More hours flexibility would improve safety

| February 14, 2013

Hark back to a time if not of hope and change at least hope for change, as the Obama administration’s leadership team at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration came into office in 2009 and, within a year, did something that hadn’t been done in a long while — reached out to drivers.

You’ll recall the series of “listening sessions,” formal raps with drivers and owner-operators at a host of truck stops around the nation, a trucking show and on the web dedicated to garnering input from the key stakeholders in the hours issue to finally put the shifting-service-regs problem to bed.

Those key stakeholders – that’s you — got the change they were looking for. Problem is, FMCSA didn’t listen to their key concern. While the agency did modify the regs to allow for occasional two-hour extension of the 14-hour clock to compensate for extended dock wait times, they added further sleeper berth restrictions relative to the 34-hour restart provision and left the 8/2-hour sleeper split unchanged.

During the listening sessions, over and over again drivers had told the agency they wanted more split flexibility with potential to extend the 14-hour workday in order to remove systemic pressures to “drive tired” in order to maximize limited driving hours, as reader Eric Hassevoort put it on Overdrive‘s Facebook page. His commentary, along with that of many other haulers, came on the heels of results from an FMCSA-commissioned study reported on in January that in some ways seemed to back up the call for more flexibility.

The study showed that drivers utilizing more-permissive 5-hour split sleep periods could be expected to get more sleep than those using consolidated daytime-only berth periods. The study provided a means to quantify the “sleep when you need it, drive when you don’t” maxim, wrote Craig Vecellio, commenting at OverdriveOnline.com. “If you get to sleep when you are tired, you are more alert and healthier on the inside. The split sleep not only showed no difference in performance, it also showed no difference in blood composition and general sleepiness…. It is true that “if you get to sleep when you are tired, you don’t need as much sleep.”

Irrespective of whether they needed it or not, split sleepers were shown to get on average 1.2 hours less sleep per day than those who slept during consolidated night-time periods. Cynics said the agency would use the figure to justify current berth restrictions.

Most, in the end, were united behind the need for more berth flexibility. “One-size-fits-all regulations don’t promote safety,” James Martin wrote on Overdrive’s Facebook page, referencing drivers’ differing schedules and sleep needs. “I rarely sleep more than five hours at a time. Then I have to sit around unproductive for another five hours. By then, I’m ready to go back to sleep.”

More views follow:

Mike Nagy: I actually liked the newer rules as they were. The 11-14-10. When they did away with the split sleeper berth provision, then it got dangerous.

Scan the code or click through the image to download a copy of the split-sleep-period study conducted at FMCSA’s behest by researchers at Washington State University’s Sleep and Performance Research Center.

Craig Vecellio: Although the subjects [in the study] showed little difference in performance tests, there were differences in blood composition, which demonstrates the buildup of fatigue poisons, and general sleepiness…. As of my posting [via OverdriveOnline.com], there are three other comments, all complaints in nature.

All three are based only on the summary, not the detailed data. Wake up, guys! This test proves what drivers have been saying all along. Don’t dismiss this test just because it was done by the FMCSA. It actually shoots a hole in some of their goofy theories, which they have used to manipulate our sleep and which actually resulted in more tired driving. Usually, the FMCSA just messes with us, but this study actually backs up what drivers have been saying. Don’t let your usual dissatisfaction with the FMCSA shade your opinion of this study without reading it, unless you want to reinforce the public’s idea that truckers are dumb.

Andrea Sitler: Personally, from experience myself as a driver and dispatching drivers, I have found that keeping a driver on a schedule just like you would any other worker is the best bet. If the person is used to day sleep, they sleep fine. I don’t care what profession you are in; you can’t rotate shifts and expect the body to just adjust. If trucking would embrace this simple fact, it would be easier and safer for us all.

Keith [commenting at OverdriveOnline.com]: I disagree that one cannot get the body to adjust to a rotating shift. While in the military I worked a rotating shift for many years. Four swings, four midnight, four day shifts and three and a half days off. Then I started all over again. Thousands of other military members did just fine as well. While we would have loved to be on one set shift, the rotating shifts offered some good time off for seeing the countries where we were stationed. Also, what about cops, firemen, emergency room doctors and nurses and many, many other professionals who also work rotating shifts? And cops carry guns! Doctors and nurses use scalpels and drugs to save lives. Why are those professions not being challenged? Answer: Because our industry doesn’t have the balls to stand up and fight!

Ben Wilson: They should redo the hours rules and let us decide how to divide our working, driving and sleeping times based on our own needs. Forget the 34-hour restart and the 70-hour week. Refresh each day, and after 6 days require at least 24 consecutive hours off duty. Enforce it strictly, both on drivers and companies. Too many people who have no idea what they are dealing with are trying to deal with this issue.

