On March 22, 2013, Sandi Talbott, Co-Founder of the “REAL Women in Trucking” and the “Women Truckers Network” and her good friend Mr. Jimmy Ardis met with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Anne Ferro at the Mid-America Truck Show (MATS) in Louisville, Kentucky.
Mr. Jimmy Ardis is a one-armed truck driver from South Carolina who has over 4 million safe miles. He is known by his nickname, “Monkey Gouger” and you can learn more about him at “Carolina Monkey Gouger”
The three spoke privately about trucking issues for women, and the potential for people with disabilities to become qualified drivers. Ms. Ferro later participated in a health walk with drivers and sat on the entry level driver training (ELDT) listening session panel with other representatives of the FMCSA.
The purpose of this second ELDT listening session was to hear testimony on The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) that was signed into law in July 2012.
As part of the bill directs, the FMCSA must finalize the entry level driving training (ELDT) rule. The listening sessions were scheduled in Charlotte, North Carolina and in Louisville, Kentucky in order to allow public comments for the purpose of information gathering on a new Notice of Proposed Rule-making for revised training rules.
While most of the attendees were CDL school stakeholders and carriers advocating for themselves on whether CDL training should be performance based or accredited, how the costs associated would affect them, there were a few veteran drivers who stepped into the spotlight to talk about how highway safety is affected by the current state of truck driver training practices and how mismanaged government funding sources are adding fuel to the situation.
The REAL Women in Trucking entered two comments to the docket in the first ELDT listening session that was held in Charlotte, NC via email. Ms. Sandi Talbott made her public statement in person during the MATS session which was recorded in part by the RWIT Co-Founder Alison Morris.
The entire text of Sandi’s testimony to be entered in the FMCSA Docket was the following:
My name is Sandi Talbott, I am 71 years old and I have been driving for 34 years. I am a founding member of the REAL Women in Trucking and Women Truckers Network Virtual Mentor Group for Women Entering Trucking and Co-host of the first trucking radio program hosted by women truckers.
We see the student truck crashes that do not make the news and the scattered rigs along the off-ramps operated by a new drivers who that have not been taught to park, back properly, manage their hours of service, logbook or know how to stick up for themselves against training carriers pushing them because they are an expendable cheap labor source.
In our weekly group we have come in contact with student drivers who are put out on the highway with as little as 2 weeks experience and they are running freight even though they feel they are not prepared to do so.
There is no oversight on the turnover rate in the training carriers and the claims of the ATA of a critical driver shortage.
As a veteran driver and as a taxpayer I feel if the FMCSA truly cared about safety they would have a cap on how many students could be recruited by a training carrier per year.
Government funding for entry level driver training has become a welfare program for some big carriers that the ATA represents.
Funds from MAP-21, workforce investment act, dislocated worker training funds and Pell grants are funding the CDL School industry; they are NOT putting qualified drivers on the road. The evidence of this is the recruitment rate, the turnover rate and the continued claims that there is a driver shortage.
The CVTA would have us believe that that these programs are putting people desperate for work into good paying jobs but many of these people who qualify for the government funded programs will not be driving 1 year from the time the CDL School collected the training funds. This is a drain on our economy; it is theft from taxpayers who wrongly believe these funds are helping fill empty jobs.
These are not good paying jobs, they are jobs that require many hours of unpaid labor and people are being misled to enter trucking because all of the funding that benefits the CDL school industry.
This system is setup that someone with my qualified driving experience cannot train an entry level driver but a person who has just a few months of experience CAN train another student.
This is not highway safety.
Our group wishes to educate elected officials and the motoring public how government funds like MAP-21 are being misused at carriers who are recruiting between 90 and 200 entry level drivers each week without accountability.
Carriers like Werner, CR England, Covenant Transport, CRST Van Expedited, SWIFT, US Xpress, New Prime, these are just few of the carriers who use students to run team freight before they have enough skill, sell them on a lease owner-operator one sided sharecropper trucking programs, and do not provide qualified logbook training or equipment training.
The FMCSA should conduct an audit into these carriers with regard to the government funds they are receiving to train students, the turnover rate associated with them, exit interviews from those who sought training and compare just how many of these entry level drivers are now out of the system.
We believe there should be a cap on how many students these carriers can recruit.
There is indeed a shortage of qualified trainers because the quality of recruits that the CDL schools are feeding to carriers who only see these people as dollar signs are risky to teach.
Drivers who have no desire to train are pressured into taking on the task. This is highly dangerous and can become volatile, especially for females.
I recommend the FMCSA look beyond the performance based question and recognize who the stakeholders are in receiving the funding for entry level driver training, continue to have incredible turnover and are not producing qualified drivers.
REAL Women in Trucking
You can watch Sandi’s entire testimony with the link below beginning at 19.20 to 26.30 to hear the applause she receives from fellow drivers and Ms. Anne Ferro’s follow up questions.
This is an important topic for drivers and the motoring public concerned on highway safety and the taxpayers.
We are proud of Sandi for taking time away from visiting with friends at MATS to speak out on the serious safety issues related to entry level driver training.
We encourage everyone to write their elected officials to inform them on how these taxpayer funded programs are being used by the trucking industry with a lack of accountability.
Additional Links of Interest: