Driver operates under proposed hours rules

| February 25, 2011

During a four-week test of proposed changes in hours of service rules, Werner Enterprises driver Alan Parker said he was less productive, more stressed and wasted time.

Parker made his comments at an HOS listening session Feb. 17 held by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Many drivers and industry trade groups have criticized the proposal as too complex and unnecessary.

Parker, a 24-year driving veteran, was asked by Werner to conduct the experiment, record differences in his work and comment on the changes.

“In my experience having 10 hours a day to drive caused me to stop sooner and start my day sooner,” said Parker about the proposal to reduce daily driving to 10 hours from 11. He said he had to start as early as 2:30 a.m. compared with 5 a.m. when he would normally start.

During a route that runs from Nebraska to Utah, Parker said he drove 1,837 miles over 30.75 hours of drive time. Under the 10-hour provision, it took him three full days and part of a fourth to complete the run. Under 11 hours, it takes him less than three days to do the same route, “with less stress and less pressure,” he said. “It gives me that little bit of leeway I might need.”

On the proposal to extend the work window from 14 hours to 16 with a three-hour break, Parker said he wasn’t able to test it to meet current hours regulations. Twice, he said, it would have been welcome, including once when he had to wait five hours at a shipper’s location. “This is the only part of the new proposal I think would be a benefit to a driver,” he said.

Parker said when he’s on the road, extra time off from driving “doesn’t mean more rest, it usually means more stress. If a driver could take a two-hour break and it not count against his 14-hour clock, that would encourage him to take a nap through the day. Instead we drive tired once in a while because we have the miles.”

Taking a proposed required 30-minute break twice a day was inconvenient, Parker said. One day, he had to stop 45 minutes from his home to take a 30-minute break. He said he was able to take the break at a location he knew would allow him to stop, but many drivers would be forced to search for a place to stop in an unfamiliar area.

Parker proposed being able to combine 15 minutes of off-duty time such as fueling with another 15 minutes to make a 30-minute break to make better use of time.

On the proposed 34-hour reset including two midnight to 6 a.m. periods, Parker said the period is likely to stretch into 50 hours or more. In his test, he arrived home later than usual and was required to wait longer to get in the early morning periods before departing.

Parker concluded that if the HOS rules are changed, “It would affect me in being a productive driver. In the past 30 days, I can account for three days of production that I lost. It would also affect me being a safe driver by causing me to start my days earlier because I have to stop earlier because of my 14-hour clock running out.”

The FMCSA is accepting comments about the proposed changes through March 4. To make comments go to www.fmcsa.dot.gov and click on “Submit Comments” under “Rules & Regulations.”