Trucker Tools recently had the pleasure of speaking with trucking couple Lisa and Lee Schmitt. The Schmitts are owner operators based out of Wisconsin who run heavy haul. Lee has been a trucker since the 1980s, so he’s experienced all the ups and downs of the industry over the last 25+ years. After their kids left home a few years ago, Lisa joined husband Lee on the road. Shortly thereafter, the Wisconsin-based couple started their weekly radio show, Trucking Across America with the Schmitts, which educates the general public about trucking and helps drivers understand trucking regulations.
When Lisa joined Lee in the truck in 2016 after their kids had left home, Lisa wanted to start a Facebook page to educate the public about what truck drivers’ lives are like. Today, Trucking Across America with the Schmitts has about 3,200 followers on Facebook. On their Facebook page and in their weekly radio show, the Schmitts talk about the loads they haul, the food they eat on and off the truck, and about regulations that affect truckers. The Schmitts also educate truckers about how they can get their voices heard and their concerns addressed.
“We started our Facebook page shortly after I got in the truck to let the public know that we’re just normal human beings, we just have a different job,” Lisa said. “Since we do oversized and do some cool loads, it keeps the public interested because it’s not just box freight. We try to educate the public and drivers.”
Guests on their radio show have included FMSCA representatives, state troopers, autonomous truck developers, candidates for public office, engineers from Lockheed Martin and representatives from OOIDA. When asked about a dream guest for their radio show, the Schmitts said they hope to one day have someone from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance on their show.
During our conversation with Lisa and Lee, we asked them how the heavy haul market has been affected by COVID-19. The Schmitts told us that, like nearly every segment of trucking, the heavy haul market has taken a hit this year because of COVID-19.
“It used to be a money-making thing, but as freight crashes in other sectors, other companies get into hauling heavy haul,” said Lee. “As freight rates have changed, big van and reefer companies have started getting into flat, step-deck and RGN, which is driving the rates lower and lower. With COVID, everyone is slowing down in industry and it’s just crashing our market. It’s a cutthroat market right now. I can make more money pulling a van than I can hauling oversized, which is really sad. It’s really disheartening.”
COVID-19 outbreaks at factories also have slowed down heavy haul shipments of oversized loads, such as agricultural equipment and pipelines. The Schmitts are working with their lease company right now to possibly start pulling a reefer or van for the time being to tide them over.
For several years, the Schmitts have been working with the FMSCA and others to get truckers’ voices heard when new trucking regulations are being created or proposed. In 2017, the Schmitts went to Washington D.C. for the ELD or Me trucker protest against the ELD mandate.
“We thought we’d fight this ELD mandate and it would all be over,” said Lisa. “Five years later, we’re still advocating for the trucking industry through our radio show on Monday nights and through our Facebook page. There are always new laws, regulations or issues that truck drivers need to be aware of. Lee and I aren’t going to change anything over night with just the two of us, but what we can do is educate drivers on how to get their voices heard – whether it be through comment periods, listening sessions, meeting with their senators or with the FMSCA’s new driver committee.”
FMSCA’s new commercial motor vehicle driver panel, which Lisa mentioned, is a new subcommittee of the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC). According to Lee, this new committee will include 20 to 25 truckers, representing different segments of the trucking industry, including owner operators and company who haul heavy haul, tanker, van and reefer. Lee reports that this new driver committee will be directly advising the FMSCA and MCSAC, which will help get truckers voices heard at the national level.
Read We Asked, You Answered: COVID-19’s Impact on Truckers to learn about the results from our recent COVID-19 trucker survey.