…

    And all the rest – I hope that’s made known in every single news story that reports on the driver falling asleep being the proximate cause of this accident. I expect if I had time to check I’d be disappointed.

  • CP Norris

    I feel like every god damn day there’s another story that makes me quote the Onion headline: ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.

    • catclub

      My impression is that US roads are relatively safe compared with other nations. Not so our gun problem.

      Which is it Guatemala or Colombia that has 4 times as many gun murders per capita as the US? Then South Africa.

      • Honduras

        i see your 4x and give you 6.4x. (if you believe wikistats.)

  • The current rules state no more than 72 hours of driving in a week and no more than 14 hours a day. I think these are a bit high, but I’m willing to hear arguments otherwise. But here’s the thing: Wal-Mart encourages its OTR (On The Road) truckers to sleep in their cabs, even if they don’t have those double cabs with the bunk in the back.

    To me, that’s ridiculous. Let them get a bed on the company, fer crissake!

    With developments in technology, trucks have been designed that can only go the speed limit. I’m hoping someone will realize you can set a timer in a truck that forces a driver to take down time as well.

    • “Let them get a bed on the company, fer crissake!”

      Takers.

    • Here’s my limits per the FAA for comparison:

      Maximum 16-hour duty day, but only 8 of that can actually be operating the aircraft.

      I’m required 24 consecutive hours off for every 7 consecutive work days.

      My minimum rest period is twice the hours flown since the last rest period but no less than 8 hours. That’s a little misleading because that means “time on the ground” not “time at the hotel”.

      Fortunately my collective bargaining agreement with the company is a bit more generous than the FAA limits.

      The company can always, however, declare and “operational emergency” and push us to the FAA limits if they need to.

      As a last resort I can call “fatigued” but I will have to answer for it.

      • N__B

        24 consecutive hours off

        Steven Wright: “I went to the convenience store and the manager was locking the front gate. I said ‘Your sign says you’re open 24 hours.’ He said ‘Not in a row.'”

      • CP Norris

        US railroad engineers have very sensible regulations on this score, too. Partly because of their unions and partly because the regulations were written back when we cared about regulating things.

      • Karen

        “Time on the ground,” or at least it’s analog in trucking is a huge problem here. As I discuss below, shipping companies often require truckers to be at the depot int their trucks hours before the loads are ready. That time isn’t counted as driving time or, often, even as working for purposes of overtime pay, but it still means the poor,sod behind the wheel has to be in the truck at his workplace and not sleeping or fishing or doing soduku puzzles as he would be if he were actually off the clock. He’s seeing exhausted just to save the shippers from having to hire enough employees.

    • Nobdy

      A bed? These are Truckers, not the Duchess of Wales.

      In-store employees don’t even get the doors unlocked so they can get medical attention for serious injuries, and you’re talking about a BED for TRUCKERS?

      You’re pretty fancy.

      • Well, in fairness, I want guys who drives trucks around my vehicle to be, you know, awake. I’m less concerned (but not heartless) about employees of a store I never shop in.

        • Nobdy

          I think we can all agree that your life is a small price to pay for the greater good of increasing the wealth of the Walton family.

      • rea

        Gosh wouldn’t it be great if some technological genius would invent a door lock that stays locked from the outside but can be opened from the inside? That way Walmart could protect its employees from outside criminals breaking into the store while still enabling them to seek medical attention if necessary . . .

        • Malaclypse

          I still remember back when I worked night shift at the Cheap Motel, and was shocked when I discovered that the restaurant next door locked their cleaning crew inside the building overnight, with no way out (also, this was before the era of common cell ownership). I found out about it the morning that the day manager didn’t show, and the cleaning crew was yelling out the windows for help (which arrived a mere 5 hours later).

          The point is, if you allow Walmart night crews the ability to escape, some of them may not show complete deference to the property rights of their betters. Walmart doesn’t lock doors to keep thieves out, they lock them so that the can search their workers before they clock out.

    • Warren Terra

      This is completely unsurprising. The company is chiseling and skimping so hard the driver is desperate and breaking the rules to drive 24 hours, and you think someone in that transaction is going to pay an extra forty bucks a night for a cheap bed? If the driver could afford it or if the employer would pay it, the whole situation would be so different the rest of this conversation would have to be moot.

