Should time away from home be systematically limited?

Cary Goodman | October 24, 2013
This letter's author, Cary Goodman, owns and operates this 2012 Peterbilt 386 and 2013 Western flatbed. He lives in Rapid City, S.D.
This letter’s author, Cary Goodman, owns and operates this 2012 Peterbilt 386 and 2013 Western flatbed and lives in Rapid City, S.D.

In this day and age when the federal government seems to want to get involved in all aspects of the trucking industry, especially those pertaining to public safety and driver fitness, why is it that one key issue has never been addressed?

I’m talking about the length of time a carrier is allowed to keep a driver out. To me, a driver’s mental state of mind is almost as important as most other driver-related safety factors such as distractions and fatigue. I’ve been driving for more than 30 years, and there have been times when things happening at home definitely distracted me to the point where I shouldn’t have been driving. It was by the grace of God and years of experience that got me through those tough times. This has to be especially hard on the new drivers just coming into the trade. There is nothing, and I repeat, nothing more distracting to a driver than things happening at home that he cannot get home to resolve.

I just recently saw an ad looking for drivers that were expected to stay out for four months — that, in my mind should be illegal. I surely wouldn’t want to meet this driver on the road anywhere. Has there ever been a study done of crash instances where a driver’s length of time away from home has been addressed? 

 

Not specifically that we know of, Cary, but that’s not to say it hasn’t come up in the literature on crash causation/risk at some point. Can anyone in the audience think of a study where time away from home has been identified as a factor in crash risk/causation? Tell us in the comments. 

  • John Scott

    I think much of that is taken care of by turn over. Any carrier who thinks a certain time like 4 months is Ok. Surely has a lot of turn over. What I find more disturbing is drivers burning up hours and having to take hours off at a truck stop. In any event, pay is way more important, but I guarantee if pay goes up so will time away from home. Because I don’t see shippers absorbing the costs. Also when you talk about extended time away from home affecting mental attitude. What about our service people who spend months away from their families? If you know the job requires it, then I think you are not being misled. You can either accept the job or not.

  • safetygirl

    We are a local delivery company that gets a lot of drivers after they have been on the road for their first few drive years. My frustration is that hours of service regulation and messing with hours of service rules screws up the local home-every-night schedules our company has developed for the drivers.

  • BigBoyButch

    Enough with Laws!!! I work away from home for 2-2.5 months and then go home. I’m happy with that. I own my own truck and trailer. I “choose” to work this way. Stop creating Laws that affect everyone! What happened to “free choose” in America? The Government is so involved in our lives because people keep asking them to be. Enough is enough.

  • another outa work trucker

    I don’t agree with this letter to the editor. putting a limit on how long drivers can spend away from home. I think most of the problem is: when drivers take a reset break. they take it in the truck the whole 34 hours. and the driver never really gets any rest. so in most cases drivers end up with what is known as cabin fever added with the stress of making very poor wages. and knowing that they are stuck in a life of poverty with out any hope of having anything more then a bag of dirty stained up clothes. so drivers end up with a very bad poor attitude towards trucking companies. and companies requiring drivers to spend months on the road and paying them poorly. is the number one reason for driver turn over rate nationwide. so in a sense trucking companies have only there selves to blame for driver shortage. and not being able to hold ont o drivers. maybe ift hey take some of the high paid salaries that disbatchers and planners make for doing very little. and give it to the the drivers. then the turn over rate would be very low. and the quality of the drivers work would improve greatly.

  • safetygirl

    I agree with other commenters here that this should not be made a matter of law. The practice should be eliminated by the fact that it causes drivers to refuse to work for companies that do it. I dont see it as a good thing but workers should be free to live on the road if they are the odd duck that likes it. All societies have nomads and truckdriving is a valid career for those who want that life.
    We had a driver come to us last year because the company he was working for kept him out three 34′s in a row after promising him no more than one restart away at a time. He left the truck when he did it. We hired him anyway and he is a loyal and dependable driver. Stuff does happen and you do end up with a driver out who planned to be home, regrettably, but if it is happening too much drivers should seriously consider applying elswhere. That is what drives companies to conduct themselves with greater consideration and to raise compensation if they are too big to notice what they do to peoples lives.
    Messing with hours of service and writing new laws always has unexpected consequences to those drivers and businesses which were not the target of the new law.

  • Ken Nilsen

    I know the company that the ad refers to. That is different than regular truck driving. That is working for a company that moves shows and productions. There are tours that last that long and those drivers are compensated differently than drivers hauling traditional freight. Those drivers also are not dealing with shippers and receivers that change daily. They deal with one customer who treats them well. Having said all that, we do not need more laws. I stay out more in the summer months because with the type of work I do that is when I make my best money. There are times I am out 4-6 weeks at a time but then I take a week off. It is easier when you own your truck. When working for someone else you must decide what you are willing to put up with. I don’t care what company you work for, remember, you are the person driving the truck, if you feel unsafe due to a family emergency or other stressful situation then you park it. Yes, you may lose that job. But if you can document it then you have options. Be smart, be safe.

  • John

    If you are a company driver, and they can’t get you home or to a friends area for your 34 hr. restart, they should be required to put you in a motel during that time period. If they don’t, and you don’t demand it, you will find it gets easier for the company to keep you away from home. Or you can buy that room yourself. It’s a 100% tax writeoff on YOUR taxes too!

  • Randy Vahlsing

    Let people decide for themselves!No one says you HAVE to work for a company that needs a driver to stay out that long. For those who don’t want the expense of a home or have no family , a a husband-wife team. I can think of many situations where this is a better fit than the traditional home time situation. Go find the company that fits your needs and quit trying to make every job suit you. Not everyone wants the same thing.

  • mousekiller

    many years ago when I ran solo with a RGNI used to stay out a month or so at a time. . Go home for a week or so then back at it for a month again. . My choice. My decision.It was an understanding I demanded from the company I worked for when I was hired.
    It gave me time to earn money staying out and the time at home allowed me time to enjoy family and the things I worked hard for.

    All these regulations with little real meaning in truth are just for control today. Nothing about safety. The 34 hr reset is a joke and the 30 Min break is actually a safety issue. It put you at risk due to parking restrictions and lack of safe parking. 30 minutes is not enough even for a safety nap.

  • lucernetractor

    If you don’t like it, find a company that you do like, or even better, get your own truck, trailer and loads and run your own life, just don’t run mine because you are a company driver. I am not, so please stay out of my business.

  • Craig Vecellio

    Ken Nilsen I am already divorced, so have no particular reason to be home frequently except to check mail, and I’m tired of the same nonsense everyone else is with general freight. You say that segment of the industry runs differently and pays differently than general freight. Where can I get more info and possibly job leads in that segment?

OverdriveOnline.com strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.