Channel 19

Todd Dills

Driver hours changes: Bummer of a proposal?

| December 28, 2010

Expectation among many haulers leading into FMCSA’s Dec. 23 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to change drivers’ hours of service regulations was that at least some larger degree of sleeper berth flexibility would be reintroduced in order that, as so many have put it to me over the past year’s worth of debating the issue, “truck drivers can sleep when they’re tired.”

It doesn’t appear that we’ve gotten that at all, in spite of all the hope after the new administration came in and began a series of listening sessions, some at truckstops with drivers, some elsewhere, that resulted in a sense of the agency working with working folks, not to mention a myriad of novel ideas being generated for introducing greater flexibility in the system, particularly in the area of the sleeper berth use for circadian-rhythm-friendly naps, extending the driving window by the same amount. ATA even got behind that notion. And you’ll likely remember “Marathon Trucker” Jeff Clark’s “Gold Card” idea to allow veteran safe haulers to just throw the log book out the window and run as they see fit.

Rewards-type programs for safety were apparently not in the cards at FMCSA — read CCJ editor Avery Vise’s roundup of the proposal here. And rather than introduce measures that might make drivers’ control of their hours stronger, thus allowing them to more effectively meet shippers’/consignees’ often disastrous schedules, or lack thereof, FMCSA seems just to want to give haulers a couple extra hours twice a week to wait.

While driver Clark largely agrees with required 30-minute rest periods in the proposal, calling it overall “Not too bad: The 30 minute breaks make sense,” he draws the line at the addition of two 16-hour windows a week. ”As far as 16 hours to accommodate unloading, NO! Anytime loading or unloading time is extended the loader or unloader should be FORCED to pay detention,” he wrote, commenting on the proposal here.

Nearly every driver/owner-operator I’ve talked to over my years with Overdrive/Truckers News has noted the shipper-carrier/driver scheduling dynamic as the No. 1 hours problem going. While many carriers have gone toward electronic logs, combined with demands of detention pay, to put pressure on shippers to conform to drivers’ hours, greater sleeper flexibility would at least help drivers control their own destiny (not to mention the “ability to sleep when tired” safety issue) in combating the problem. Effectively, the proposal tells the shippers that drivers have an extra four hours a week to wait on their loads. Sort of the wrong message to send, eh?

The public comment period of 60 days will open when the proposed rulemaking is published Dec. 29, tomorrow. Comments then can be made at http://regulations.gov, and for now, see the full rule proposal here.

UPDATE:
The hours proposed rule was published in the Federal Register today. To make a comment on the proposed rule, visit www.regulations.gov and search docket ID “FMCSA-2004-19608.”

  • Scott Burrows

    I find it interesting that in Canada we are allowed 13 hours a day driving and can get hours back after 8 hrs in the sleeper with 2 hours in breaks during the day. We also get 70 hrs in 6 days compared to the USA’s 70 in 7 rule. These laws seem to work okay up north but yet south of the border they keep cuting it back. In Canada you can get in a daily driving schedule and sleep at the same time every day, making a more alert and rested driver. The biggest issue I see with this change is only 10 hour or the current 11 hr in between off duty periods is a joke. This is causing many drivers with tight deadlines to switch there sleeping period everyday, and who can sleep a full 10 hours after only driving 10 hours. You will spend half your sleeper time awake because your not tired. This will cause more tired drivers then rested. Less hours of driving a day doesn’t always give you more focused drivers.

  • Scott Burrows

    Just thought I should ad I am not trying to bash the US I probably spend 80 percent of my time south of the border.

  • http://overdriveonline.com/channel19 Todd Dills

    Sure thing, Scott. I’ve heard similar thoughts from other Canadian drivers.

  • Rick Gaskill

    But Canada requires a 36 hour restart and at least 1 24 hour break every 14 days . For these reasons U.S. drivers will be in violation if they enter Canada after only restarting 34 or 35 hours and only have logs for the past 7 days . They need logs for the past 14 days .
    Canada also requires a written DVIR within the past 24 hours . Post trip inspections on U.S. vehicles may exceed this limit , particularly after restarts .

  • http://overdriveonline.com/channel19 Todd Dills

    Thanks, Rick.

  • Gordon Alkire

    After 40+ years of driving trucks in this great country I am disappointed in our legislators. Why are people that know nothing about trucking allowed to control how we work and get paid?.
    We are special. Do not forget that. Not everyone that wants to drive a truck, can. The professionals in this industry make it look easy. We do nothing to to get noticed. Yet, we all are punished due to the few cowboys and hot rodders. It is the less than qualified that are hurting the industry. The ATA is not for the driver, but the big dollar members in their club. All we need is to allow us to stop the clock when it is necessary, such as rush hour or after a bad meal or that run down feeling, for what ever reason we need to be able to stop the clock with out penalty. to be able to split the driving / sleeper berth for team operations.
    Keep the 34 restart.
    Enough is enough.
    Personally the EOBR is nothing more than letting us know that they think we are criminals. We are not trusted to record our work properly. duh.
    Because of a few, we are being punished and today’s driver are not willing to stick together for betterment of our industry.That is one reason I will be leaving the industry soon.
    Wake up Drivers.

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