      • No, it’s not unsurprising. That said, it doesn’t make it right. Walmart earned a $12 billion dollar net profit. Even if they took out suites for all its OTR drivers, they’d still make $11,999,000,000.

  • Barry Freed

    OT

    Can anyone recommend a few good books that would give me a decent grasp of the history of the US state of Georgia?

    • I should have burned it twice

      by William T. Sherman

      • Barry Freed

        Heh, unfortunately it’s for a cultural institution dealing with the history of the state. I can’t say more and I can’t say that.

        • Barry Freed

          But seriously, I was hoping Erik at least might have a couple of good suggestions.

          • I’m certainly no expert on Southern history, but what are you interested in? The first thing that comes to mind is Kevin Kruse, White Flight, on, well, white flight in Atlanta.

            I can also suggest 18th century environmental histories of the coast but I suspect that’s less interesting to you. So what is it that you want to know?

            • Barry Freed

              Enough to give me a good grasp of the history of the state from native settlement through more recent times (the Kruse looks interesting).

              18th century environmental histories actually do sound interesting and would prove might prove useful for my purposes if they make use of contemporary accounts and especially archival resources.

      • postmodulator

        As long as I’m pissing off Southerners today, let me just mention that Sherman’s birthplace is in a small town fairly close to me and I drove past it once. That night I guess I spent a drunken hour describing him as the Greatest American Hero.

        • Lancaster Ohio. Not too far from here.

          • postmodulator

            I suppose we’re probably neighbors, then. I should talk about my employer in less specific terms.

        • rea

          the Greatest American Hero.

          Sound on Confederates, but a tad genocidal on Native Americans.

          • There probably isn’t a Greatest American Hero. I should write a post on this.

            • postmodulator

              By definition, someone has to be the greatest, unless all heroes are equivalent.

            • Barry Freed

              Frederick Douglass?

            • Murc

              Do fictional people count? If so, I vote for Captain America. He drove Nixon to suicide!

            • Linnaeus
              • I was going to mention William Katt, but you got there firstest.

              • Gunnar G. “Gunny” Gunn

                Believe it or not, it’s just him.

            • Texas Board of Education

              Don’t forget Phyllis Schlafley!

      • Barry Freed

        Thanks!

  • Truck drivers endure working conditions that compare to some of the worst jobs in the US. Crazy hours, constant monitoring record-keeping that would make your head spin. It’s damn hard work for pretty poor pay, because the margins that the trucking companies are working with are razor-thin. Naturally there are people in the industry that reckon they could save a buck if they didn’t have all those pesky regulations.

    Everything in your house came on a truck. Over the past couple of decades, with the shift to on-time manufacture, the demands on the trucking infrastructure have become more and more demanding. Compounding that, the industry has faced a labor shortage for years.

    The amazing thing is that the system pretty much works. When you consider the millions of miles that are constantly being logged the number of accidents that take place is pretty small, especially when compared with motor vehicle accidents generally. Backing away from regulation would be nuts, but finding better ways to regulate would be a good thing.

    • Nobdy

      because the margins that the trucking companies are working with are razor-thin

      This particular trucker was apparently a direct Wal*Mart employee so this is not the issue.

      The issue is that the employers DO NOT CARE about their employees or others on the road. Wal*Mart could afford to treat its truckers better, it could afford to treat all its employees better, but it is a monsterous institution lead by cruel, evil, sociopathic people and they DO NOT CARE if they kill or maim, so long as doing so is profitable.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Do you know what Walmart’s margins are? They have the lowest margins among discount retailers. For every $100 of product they sell, they make $3 in profit. Say what you want about the maliciousness of management but you can’t say that they have fat margins.

        • DF

          You understand that they do that intentionally, correct? Because they can afford to do so because of economies of scale and the often monopolistic access they enjoy to poor and/or rural communities?

          The Walton family seems to have quite a bit of money, too, so these profit margins must be working for someone.

        • Nobdy

          So they might have to raise prices a little bit. We’d all live. They are the ones pioneering the race to the bottom so it’s not like they are forced into these abusive practice.

          I feel some sympathy for the small trucking company with 12 rigs that gets enormous pressure from local competitiors and megacorp customers to cut margins to the bone and break the rules to make a meagre profit.

          I feel none for Wal*Mart, which IS the megacorp squeezing that small-time operator.

