Reaction Mixed on New Rule

| April 07, 2005

“What would help the new hours of service is to get freight rates up. Everything else has gone up, but not the freight rates. If they’d get that rate up, we’d be fine with these rules.
They’re trying to regulate our cost of living. They don’t know when we get tired when we’re in that truck.”

Steve Cantrelo
Sulligent, Ala.
Newman Specialized
Seven years OTR

Many truckers and trucking industry organizations have conflicting feelings about the changes to the hours-of-service rule.

Some say the new rule will be changed again before it is ever implemented in eight months. Others say it is a good compromise, and still others say it does not go far enough to solve the problem of driver fatigue.

“We have worked hard all along for a rule that is a good mixture of common sense and sound science,” says Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations president and CEO. “It will allow us to meet the real world operational needs of the trucking industry and most importantly, do so safely.”

ATA officials noted that the new rule reflects components of an earlier ATA proposal by increasing the amount of rest time and promotes the body’s natural 24-hour circadian rhythms, as opposed to the current rule, which is based on an 18-hour day.

“It’s not everything we wanted, but it is a much better rule than we had three years ago,” says David McCorkle of McCorkle Truck Line in Oklahoma, former ATA chairman and head of its HOS committee during the debate on the HOS proposal three years ago. “We can live with this one.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association issued a statement saying that the rule is much better than the one proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation three years ago. But, OODIA says it “will have minimal impact on driver fatigue” because truckers still will be “forced to perform uncompensated work for as many as 33 to 44 hours per week,” referring to time spent waiting and other non-driving activities.

“After almost 65 years of working with regulatory controls that should have been declared obsolete decades ago, this is a pretty sorry excuse for a revision to address today’s problems,” says Jim Johnston, president of OOIDA.

The OOIDA statement says the organization “is grateful to FMCSA for abandoning the most disturbing parts of its initial hours of service proposal, especially the proposal for 24-hour-a-day electronic surveillance of drivers.”

FMCSA says that as it fashioned the new rule following the controversy surrounding the failed 2000 proposal, it gave serious consideration to proposals from ATA and Parents Against Tired Truckers. The final version, says FMCSA, represents a medium between the two proposals.
The compromise didn’t make PATT happy, however. PATT founder Daphne Izer says allowing truckers to drive 11 hours is too much. “Ten hours is too much,” she says. “Studies show after eight hours of driving the number of accidents go up.”

“The FMCSA … is not concerned with the safety of the motoring public,” she says. Izer also questioned FMCSA’s reasoning behind dropping the requirement for electronic on-board recorders, which was part of the 2000 proposal. “On-board recorders are a must,” she says. “How are they going to enforce the hours without them? The logbook is a comic book.”

Like PATT, the National Sleep Foundation found the lack of EOBRs disappointing. The organization says the rule is a step in the right direction but does not do enough to combat fatigue. “Without the ability to monitor and enforce the new rules, they are not likely to be more effective than the rules they replace,” the organization said in a press release.
The rule also drew objections from the industry’s major labor union, the Teamsters. “We oppose the new hours-of-service rule,” says spokesman Rob Black. “It’s already a lot to have 10 hours of driving time. When you add an hour, that can only make for drivers who are more fatigued. A driver that is fatigued is not as safe.”

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Ellen Engleman praised the new rule, calling it “an important step toward addressing fatigue on our nation’s highways.

“It’s a good idea. The extra driving hour is going to hurt single drivers, though. Most of those new boys won’t be able to do it. It won’t hurt teams, though. That extra two hours will help new drivers with wind-down time. They won’t have to run around cramming food in their mouths, taking showers, doing laundry and only getting three hours of sleep.”

Kevin Richardson
Princeton, W.Va.
BCJ trucking
Nine years OTR

“The biggest step forward I see is the requirement for 10 hours of consecutive off-duty time, allowing the driver the opportunity to get at least eight hours of sleep – probably the most important factor in preventing fatigue,” Engleman says.

J.B. Hunt driver Romar Smith of Birmingham, Ala., also endorsed the 10-hour break. “I think it will be very good – less fatalities and less fatigue,” he says.

Mike Pogue of Manchester, Tenn., a company driver with Mesilla Valley Transportation, says the extra hour of driving time each shift is a positive change. “It sounds good to me,” he says. “I can live with it.”

But not all drivers think the changes are a good idea. “They don’t really help us time-wise,” says BCJ team driver Alex Thompson, of Mount Airy, N.C. “I understand that they’re trying to give us more sleep, but it doesn’t help us with the money.”

Michael McRay, a driver with Cannon Express, also says the changes won’t help much. “You get one hour, then you give two,” he says, referring to the two extra hours of mandatory rest. “What good is that?”

Gordon Doncic, an owner-operator leased to FedEx Custom Critical, says he still has to make up his mind whether the new rule will be helpful. “It’s not going to make any difference for a team, but for a single guy, that extra hour could be very valuable,” Doncic says. “You get that extra hour, but you have to sit longer, and that’s not good. You know what – I’ll really have to sit and think about this to see if there’s any value.”


Drivers’ Opinions

No real difference

“It won’t make much difference for most drivers. As long as they do the 34 hours, I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t understand the 10 consecutive hours. Now, everything is modern. When the rules were originally done, we didn’t have air conditioning, air ride, cruise control. I think they’re just finding a way to mess with us. They need to change the problems they’ve already got, like how they’re teaching new drivers.”

Andy Ferrara
Canton, Mich.
Company driver
for Whiteline Express
26 years driving:
16 open road, 10 local

“It’s OK with me. Once I’m done driving my 11 hours, I’ll be ready to stop anyway.”

Freddie Lee Williams
York, Ala.
Co-driver for Robbie D. Wood

New trucks, old rules

“The only thing we gain is one hour. I don’t like it. When they made log books, we were
driving B-51 Macks, and we needed hours off. But now we have newer, more modern trucks, and we’re still using 1960s rules. All they have to do is make the freight rates where I can afford to rest this much, and hours rules will make more sense.”

Ron Drewry
Louisville, Miss.
Covtran in Noxapater, Miss.
33 years OTR

Schedule killer

“The way our schedule works, it’s going to screw us up. We run six days on, one day off, four days on. We won’t be able to do that anymore.”

Lee Johnson
Dallas
Central Freight
Seven years OTR

It will burn hours quicker

“It isn’t going to make a difference. It’s just going to run your hours up quicker.”

Mark Covington
Louisville, Miss.
CRST
Three years OTR

- Laura DiBlasi and Laura Crackel

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