Shakopee resident Bill Krouse was recently named grand champion for a second time and awarded first place in the flatbed class at the Minnesota Truck Driving Championships in Coon Rapids.
The two-day competition consisted of 89 of Minnesota’s top drivers who faced a six-problem obstacle course, a written knowledge test and a pre-trip inspection where they had to correctly identify safety defects planted on a tractor-trailer.
Drivers with the most points from each division were awarded first place and a chance to participate at the National Truck Driving Championships in Pittsburgh August 14-17, where Krouse will compete against more than 400 other drivers in a skills test, pre-trip inspection and a written exam.
Krouse is a third-generation truck driver following his father and grandfather, and claims he learned everything he knows from his dad and never attended a truck driving school. A professional truck driver of almost 34 years and a driver for YRC Freight of 33 years, Krouse has competed in the championships for 16 years and has placed first in the flatbed division eight times.
Krouse says safety is his first priority and mentioned the recent use of ELDs (electronic logging devices) as one way to ensure the security of the roads, which have replaced the paper logbook some drivers used to record their compliance with regulations over hours they can be on the road.
University of Minnesota Morris professor and former truck driver Stephen Burks has done extensive research on the economics of the U.S. trucking industry and explains why the introduction of ELDs is important for the safety of both drivers and the motoring public.
“On-board recorders are one of the greatest safety benefits we have had in the last 30 years in my opinion,” Burks said. “I drove in the days when we did paper log books, which allowed you to misreport and lie about your actual work time and rest time in very systematic ways. The electronic recorders don’t completely eliminate that, but they sharply reduce the ability to misreport.”
Burks explained that because drivers get paid by the mile, they sometimes push to get as many miles and money as possible.
He also says considerable medical research has proven most humans are not able to subjectively tell when their performance has been degraded by fatigue. As drivers become sleepy, he says, they are only able to recognize its effects up to a certain point. Their performance then continues to degrade when they choose not to rest.
“This means that if you left it up to the driver, the driver would choose to drive in an unsafe fatigued manner frequently,” Burks said. “And that means that you should put specific limits on what the driver’s allowed to do, because it’s for the driver’s health and safety (even though the driver doesn’t perceive it) and it’s for the motoring public’s safety.”
Drivers have since voiced opposition to rigid hours of service requirements – currently, drivers are allowed to work 14 hours per day, but they are limited to only 11 consecutive hours of driving following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Under the Trump Administration, the US Department of Transportation has proposed loosening a number of the regulations on drivers, something that Burks feels would threaten safety outcomes.
“I do the truck driving championships because it makes me a better driver and it makes me a safer driver,” Krouse said. “I learn something new each year that I go and compete that I can bring back to the roads to make them safer.”