Black Smoke Matters and the April 12th Shutdown

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Black Smoke Matters
Will America face another trucker strike?

I am an over-the-road truck driver. I have been driving for 22 years. Furthermore, I am also a blogger. Thus it makes sense that I should weigh in on the looming April 12th shutdown, and the group behind it. Black Smoke Matters is organizing the shutdown. Who are they? What do they want? How far will they go to get it? Let’s take a look.

What’s with the name Black Smoke Matters?

I would be remiss if I didn’t start there. Yes, it is a poor choice of a name. Worse yet, the organization has at times tried to avoid the obvious conclusion. In an interview that the group linked on their official Facebook Page, the following statement appears.


Denney took issue with recent reporting accusing the group of spinning their name off of the controversial “Black Lives Matters” movement. He gave TNN context to the formation of the name. “Black smoke means the sacrifices that all of us truckers have given to this industry.”

In a previous interview, Mike Robbins admitted the name is a spin off of Black Lives Matter. This vacillation on the origins of the name isn’t surprising. It highlights the fact that even founding members of the group are aware of the controversial nature of the name. It was, in my opinion, poor planning to use the name. Using it will alienate potential allies in the industry. Moreover, it will also alienate potential allies in the general public. However, it is what it is so we shall move on.

Black Smoke Matters Goals:

The goals of BSM are listed on their website. I encourage you to click the link and read them yourselves. They give a lot of background information. For the sake of brevity, I will bullet point them here.

  • Make the Electronic Logging Device optional.
  • Overhaul the Hours of Service regulations.
  • Improved training curriculum.
  • Federally mandated truck parking areas in state and local municipalities.
  • Form a committee of trucking industry members to advise the Congressional Oversight Committees and Department of Transportation.

The last goal is the one I agree with the most. It’s just good governance for the regulators to get insight from the regulated. Furthermore, I support improving the training curriculum. A higher industry standard is in order.

This leads me to a point of potential agreement. However, the “goals” page of the BSM site leads me to believe we will have a point of contention here. The group takes issue with unfunded mandates. Thus, it stands to reason that they want the parking mandate to be funded. I would need to see a detailed plan on this before I could support or oppose this.

black smoke matters

Points of disagreement:

1. ELD

I’m not necessarily opposed to making ELD optional. I just find most of the arguments against electronic logs to be silly. For example, Lori Franklin says it makes her feel “stressed” and not at her “full potential”. She also expressed privacy concerns.

“As a single woman running down the highway, who do I know that’s hacking into that system and can see there’s only one driver driving that truck, and where I’m going and where I’m picking up?”

First off, the log doesn’t tell someone where you’re going, only where you’ve been. Secondly, the log would tell someone that you are a solo driver. However, it’s hard to consider that “private information” when you’re declaring it to the world in a media interview. Furthermore, the log doesn’t tell the hacker that you’re in the truck by yourself. Again, she just informed the world of that.

Is this really about cheating on logs?

I will concede that these might be legitimate privacy concerns to some, although clearly not to her. However, hacking is against the law. Having a title for your home opens you up to title hackers. Yet we require homeowners to register their titles. This is just one example to make the larger point. Legislation is implemented to force compliance, not to compensate for a lack of compliance. BSM would be better served in this matter to push for better cyber security or stronger penalties for hackers.

In my opinion, all of this is a front. Drivers don’t like electronic logs because it’s harder to cheat on them. Plain and simple, this is the issue. The ELD mandate didn’t change the actual hours of service rules. It simply changed how compliance is monitored and reported. Thus, when a driver reports being “stressed” or “limited” by ELD, what they are saying is they can no longer do what they used to do on a paper log.

2. Hours of Service changes.

The only big problem I have with the HOS rules is the 30 minute break. Therefore, a shutdown is a huge over-reaction in my opinion. 70 hours in 8 days is reasonable. Moreover, with the introduction of the 34 hour restart, it’s not even a hard limit. The 14 hour clock is a pain compared to the old 15 hour clock. However, the 10 hour driving limit being extended to 11 compensated for that. Furthermore, Black Smoke Matters doesn’t articulate how they want the rules changed, only that they want a change.

3. Tactics.

In a Facebook video, Chuck Biddles, one of the founders of BSM, stated the following.

“Black Smoke Matters is not backing any shutdown of highways or freeways,”

However, go to the Black Smoke Matters website homepage and the first thing you see is this.

Black Smoke Matters

One one hand, they claim to be opposed to shutting down highways. On the other hand, they insist they will. I can understand differing views within an organization. Conversely, the organization itself needs to have a focused approach. Black Smoke Matters is muddying the waters here.

In Conclusion:

Black Smoke Matters

The stated goals of Black Smoke Matters are fine. However, they don’t clearly articulate how they intend to achieve them. They want Hours of Service rule changes. They do not say which rules they want changed, nor what the new rules should be. Similarly, they want federally mandated truck parking areas. Yet they don’t state how they intend to achieve this. Additionally they want improved training curriculum. However, they aren’t advocating for specific changes or improvements in the existing curriculum, nor are they pushing a new one.

The tactic of shutting down highways and performing “slow rolls” is counterproductive. It endangers public safety and the safety of motorists, to include the drivers involved. Moreover, it angers the general public who gets caught up in the protest.

This leads us to the strike. I have no problem with my fellow truckers striking. However, Black Smoke Matters hasn’t made a sufficient argument for a strike. Hence, they want to shut down highways to force the majority of truckers who oppose the strike into joining the movement by blocking roadways. I am adamantly opposed to this tactic. Thus I do not support Black Smoke Matters. Therefore, I will not be participating in any slow rolls or strikes.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Spot on assessment my friend. Additionally, in many interactions that I’ve had with some of their supporters, I’ve found them rude, vulgar and unable to articulate their point without resorting to cursing and name calling. Definitely not the positive image that I’d like to be associated with. They do have some decent folks trying to straighten the rest out, but they’re few and far between.

  2. Actually eld’s in general don’t have the information the lady was referring too, but the most popular two, peoplenet and Qualcomm are also a messaging system and GPS among other tools and do have the dispatch message in them telling where you are supposed to be and at what time and also have the fuel route if followed that tell every truck stop you will be stopping at for fuel and the exact route you will follow, and under the login page it tells how many drivers are logging into that truck. It also gives the tractor number and trailer number. Also it gives the name and address of where your picking up and delivering, so a simple Google search can tell hijackers what your carrying should they gain access. I have never heard of this happening, but considering that most small companies probably don’t spend small fortune on encryption and security software and hardware, then I suspect it’s only a matter of time. You see, all of this information can be gotten from the linked computer at the office. It might be a bit more of a challenge to get into the system of a moving truck, but it does run on cellular so I suppose it is possible.

    • Thank you for your feedback, Kevin.

      Agreed, but a Qualcomm without ELD could be hacked as easily as a Qualcomm with ELD. Her issue, aside from number of drivers in the truck and where the truck has been, would be with a Qualcomm or equivalent device, not with ELD. Correct?

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