Owner-operator testifies to Congress on damaging effects of new hours provisions

| November 22, 2013

hours truck stopOwner-operator Tilden Curl likes to leave his house at 4 a.m. to be able to make his way through Seattle before the morning rush hour can cause him to get bogged down and waste his time, miles and money. 

And he used to be able to do it without hindrance.

Given the new provisions in hours-of-service rule, however, Curl can’t pull his truck on the road until 5 a.m., leaving him no choice but to deal with the Seattle traffic. 

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Curl offered this story as one of several points in his testimony to Congress Nov. 21 at a House Small Business Committee hearing on hours-of-service, saying the new hours regulations have taken away the flexibility truck drivers need to get the right amount of rest, avoid traffic and stay on schedule after being delayed by shippers. 

Curl spoke at the hearing on behalf of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, saying the trade group supports the TRUE Safety Act bill introduced into the House this month. The bill would delay the hours-of-service changes until the Government Accountability Office can study them and FMCSA’s methodology further. 

The rule changes also do more than just slow him down in heavier traffic, Curl said, as they could cost him as much as $4,000-$5,000 a month.

He also told the panel that no one in trucking makes safety a priority the way drivers do, as an accident and the costs associated with it can mean the end of a one-truck business. 

Many times, the new hours rule can leave drivers and owner-operators “in a constant Catch-22 situation,” he said, having to “work to operate safely and efficiently.” The hours-of-service rules don’t provide enough flexibility for each driver to set a schedule that works best for his or her operation, fatigue level or freight schedule. 

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Curl also pointed to unpaid detention as potentially a bigger issue for drivers than hours-of-service and an issue made much worse by the lost flexibility caused by the new regulations.

Like others who testified, Curl pointed to his group’s recent survey results, saying an OOIDA membership survey showed that 46 percent of driver respondents said they feel more fatigued under the new rules and 65 percent say they’ve lost income. Half, he noted, have lost mileage and loads.

OOIDA’s position on mitigating safety, Curl said, is backing increased driver training. “OOIDA strongly feels that the key to highway safety above any regulation or technology is ensuring there is a safe, well-trained and knowledgeable driver behind the wheel of every tractor-trailer on the highway.”

In more testimony about his own operation, Curl said he liked stopping for 15 minutes every three to four hours, which would cumulatively give him 30 minutes worth of break time. Obviously that doesn’t work under the new rules, he said, but the effectiveness of cumulative breaks was backed up by Pennsylvania State University researcher Paul Jovanis. 

Jovanis, director of Transportation Operations Program at Penn State’s Larson Transportation Institute, said his research showed that cumulative breaks yield the same amount of crash risk and fatigue reduction as stopping for one longer break. 

Here are some highlights from others who testified at the hearing: 

Duane Long, chairman of Longistics, 105-truck fleet based in North Carolina: Long said team drivers at his fleet deliver just-in-time freight, and often their schedules put them home around 2 a.m. Whereas they would normally be able to resume operation Sunday evening and make deliveries Monday morning, they now must wait until 5 a.m. Monday to start driving. Thus, the needs of their customers go unmet, he said. Long spoke on behalf of the American Trucking Associations and said his group, too, supports the passage of the TRUE Safety Act. 

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Brian Evans, owner of brokerage firm L&L Freight Services in Cabot, Ark.: Evans called the hours rule “a solution in search of a problem.” He said the rules will have no effect on reducing accidents beyond the previous rules, calling them “overly complicated” and a knock to productivity. “We are not suggesting increased safety be traded for increased efficiency. We are stating that safety improvement was acheived under the old rules, and the new rules will not result in dramatically increased carrier safety,” Evans said. He was there speaking on behalf of the Transportation Intermediaries Association, who, like the other trade organizations, was there to offer their support for the TRUE Safety Act. 

Jovanis: Jovanis was the witness brought on behalf of safety groups and Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the subcommittee. Jovanis offered testimony saying several studies have shown lower crash risks correlated with at least 9 hours off duty, rest breaks while driving and driving during the day. Crash risks were elevated in the early morning — 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. — and from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., he said. Another study showed elevated crash odds from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., Jovanis said. An Australian study also showed self-reported fatigue for truck drivers was higher during night shifts than day shifts. 