Marty Sprague: I think that they should either bring back the split break as it was or make it so that any sleeper time over 2 hours would extend the 14 hours. Also, the restart should be cut to 24 hours with the stipulation that you can’t return to work (driving) until the first 6 a.m. after completion of a reset. That would prevent a driver from starting a reset at say 20:00 and, after spending a day with their family, or doing laundry and shopping or whatever, being forced to start work without a good night’s sleep.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Brian.E.Frazer Brian E Frazer

    The biggest thing they need to do is give credit for all sleep towards being able to drive. Maybe 1 hour of sleep equals 1 hour of driving

  • Tom/ thmolsen@comcast.net

    just spent 20 minutes commenting I guess it was a waste of time. what happened

  • Jimmy

    our clocks go according to the loads that we have to deliver and when we get a shipper and our 14 hr clock is already clicking and the shipper drops the load out on our 12 hour and then expects us to get the load to the customer drop over 300 miles away in that 2 hours NOT GONNA HAPPEN . when we have to take atleast 8 hours off. The load is late and they blame the Driver not the shipper.

  • Dave

    If I need a nap it would be safer to sleep, yet with the 14 hour clock running I got to drive tired. Stop the 14 hour clock whenever we hit the sleeper for a nap equals safer more productive drivers… We’ve been asking for this. Are you seriously listening?

  • bigred

    Any person, be it doctor,lawyer,nurse,truck diver, forced to work or do a 14 hour shift gets tired, distracted and then gets unsafe……You guys making the rules need to put the pipe down and get real. We know when we need to rest and we know when we are safe to drive. You cannot put what we do in a neat little package and expect it to work..

  • old trucker

    After 6 million miles of trucking, my simple philosophy: the best time to sleep is when you are sleepy. With todays hours of service it is: use it or loose it. So you must hunker down and keep driving…tired.
    These clowns that agree with one 10 hour parking and 14 straight hours working until your clock runs out live in a perfect dream world. In the real world shippers have a load ready at any given hour. With big city rush hour ahead, a much needed nap could well be appropriate. But not with ‘use it or loose it’.
    We had a US president that slept for 3 hours twice a day. Ideally we would sleep all night every night. That just isn’t real in the trucking world.

  • hbtrux

    As our Constitution declares Life liberty and pursuit of happiness.. Why does our Government feel the need to Regulate our very lives? We maybe working with in the public. But Damn it let the Truck Driver CAPTAIN HIS SHIP!

    I personally agree we need restraints and limits, other wise People and companies tend to get Greedy. So on the Government level state hour per week. leave it up to the Trucker how he can work those hours..

    on the COMPANY level make them ANSWER and pay for 16 hours in a 24 hour period. 8 hours required sleeper time and flexible for the trucker to split it up.

    Companies must be stopped with the LAME policys of LAYOVER PAY.. this $50. more or less after the first 24 hours is CRAP.. these trucking companies need to be held by law to Pay a wage for all hours except 8 for sleeper birth.. EXAMPLE: if i am laid over part of friday and all of sat. & sun, & part of Monday morning i am UNPAID FOR A TOTAL OF

    let’s say i delivered 8 pm friday. sat laid over all day Sat. & Sun. then monday morning i am dispatch by 9 am Monday..
    4 hours Fri. 24 Sat. 24. Sun. 9 Monday that is a TOTAL OF 61 HOURS for $100. if we’re LUCKY??

    So if a Company is required to pay for this time at a Union rate around $20 per hour minis 8 hours per each full 24 hours layover that would be in hours paid 45 @ $20 per hour = $900.. i think they would start charging shippers and receivers for hours trucks are held up and not haul for crap pay.

    WHY TRUCKERS RUN TIRED… waiting for dispatch is UNPAID TIME.
    Now if they REALLY wanted to make things simple they would take company drivers OFF Miles pay!! and Make it a Salary Pay!! What driver would run tired if he is making the same pay per week no matter how many miles he does or doesn’t run?
    then it would be up the the Trucking company to recoup cost from shippers, Brokers, receivers..

    loading or unloading is UNPAID TIME..

    The SHIPPERS AND RECEIVERS must be made responsible for the time the trucker is on their property.

    My idea to make all parties involved in the shipments.

    Time cards at shippers and receivers responsible for a minimum of not less then the National Union Wage per hours and a per hour rate of the Holding of the truck while on their property. and this time at shippers and receivers must be shown on IRS tax forms..and 1099

    if these shippers and receivers are forced to pay. truckers are not so out to run tired to make UP FOR LOST REVENUE.. but the trucking companies will take advantage of this if they are not Paying the Drivers on a SALARY instead of per mile pay.

