The Star of “Ice Road Truckers” Talks Challenges of Trucking
Workplace Wellness As a truck driver and company owner, Todd Dewey says the shortened hours and rise of technology are the biggest challenges truckers face today.
Working as a long-haul trucker has never been an easy way to make a living. But, with new regulations restricting the number of hours logged, rising fuel costs and sophisticated computer systems built into the rigs, Todd Dewey, star of “Ice Road Truckers,” thinks being a career trucker is more difficult than ever.
In Dewey’s opinion, truck drivers face four main challenges that are deterring qualified people from entering the industry: technology, fuel costs, driving hour regulations, lack of mechanical training.
“One of the reasons it is so difficult to get people to drive trucks is so many regulations and so many hour cuts,” Dewey said. “The cost of living keeps going up and they keep cutting back in our trucking hours, so it’s hard to make any money. And it keeps getting worse.”
Rise of operational expenses
All of these challenges point to the same end result: a rise in operational expenses. Tonnage fees are up. Registration fees are up. Fuel costs can be unpredictable. Technology, which is supposed to bring improvement to overall truck operations, often has the opposite effect. New trucks with computer systems and sensors also have problems with error messages and power outages. “It seems like every month I have two or three trucks in the shop for a week because they’ve got to get plugged in and fixed,” Dewey said. “I’m more old school. And I like the old diesel power and the torque.”
Technology, which is supposed to bring improvement to overall truck operations, often has the opposite effect.
The dependence on in-truck computer systems may be making it more difficult to find truckers with solid mechanical experience. If the truck isn’t on the road, it isn’t making money; yet Dewey said it is one of his greatest challenges to find a trucker who knows how to mechanically work on it to keep the truck hauling. This is especially vital for someone like Dewey who primarily hauls logs and spends a lot of time driving in the mountains.
The biggest challenge the trucking industry faces today, however, is the number of regulations, starting with logging hours and the amount of time truckers are allowed on the road. Essentially, it is a cutback in hours for the drivers, according to Dewey. That means the trucks aren’t making the type of money they should be making because of the regulations. In turn, truckers aren’t making a good income.
And when truckers are on the road, they face getting ticketed because the truck, while in every way legal, doesn’t meet the required bridge weight. “You want the trucks loaded to what they’re able to haul,” Dewey said. However, you risk being pulled over and told you are over the middle of your bridge once you do that.
Addressing the challenges
Tackling the challenges in the trucking industry requires training. Dewey holds safety meetings once a month with all of his drivers. He also uses this time to review basic mechanical repairs like training on fixing the electrical wires for lights under trailers or how to shift at the right RPMs so they burn less fuel. The better the truckers are trained, the easier it is for them to keep the trucks on the road and earning money for both the company and the driver.
The future of the industry
It’s hard to predict the future, but Dewey is certain of one thing: technology will only get more complicated. “We’ve got to figure out all the problems on the technology to keep the trucks running better,” he said.
What he would like to see is the cost of transporting goods come up to make it long-haul trucking a worthwhile career. “Pay these guys what they deserve when they are out there long hauling and away from their families all year long,” he stated.