          • ThrottleJockey

            That’s the thing about this post. Despite the provocative title there’s no evidence cited on how Walmart is squeezing their truckers. In the rest of the industry truckers appear to be doing well. Do we have some cites to back up this assertion?

            • Nobdy

              All truckers get squeezed to meet impossible schedules.

            • Wal-Mart President Bill Simon said in a statement that the company “will take full responsibility” if authorities determine its truck caused the accident.

              I’m interested to see what that entails.

              • mud man

                Probably he doesn’t mean he’ll take the driver’s shift in the slammer

              • dr. fancypants

                The key phrase here is “its truck.” The blame is clearly all going to land on the “rogue employee” who failed to follow “company policies.”

            • Warren Terra

              Despite the provocative title there’s no evidence cited … In the rest of the industry truckers appear to be doing well.

              Hypocrisy noted.

              (Hint: why don’t you ask truckers how well they’re doing. Or just look in a minimart at a gas station off the interstate a hundred miles from anywhere, and note how all the impulse-buy items on the counter at the register are varieties of energy drink (and most of what’s in the store is human-fuel of some sort). You think people are doing that to themselves because they’re doing well and feeling happy?

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          wal mart chisels the hell out of everyone it deals with all the way along the chain of production in order to what, exactly?

          to make the walton family richer

          fuck ’em. you play that tiny violin if you like, don’t expect me to start crying

        • Malaclypse

          They have the lowest margins among discount retailers. For every $100 of product they sell, they make $3 in profit

          That isn’t what Gross Margin actually means. Your link correctly notes that their gross margin is 24.87%. That’s not all that low – the average in your link is 32%.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Yeah I know. I linked to an article indicating how low their GROSS margin was to other large discount retailers. The $3 number reflects their NET margin.

        • A 3% profit in retail is actually about normal, and may even be a little bit on the high side.

          In other news, Wal-Mart earned a $12billion dollar profit last year. I suspect they can afford to shed some of that margin in the interests of decency

          • Warren Terra

            WalMart employs 1.4 million Americans, apparently, to one degree or another. If they took a little more than 5% of their profits and divvied it up among their American workers, that would be a $500 bonus. For a lot of WalMart workers living from paycheck to sub-$500 paycheck, that could get them out of their most urgent debts and transform their lives, at least for a while.

        • Most Favoured Commenter

          3% margin is not bad for retail, and much higher than Amazon.

      • drkrick

        Wal*Mart could afford to treat its truckers better, it could afford to treat all its employees better, but it is a monsterous institution lead by cruel, evil, sociopathic people and they DO NOT CARE if they kill or maim, so long as doing so is profitable.

        Sam Walton is still deep in the company’s DNA. Sam refused to pay overtime as required by labor laws until the company had exhausted every possible appeal, as well as some unlikely ones. When they finally concluded they’d run out of dodges and were going to have to pay, the checks went out with a notice than any recipient who still worked for Wal*Mart would be fired immediately if they cashed it. I always remind myself about that story when someone tries to convince me they don’t treat their employees THAT badly.

        • But Walton also made sure his drivers never had more than a day’s drive from distribution center to store, and while there was no overtime, Sam insisted on developing a profit sharing plans with his employees, something that has sadly morphed into a management bennie.

    • If they paid more they might not have a labor shortage.

      I deal with a lot of the same things, crazy hours and constant monitoring but the pay more than makes up for it.

      UPS is looking to hire 40 pilots. I suspect that they will have at least 5000 fully qualified applicants for those 40 positions.

      • Murc

        If they paid more they might not have a labor shortage.

        This.

        I’m an unattached young man, detail-oriented, in good health who deals well with boredom. I would happily learn to drive a big rig (which is NOT EASY; those guys have vehicle skills and senses of spatial awareness that would shame a Nascar driver, and the exam is no joke) and tool around for forty to sixty hours a week. Give me a working radio and I’d be happy.

        But I’ll never do that, because the pay is total shit and the working conditions are abusive. I can be abused for low pay in a climate-controlled office with the internet.

      • ThrottleJockey

        I’ve always heard that long-haul truckers made good pay…and it doesn’t seem like pay is the root cause here:

        The pay isn’t bad: Truckers earn a median annual wage of $37,930, which is $4,000 more than the median wage for all jobs, according to the BLS. The top 10% of truck drivers make more than $58,000 per year.

        It seems like its more a matter of entry costs and increased regulation/enforcement (which isn’t a bad thing):

        Despite the 8.2% national jobless rate, many unemployed construction and factory workers can’t afford the $4,000 to $6,000 cost of a six-week driver-training course, says Rosalyn Wilson, senior business analyst of consulting firm Delcan.

        • Murc

          The pay isn’t bad: Truckers earn a median annual wage of $37,930, which is $4,000 more than the median wage for all jobs, according to the BLS. The top 10% of truck drivers make more than $58,000 per year.

          The article mentions nothing about what that works out to in an hourly wage, however, nor how much of it comes in the form of “incentives” and “bonuses.”

          Let’s pull some other little chestnuts out of it:

          “You have a gigantic culture shock when someone is suddenly living on the road in a space the size of a walk-in closet,” said Aquila. “Then you have the pressure, the erratic sleep patterns, and the time away from home, family, and friends.”

          Why are these guys living in a space the size of a walk-in closet? This country is lousy with quite comfortable hotels. Why is there a lot of pressure? You put the truck on the road and drive until you get there. The only way that should be a high-pressure job is if there are unrealistic performance expectations. Why would it have erratic sleep patterns? What are we shipping that’s oh-so-important it requires people to not have a fixed schedule?

          Wilkins says he can gross up to $300,000 per year. After paying for fuel, insurance, truck payments and maintenance he can clear as much as $150,000 in take-home pay, as long as he spends most of his time on the highway, living in his customized sleeper.

          Ah, yes, an owner-operator. Trucking companies love those guys.

          What kind of capital requirements on there on buying your own rig and assuming an enormous amount of risk that, rightly, should be borne by the company? Are they easily within reach of a factory worker without taking out a dangerous loan?

          That article left a lot of questions unanswered.

          • sparks

            That article left a lot of questions unanswered.

            Hence it is perfect for TJ.

            • ThrottleJockey

              Not the only article out there I read smart guy. According to the BLS they make on average $18/hour (net).

              I never said it was an easy job. I said they made good money. I watched Smokey and the Bandit as a kid just like you guys, we know it ain’t easy.

          • Hogan

            Look, all he’s saying is there must be some way to blame this on the workers.

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              tips. it’s all about doing what it takes to get a good tip

          • Warren Terra

            Think about it: let’s say they’re on the road a mere four nights a week. Let’s say they manage a tremendous deal: $40 a night at a cheap motel, but at least the door locks, there’s a shower, and the sheets were changed recently. That’s still $8000 a year, and more than a fifth of their pay. There’s no way the driver can afford that. Of course they’re going to have to sleep in their cab.

            • Lee Rudolph

              My experience of cheap motels is not recent, but I drive by several different ones from time to time, and none of them would have room for a big rig (let alone 2 or more) to park.

              Obviously there are (or were) truckers’ motels out there, and I’m not talking about them.

    • Autonomous Coward

      Naturally there are people in the industry that reckon they could save a buck if they didn’t have all those pesky regulations.

      Compounding that, the industry has faced a labor shortage for years.

      Hmmm, for such market-fetisishists they don’t seem to understand that a shortage in supply (with a largely fixed demand) will predictably lead to an upward shift in price. That is, price of labor. Wages.

      (TLDR: Can’t attract workers? Raise your wages!)

      • Autonomous Coward

        (TLDR: Can’t attract workers? Raise your wages Apply for H1(B)s!)

        FTFM. Sigh.

    • the industry has faced a labor shortage for years.

      There are many industries in the US that claim to suffer from a “labor shortage”. But they don’t, they suffer from a “labor willing to put up with employers’ shitty compensation and miserable working conditions” shortage. Change either the working conditions or the compensation, and that labor shortage magically disappears. Now I admit, that trucking companies margins are razor thin, but this is key, regulations can help. If every trucking company is required by law to compensate better and/or provide better working conditions, they raise their prices, and their margins and profits are unaffected.

      • Katya

        Yeah, reminds me of a story I read about the effect of states implementing various strategies to drive out illegal immigrants. The agricultural employers were upset because they couldn’t find Americans to do the jobs for the wages they had been paying the illegal immigrants. They called it a labor shortage.

        • And when entitled, basement dwelling, MRA goons can’t find a supermodel to marry, the problem isn’t necessarily a supermodel shortage.

