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Black Smoke Matters posts list of industry concerns

In October 2018, truck drivers parked their rigs on the National Mall in protest of government regulations. Now, Black Smoke Matters is hoping to take those efforts and advance them, posting a list of industry concerns the group is protesting. ( Photo: Erik Cox Photography/Shutterstock )

EDITOR’S NOTE: FreightWaves has purposely left postings from the Black Smoke Matters Facebook page as they were written, along with explicit language used.

 

As administrators for the Black Smoke Matters (BSM) group on Facebook worked to get a handle on the sudden explosion of members in the group, one administrator announced he is stepping away from the page and the group has posted what it is calling “Truckers Declarations for the 2019 Shutdown” on its website.

Chuck Biddles, one of the original administrators, posted on the group’s Facebook page on Tuesday morning that he won’t be posting on the BSM page anymore, implying that his individual beliefs in the shutdown are obscuring those of BSM.

“Guess it’s time to put this out there. Since I have spoke (sic) about shutting down the highways to try to shut the mega carriers down, people are pissed about it, said that they would not join the shut down because of it. Since BSM is not condoning anything of that nature I don’t want to cause anyone to not get involved in this shutdown so I will no longer be on Black Smoke Matters page posting anything. I will do all my posting on my personal page. STAY safe,” he wrote.

The Facebook page continues to morph into a mix of truck drivers supporting the April 12 shutdown movement and people posting various unrelated messages. Some have argued for more focus from those posting, and administrators seem to be trying to move in that direction by focusing their message through the Black Smoke Matters website.

There also have been efforts by some, it seems, to capitalize on the movement. Numerous posts have offered BSM merchandise and a few Go Fund Me pages have been posted. Administrator Joe Denney denounced the Go Fund Me pages in a video; and on the website, the following message now appears:

“It has come to our attention that someone has opened up a Go Fund Me account under Truckers Stand As One and Black Smoke Matters.

“It is important for us to inform our members that Truckers Stand As One and Black Smoke Matters is not affiliated in any way with this Go Fund Me account. The administrators are very concerned about this matter. We have no intentions to open such an account and we have been looking into the matter. We are hoping that it is not malicious intent on someone else’s part.”

In a Facebook post on Tuesday morning, Denney urged BSM supporters to “fight for your Constitutional rights.” He wrote:

“We all don’t drive the same kind of truck, car, wear same color shirt, etc. Whatever do it your way. But fight for your constitutional rights. Promise u will make a difference. Let these crooked ass politicians know that they do work for us. This is our god-given rights as American citizens! Stop listening to that domestic terrorism b******t!”

On the BSM webpage, the group has attempted to clarify its mission. It states that the introduction of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate “pushed the American truck drivers (sic) too far.” It noted that two groups – ELD or Me and Operation Black and Blue – formed to fight the regulations and went to Washington to speak with regulators at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

“The FMCSA made declarations that they held a productive meeting with the six truck drivers sent in to meet with them and decided that they would be interested in having more meetings with truck drivers in the future. For the truck drivers, this was a groundbreaking effort, but they soon discovered that the FMCSA is more capable of placating truck drivers than they are at resolving the issues with the truck drivers,” the message reads.

Those visits did not result in change, BSM claims, and neither did an event in Washington organized by BSM and another group. “The United States Truckers Alliance and Black Smoke Matters visited officials from the FMCSA during an event called ‘That’s a Big 10-4 On DC’ in October 2018 and still truck drivers feel as if they aren’t being heard. What will it take for truck drivers to be taken seriously?,” the message read.

These previous efforts are what led to BSM to push April 12. “The solution is to call for an industry-wide shutdown. This seems like a sensible idea because no one can force an individual to work. We, the American truck driver, have found that the FMCSA has made false claims in favor for regulations that force truck drivers of large commercial vehicles to use electronic logging devices and feel that is a common practice for the agency,” it said.

The page does not clarify what form an “industry-wide shutdown” will take. Attempts to obtain comments from BSM have gone unanswered.

Among the complaints BSM outlined in the post are:

The Unfunded Mandate Act. Officially called the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995, this act directs government agencies to “limit the number of unfunded federal mandates imposed by the federal government on state, local, and tribal governments.” BSM claims that when FMCSA implemented the ELD regulation, it based its assumption on a paperwork reduction cost saving that “is not applicable to the 99.1 percent of small trucking businesses that make up the trucking industry.”

Parking and hours of service. The group said that MAP-21, passed in 2012 and which directs federal transportation funding, required the Department of Transportation to study parking availability. The first Jason’s Law release came out in 2015 and the government launched an updated survey in November. Still, the lack of truck parking remains a vexing issue, although several states have banded together in the past two years to create better notification systems of where parking is available.

On the subject of hours of service (HOS), BSM believes FMCSA is not working with the industry to create flexible solutions. “Currently, the FMCSA is working on creating new hours-of-service rules. Our issue with what they are doing is that they are using the same failed techniques in doing so,” BSM wrote. “They are thinking in a linear fashion by attempting to cut up a 24-hour period to make a one size fits all approach for a problem that exists because that is what they have done in the past. The truck drivers require a more sensible approach by using conceptual reasoning to address this very important issue.”

FMCSA has recently proposed an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that asked for input on what changes could potentially be made to make HOS more flexible. BSM is claiming that since FMCSA knew HOS was “flawed and need(s) to be changed,” then it “wrongfully implemented the forced use of electronic logging devices, which has set the truck drivers up for failure.”

Cybersecurity. BSM is concerned about the ability of hackers to gain access to the increasingly technologically advanced trucks and safety systems. BSM did not specifically state what it wants done about these issues.

Constitutional Rights. BSM believes that ELDs and their potential for being hacked is violating a trucker’s right to privacy. “A person’s identity and personal information are not secure when anyone may hack into such a device and retrieve that information. The federal government is not holding any responsibility to the vulnerabilities in which they are exposing the American truck driver,” it wrote, claiming that FMCSA said that “truck drivers should have a lower expectation of privacy while on the job, because trucking is such a highly regulated industry.” It went on to note comments from LaTonya Mimms, FMCSA enforcement division specialist. Mimms, speaking at the Great American Trucking Show in 2017, said that drivers can’t avoid the problem of self-incrimination with an ELD if they drive over hours looking for parking. During her answer, Mimms noted that officers retain discretion to write ELD “nominal” over-hours violations, and in future meetings, FMCSA officials have clarified the use of personal conveyance to avoid this situation.

“Our fourth amendment right to privacy and our fifth amendment right for protection from self-incrimination are sacred articles in the United States Constitution that truck drivers hold dearly. The FMCSA has admitted in certain regards that they are violating our rights, and pawning off their responsibilities to manufacturers is not acceptable. Our government officials should err on the side of caution anytime that they may have concerns for rights violations,” BSM wrote.

Among other concerns BSM noted is the need for better driver training for new entrants and it asked for a committee of truck drivers to work with government officials in creating regulations.

“Due to the fact that truck drivers are individuals being regulated for the job that they perform, they should be granted the opportunity to form a committee of truck drivers from all sectors of the trucking industry to act as advisors to the U.S. Congressional oversight committees and the Department of Transportation. We require this committee to be funded in order to adequately compensate the committee members and cover the cost of doing business,” it wrote.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and fleetowner.com. Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.
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