    So the ANSWER is to do away with Miles pay and make it so Trucking companies have NO CHOICE but to make their customers pay them for ALL cost to ship..
    As an Owner operator and Trucking company I found the most frustrating thing i got from brokers, Shippers, and trucking companies is “IT’LL PAY YOUR FUEL” OR ” IT’LL KEEP YOU RUNNING” or ” IT WILL GET YOU TO A BETTER SPOT”
    My reply to these comments is and always will be ” I’M NOT OUT HERE TO RUN FOR FUEL MONEY NOR TO JUST KEEP MOVING NOR TO GET TO BETTER PLACES I AM OUT HERE TO MAKE A PROFIT!!!! i’m a capitalist!!!

  • Bovine relocator

    Truckers with 10,20,30 plus years of experience behind the wheel and no major accidents should not even be required to run a logbook. All a logbook does is give enforcement personnel a chance to make more revenue off nit picking i.e.(form &manner, not up to last change of duty,over 14 rule by 15 minutes).I for one grew up in this industry give me my hours and let me run them the way i can run them.
    If i would happen to have the unlucky experience of being in a bad accident then i should be required to go back to a logbook and or electronic recorder. No person in their right mind ever wants to be involved in a fatal accident whether at fault or not. How many times has a truck driver swerved and taken the ditch then risked his safety and or life to avoid running into a vehicle that swerved or stopped in front of them at the last second? Let’s have some common sense in all of this rule making.

  • Dan

    I miss the split sleeper time…there are too many times I have actually had to drive tired because I couldn’t extend my 14 hour out to catch a little rest…. I also used to use the split time if I rolled into a big city at rush hour, I used to use some of my sleeper time to get some rest and let the traffic die down so then I could get out and drive instead of sitting in heavy stop and go traffic.

  • JBQ

    Why not make commercial drivers drive during day light hours only like the oversized load drivers do. Then you can just throw away the log books.

  • jimmy Ballard AR.

    jimmy I have been a driver since 1958 we would be better off with the hours of service like they use to be go to bed any time you felt tired I still drive i am 78 and have a good physical I own 3 trucks I think they should have left hours of service alone most accidents are caused by cars the DOtS are just revenew coleters most of them dont know how to release the brakes on a truck

  • martymarsh

    What part of this joke doesn’t anyone get. This is about the DOLLAR and not safety. When they won’t let you stop and take a nap you know you are dealing with a corrupt system. YOU CAN NOT REGULATE REST, unless there is a buck in it.

  • RLSMOOVE

    After reading all of these post I have come to a conclusion. I agree with some of the people and totally disagree with the rest. The post I agree with are those which say we are in control of our destiny but all we (Truckers) do is complain but take no action whatsoever because most of the Truckers are afraid of their own shadow!! The trucking industry is a $900 billion dollar industry fueled by Truckers moving freight!! Now if we all come together and stop being chumps & punks we can make a change in which we won’t be viewed as disposable!! Just turn you ignition off and park!! Alot of drivers are making chump change so what’s the difference with losing a few dollars to gain respect, pay increase and true change of the industry alot of Truckers love being behind the wheel of a truck! Now as far as the people who are posting complaints against the government……………WAKE THE HELL UP!!!! Big business runs the world and more importantly the trucking industry!!! I also believe that most people who blame the government is upset that the President is Black and use the accuse of government involvement as there point!! Personally I dont give a damn about no politician because from President Obama down to alot of these states, cities and counties officals they are full of crooks, liars, thieves and exploiters!!!! So in closing until WE as TRUCKERS take a radical stand we will continue to just be pawns in a game that truly if you thought about it WE OWN THE BOARD!!! On April 1st, 2013 lets stop our trucks and let them know WE WILL NO LONGER BE THEIR FOOLS!!!!! United WE stand divided WE will fall!!!!

    APRIL 1st lets make the country come to a screeching halt!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/william.mckelvie William McKelvie

    Take us back to the OLD rules, where we could nap if a shipper or receiver was jamming us up, especially if they were doing it on purpose. Then we are fully rested and ready to go when they do get us going. Want to keep the hour start clock? Then give us a time period that will give us more time for the whole day. Not penalize us for things that we have no control over, like sitting at a shipper for three hours and counting. Make it a 16 hour total day, with 14 to work and 11 to drive and let us split it how we desire. Trucking is not an assembly line job, never has been, never will be. Also with the traffic congestion on the increase, we need to be able to schedule our runs, for example through DC and other big city congestion holes, at different times rather than the rush hour times. Not allowing us to do such, will only make the congestion worse. The new restart rule is a joke as well. They want us to take two periods off, from 1am to 5am, which means you sit around for all that time?? Did they not just mandate a break period for so many hours of driving, yet they want us to sit around for basically two days? Isn’t that just a tad contradictory?

  • martymarsh

    It’s about the DOLLAR.

  • Michael

    I NEVER drove tired until the stupid 14 hour thing went into effect. If you’re tired, stop, if you’re not tired, go, and anyone telling you how hot your load is can kiss your ass. If we had just those three simple rules… Sigh.

  • James C

    We’re big, we’re visible, we’re nice easy targets for any politician who wants to make a name for themselves.

    Ever will we be the gum on the bottom of SOME politician’s or regulator’s shoe.

  • carllarsen

    i have a large portion of skepticism about relaxing sleeper berth regs. i am fortunate to work for a company that actually lets me refuse loads if tired, but many, many drivers don’t. of course any regulation falls heavier on some, but to leave it to the drivers is to leave it to the companies and they don’t give a whit about anything except getting the load to its destination.

  • Matt

    I like the trucking industry when it was based on ability. and it had it’s own weed out system. when the fmcsa came out with the new hos in 2003. the guy i was working for then. sat down with all of the drivers he had. and we developed a plan of attack. then money was coming in faster then any of us could spend it. he had all of us on dedicated runs from the ohio valley to the north west and back. so we utilized the 34 hour reset rule on both ends. we never seen many false log tickets. once the farmer retired. I found myself in the same situation as the rest of the truckers. hos that didn’t work. I was always tired and fatigued. and that was weather i was at home or on the road. the hos was hindering my wages,performance and health. so after 6 years of fighting the elements of caused by the 11/14/70 hos rules. I realized that i had become a unsafe driver I got out of trucking. before the demise of my driving career. i came up with a set of hos rules that really were a one size fits all. I designed them based on the multiple area of the industry. i also took into consideration of wages based on miles. plus drivers health. both physically and menally. the hos i designed worked like this a total of 12 renewable hours onduty/driving in any combination between lines 3&4. after the 12 hour of service was reached. the driver would have to take a 10 hour break. which could either be split into 2 5hour periods. Or it could be taken in one 10 hour break. the rest break would depend on how your work schedule was set up for each day. after the 7th 12 hour period was reached. it would be required the the driver takes either a 24 or 34 hour break off the road and out of the truck. either at home or in a hotel. this is a key thing to a drivers mental health. I’ve spent countless months living in a truck 24/7. and it seemed to be more unhealthy to live in a truck 24/7. and i believe this is one of the factors in triggering drivers fatigue. point: days can run together. and people can get cabin fever from living in the same environment with out change. so by making it a requirement where drivers have to spend atleast one every 7 days out of the truck. will make the driver more focused which will make them safer and more productive. which will lead to the driver making a better income. and giving the driver a positive mental attitude. which will ultimately leading to a lower driver turn over rate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hwhack Helmuth Hack

    Bottom line: truckers are getting hosed by the 14 hour or any other utility legislatures proposed to supposedly “protect” drivers. Nonsense! If employers would pay by a better means then the “per-mile” scheme, we would have half the problems drivers face.
    Another personal issue I have, is that passenger drivers have no clue of our driving requirements. They are clueless, and local newspapers, schools, etc., don’t care to fix this: keep students dumb!

  • Larry

    Impossible. Every truck could not shutdown at same time from lack of parking areas and needs of eating and showering.

  • Smitador

    The carriers/ brokers are holding themselves back from major change. if one carrier switched to this form of business it would be driven under in no time. there will be no shippers willing to pay the extra fees when they can just switch to another carrier/broker. there will always be someone willing to move he freight at a lower cost, that is just busniess, however to make real change pressure must be put on shippers and receivers to realize the costs that the carriers and drivers have been eating for so many years. if there is at least one company willing to continue to eat those costs and not pass them on to the shipper, then therer will never be a way to implement it as a single company. it is hard enough as it is to squeeze detention pay out of a shipper.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eharris5128 Earl Harris

    I would prefer going back to the split sleeper and stopping the 14 hour clock. That method worked for over 60 years before the FMCSA came in and fouled the whole process up.

  • danette adamson

    They have no common sense I mean we know when we r tired and when we r not … Im not tryin to wreck my truck hurt anyone and dam sureaibt tryin hurt myself when I’m tired I go to bed… one size does not fit all… u want me believe that if it fits 300 pnd woman or man its goin to fit my 119 pnd ass ?? No it will not !! How they goun to group us all together based on their own sleep habits I don’t want nor do I need 10 hours of sleep … they need to regulate schools pumpin out “drivers” every 2 weeks . . That’s what causing wrecks. . Just sayin

  • russtrucker

    Im not tired for 14 hours. Would be better to extend driving hours, suspend 14 hour rule, and reduce off duty hours.

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