        • Karen

          Yeah, surprisingly unemployment benefits do look better to anyone with an option than doing stoop labor twelve hours a day in the sun without bathrooms about half of minimum wage. How unreasonable of them

    • Anonymous

      I’ll try to be more sympathetic later tonight when I’m driving up to northern Michigan getting tailgated by a semi while I myself am speeding at 60-65 on a 2 lane highway with a 55mph speed limit

      • witless chum

        Don’t stop when you get to Whitefish Point.

      • Warren Terra

        I don’t know what it’s like in Michigan, but I go long distances on I5 occasionally, and despite it being the main north-south highway on the west coast most of it is only two lanes, with trucks mandated to keep to the right and typically driving about five miles an hour slower than cars (as in, they’re driving 5 mph over the speed limit instead of ten, or driving at the speed limit instead of five mph over).

      • Lucky you. I’m usually stuck behind the semi going 56 in the left lane that’s trying pass the one going 55 in the right lane.

        It’s like watching two glaciers drag race.

        • Anonymous

          If it’s faster moving semis you want, you need to drive M53 from Detroit to Port Austin.

  • Nobdy

    Enforcement would be relatively easy. GPS monitors on trucks. Make sure that they are moving no more than is permissible under the rules. It would be slightly gameable but would eliminate a whole lot of the dangerous practices. It could easily be done by Congress under the commerce clause, would save lives, improve the lives of truckers, and has absolutely 0 chance of even being proposed let alone passed because our government is disgusting.

    • Murc

      I currently do tech support for Tyco. All their trucks out in the parking lot (vans, really) have big signs on their rear doors saying “this vehicles speed is GPS monitored.”

      If they can do it, everyone can.

      • postmodulator

        I don’t encounter huge problems with truckers speeding. But I also live in America’s Speedtrap. I imagine if they were going to break the speed limit anywhere, it wouldn’t be here.

        • Nobdy

          We’re not talking about speeding though. The monitors could also track whether the trucks are in motion during time periods when the trucker is supposed to be resting.

          • postmodulator

            If we tried to do that nationally, I am completely confident that the Tea Party would paint it as a Big Brother initiative.

            • postmodulator

              Which isn’t a good reason not to try to do it nationally, to clarify. The same people came out against drinking water a couple of years ago because the FLOTUS said we should drink water.

            • drkrick

              The Tea Party will come out against almost anything, including things they were for yesterday (paging SGT Bergdahl). Treat it as a given that any sensible proposal will draw that opposition and move on. They represent less than a quarter of the voters and a couple of dozen Congressional seats and can easily be disregarded if sensible people would stop overestimating their importance.

              • witless chum

                Exactly, not challenging them just makes them seem like the scary boogeyman in the closet that’s 6’9″ 300 pounds with saber teeth.

    • In my business we’re constantly monitored. The ACARS data-link is constantly tattling on us.

      All that data is being tracked and analyzed.

      They know how fast I taxi on average. If I were to start taxiing noticeably slower (hypothetically as part of a work action) they would know and could use that against me.

      So far we’ve managed to keep Cockpit Voice Recorder data restricted to accident investigations only. Hopefully it stays that way.

    • FridayNext

      I said the same thing up thread. When my brother drove a truck in the 80’s and 90’s, he had a GPS unit on his truck and they knew his speed, route, eta, and how long his breaks were. The tech has only gotten better, cheaper, and smaller. I find it difficult to believe any company that has more than a half-dozen trucks or delivery vans doesn’t track their vehicles in this way. It is in their interests to know where they are 24/7. It wouldn’t be that hard to make companies save that data electronically and submit to regulators or enforcement agencies periodically or after an accident.

      I suspect no one (in authority) wants to.

      • PSP

        I think it already happens. I remembered hearing reports of truckers being none too happy about it.

        http://www.npr.org/2011/04/20/135507979/indie-truckers-keep-big-brother-out-of-my-cab

        • BigHank53

          There are several companies making such units–even ones that keep cameras on drivers–and the perception of them depends entirely on how they’re used. If the trucking company is inclined to obey the law, and tells the drivers the monitoring is going to be used to make sure they don’t break the law either, it goes over a lot better. I know of at least a couple cases where verifiable third-party speed data kept drivers from being found at fault in collisions, which saved their jobs.

          If they use it to make sure the truck doesn’t stop more than once in any four-hour period (pee in that Mt. Dew bottle, lackey!) then it’s just another tool for abusive management.

        • Warren Terra

          There’s a big difference between the company collecting the data in order to put the screws on the worker, and the data collection being monitored so as to enforce downtime regulations. There’s also a huge difference between downtime regulations that penalize the driver and ones that penalize the employer. A lot of the problem here appears to be that the current regulations penalize the driver, and the employer is relatively free to impose schedules that cannot realistically be met within the regulations, or to offer bonuses that are vital to the worker’s lifestyle and that cannot be obtained within the regulations.

          One obvious use of GPS would be to shift from paying per mile or per delivery to paying per hour. There would be enough data (especially from pooled data) for the employer to detect skivers and incompetents (people being paid to idle, or to dawdle, or to get lost), but the different pay scheme could remove the poisonous incentives of the current system.

    • Karen

      This is a good idea, but if it only monitors when the truck is moving that’s not enough. Back in the 90’s I was a hear in officer for disputed unemployment claims. One of the most frequent complaints I heard from truckers was that shipping companies would require them to report to the shipping depot hours before their loads were actually ready. This meant waiting in the cab until they could be loaded. They had to be there and be awake but they weren’t getting paid and it didn’t count toward their hours of driving. I’ll bet a significant amount of money that waiting for loading accounted for a lot of the time this guy was awake.

      • DrS

        Oh my grod yes. I only did agricultural hauling for a summer, but we were constantly waiting out in tomato fields, waiting to get a load. We got paid by the load, so waiting for hours was all unpaid.

        Now, if you kept your books a certain way, they might do something about it. Fortunately I didn’t need the money that bad.

  • C.W. McCall

    “We tore up all of our swindle sheets and left ’em sittin’ on the scale …”

    • Hogan

      No one pays a toll going INTO New Jersey, ya dang fool. You only pay to get out.

  • Donalbain

    Are American truckers required to have tachometers?

    • I’m sure you know that the tachometer measures the rotational speed of the crankshaft and that most trucks have them as standard equipment like seats or a windshield. Odometers measure the total mileage of the vehicle. It would take something a little more sophisticated to make a safety impact on the truck’s operation.
      A GPS logger would do the trick, they are cheap, available as apps for most smartphones.

      • Donalbain

        Tachometers are used in the EU to measure driving/rest times. Are they required in the US?

        • The short answer is no.

          In the US, tachometers are primarily used as a way to limit speeds, not drive times, and they are voluntarily installed by trucking companies and other shippers, to avoid liability issues arising from speeding (and of course, tickets)

          They are not required, however.

    • I’ve never driven one but I would assume they all have a tach.

      Diesel truck engines have a fairly low redline. They have something like 14-speeds in the transmission. That’s why you hear them shift through three gears just to clear the intersection.

      • DrS

        Occasionally, we’d need to drive without trailers. You could easily start in 5-6th gear without that load.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      friend of mine says his semi tractor has an internal computer that records every moment it runs which the mechanics use to diagnose any mechanical problems that come up and, if he weren’t an owner operator, could be used by his boss to monitor exactly how he drives the truck. so keeping track of the hours on the road, hours spent idling, hours off would be reasonably easy

      • BigHank53

        I’ve looked at the data stream that Freightliner uses. They report the engine rpm and vehicle speed to five decimal places.

        • N__B

          I find it hard to imagine that the last three figures have much meaning.

      • ironic irony

        In Germany they have something similar, but it tracks when the engine is off or on. iIRC, German tour bus drivers are required to rest for 30 minutes every 4 hours. Or something. I don’t know the technicals, but they are required by law to stop and rest (coffee, eat, sleep, whatever). They cannot be driving.

  • The prophet Nostradumbass

    In other labor news, a judge in LA has ruled that school teachers’ tenure is unconstitutional.

    • postmodulator

      Balls and strikes.

      • Linnaeus

        Not good, but this one was going to the state Supreme Court no matter what.

  • M.

    Wrong link. This one — http://www.scdigest.com/ASSETS/ON_TARGET/10-08-12-1.php?cid=3647 — shows that Wal-Mart knows or can know exactly what Roper was doing in order to do his job for them. Of course, once they come clean on that, they have to come clean on Why. Lying pieces of shit — and cowardly mainstream who enable the lies instead of exposing them.

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