Sunday, November 28, 2010

Statist Intervention Earns Resentment of Truckers

One member of the alliance, Ethan Lee Vita, happens to be traveling across North America, meeting individuals and promoting the concepts of liberty, mostly through agorist or counter-economic activities. Often, he rides with truckers, who have long complained about bureaucratic regulations from the state with regard to governors and hours of service. However, on this latest trip, he's noticed an increase in complaints.

Hours of Service (HOS): A federal agency, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), regulation requiring breaks, intended for safety and prevention of driver fatigue, and limiting hours of driving time.
Governors: Device that limits the speed of a vehicle, intended to allow drivers to slow down sooner in an emergency and for fuel efficiency. There are calls to require this on every vehicle and every truck manufactured since 1992 has had them installed, even if they're not enabled.
Logbooks: Most truckers use paper versions to record their HOS, though some companies use Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs). FMCSA desires to require EOBRs.

For those who don't understand the trucking industry, allow me to explain. Truckers are paid on a per mile basis, and often poorly per mile, so they are highly incentivized to drive as many miles as they can. However, they must also please those they are transporting goods to, so they can't take an unnecessarily long route, but must be quick. The combination of these two aspects incentivizes them to drive long hours to get as many miles in as they can in as short a period as possible.

Obviously, there are safety concerns with doing such for reasons of fatigue, often resulting in accidents damaging life and property. Instead of allowing the market to resolve this issue via its decentralized solutions, such as a company instituting its own regulations that make sense for efficient business, or contracting such out to an insurance company, the state got involved with such regulations that cause more problems than they resolve.

At first glance, which rarely reveals the whole story, a regulation dealing with fatigue sounds great. However, as with most regulations from outside an industry, it fails to take several aspects into effect. For instance, HOS regulates that the hours spent driving may not be interrupted for any breaks, but the timer must continue. Formerly, a driver could take a break during their drive, stopping their clock. Because they are no longer allowed to stop the clock, and they are paid per mile, drivers, especially those with EOBR which automatically record hours, drivers often continue driving despite being tired. As a result, this regulation causes dangerous driving conditions it purports to stop. Furthermore, they used to allow drivers to split hours if they needed to take a break, but disallowed it with changes within the last five years.

Sometimes, the regulation contradicts a different statist regulation. For example, often times a driver will reach the end of their hours without being near a proper location to stop for the night, resulting in them stopping on the side of the road, or on the side of an on-ramp, illegally. And because thats illegal, state patrolmen often wake them and have them move along, driving further illegally and dangerously.

So with this information, how does this relate to the counter-economy or agorist economy beyond the inefficiencies of the statist economy? As a result of these regulations, many truckers break the law in order to earn more money. Those with paper logs often keep two copies, one to the company for compensation and one for police to inspect that is legal. While not strictly agorist, or even counter-economic, it is proof that the more the state regulates a business, the more the industry is harmed, the more the regulation is counter-productive, the more the industry steps into the underground market, until finally, the industry is prohibited or so cost-prohibitive as to force it entirely into the counter-economy.

1 comment:

  1. I've been ticketed for stopping to rest at a TN interstate ramp. $80+ and the state trooper chuckled and told me he if I gave him any lip, he'd order me to move the truck and follow up with an HOS violation. This was after I'd tried 3 exits with ZERO possible parking spots. I could barely hold my head up when I stopped. Yeah, I was in a tractor trailer rig.