  • Kevin J. Reidy

    You seem to be the one with tiny tears in his eyes.
    I am a Motor Carrier, I own my equipment outright and lease others as needed.
    I also know how to negotiate rates with customers, how to help them find a mutually satisafctory solution to their shipping problems, and how to run a profitable business model. Seems you need to educate youreslf further on these matters.
    MY money is on the line, and I do make a nice living, thanks for asking.

  • EF McHenry

    Well said, good comment

  • EF McHenry

    I’m in full agreement with what you just said!! The establishment fringe of both the republicans and democrats are both a bunch of corporate fascist! And the republicans try to wrap their fascism in the red/white&blue all while carrying the cross! To me these republicans & democrats are nothing but a bunch of CORPORATE OPEN BORDERS, NATION BUILDING GLOBALIZERS AND DOMESTIC BIG FEDERAL GOVT CONTROL FREAKS!! That’s why that ass-hole republican Paul Ryan and that worthless excuse of a woman democrat Patty Murray conspire behind closed doors to steal your SS & Medicare to replace sequester! FOR ANY REPUBLICAN TO CLAIM HE OR SHE IS SMALL GOVT AND TRY TO CUT SEQUESTER IS NOTHING BUT A ANTI-AMERICAN LYING PIECE OF GARBAGE!! SEQUESTER IS THE ONLY THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED RECENTLY TO CUT THOSE CONTROL FREAK FEDERAL GOVT AGENCIES DOWN! A TO STOP THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX FROM BUILDING UP THE MIDDLE EAST!!!! Have a Good Day Sir!!

  • trucktracy

    Well said, good comment. If you are an owner op. Good for you, but I am not really buying that. If you are, then by your comment I can only assume that you do not like sitting at docks and would like to get paid for doing so. That is the most likely place where hourly rates would come to affect you as an O/O, unless you are running in the oil fields or a dump truck. But then , with your self confessed negotiating skills and problem solving abilities, you are more than likely covered. What do you negotiate for detention 150.00 an hour? I have no tears in my eyes at all. I do what I do because I for the most part enjoy it and am able to make a decent living. It works for me because I am a work aholic. I have just been tired of all the bull I read on here from steering wheel holders that for the most part do not have a clue.

  • jojo

    $7.25 an hour X 168hrs = $1,218.00
    .406 cents a mile X 3000 miles = $1,218.00

    Today the Co. Driver is paid a variable salary based on miles ran.
    A variable salary based on time spent away from home and job duties performed is realistic with todays rules and regulations.
    Better pay may provide better Drivers.
    We are all competing against .25 cent a mile Drivers and we are all going broke.

  • bigred

    I fail to see how you make 24 bucks an hour when you are in the truck 24 hours per day 7 days a week in most cases and with the new hours you actually sit in a parking lot 3 out of 7 days. Add the fact that most of the CO. drivers are out for weeks and i hear they barely make 500 bucks a week……Are you some safety man with Swift or something???? Get real.

  • Arad

    You are so right it hurts!

  • Steve Paris

    $.40 at 60 mph is in ideal conditions. For the most part a truck that doesn’t speed averages more like 50-52 mph. I’m paid on an hourly rate and only get paid for my on duty time.
    I do a 2 1/2 day run in the busy season & bust my butt to get my deliveries done. Up to 15 stops over 2 days.
    Maybe I’m the exception to the norm. You say that drivers are unproductive if paid by the hour. I wouldn’t do this run on a mileage rate though. It wouldn’t be worth my time.
    If you feel that your drivers can’t get anything done being paid hourly, maybe it’s your approach or training program to get the drivers in tune with your company expectations. Personally, my work ethic comes from my mother who raised me & my brother on her own while working.
    I’m not new to the industry & it took my 13 years in it to find a job that suits me. Some time we need to shovel a lot of coal before we find a diamond.
    Don’t dump on drivers for want a better way. You have drivers that so far are working well for you. Each job may have a different solution & what your company does, a mileage rate works best for you & your drivers.
    Things change all the time, never say never to the options that you don’t like now. They may keep you going in the future.