Continuing Education

Leona Dalley, supervisor of the Port of Entry in Perry, Utah, clarifies changes to the hours-of-service rule with owner-operator Duwayne Houde.

The first load owner-operator Frank Davis hauled under the new hours-of-service rule wasn’t exactly cooperating with the regulations’ new, stricter schedule. In fact, the owner-operator, leased to Quality Carriers, had to wait eight hours as the molasses drained from his tank. Another long period at the tank wash would follow.

All of it – in accordance with the new rule – would have to be logged as on-duty.

“How am I going to drive 11 hours today starting eight hours in the hole?” he asks at a TravelCenters of America in North Carolina. It was Jan. 6, two days after the rule went into effect, essentially erasing 70 years of industry practice and regulations.

From coast to coast, truckers had problems making the adjustments. Some lacked training in logging their time. Others felt pressured to make their loads on time, given the tighter restrictions of the new rule.

Shortly before Jan. 4, the FMCSA asked state enforcement officials to write warnings instead of tickets for minor violations and to provide educational help until the rule has been in place 60 days. The rule allows a driver to work 14 hours in a day, 11 of it driving, but it also requires taking 10 consecutive hours off – a problem for drivers used to eight-hour rest periods and 15-hour days and a looser schedule. The 14 hours must be worked consecutively; time spent fueling, eating and waiting for loads must be logged as on-duty unless a driver is using a convoluted split-rest exemption in the rule.

In the rule’s first week, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation inspectors handed out warnings and tickets to drivers, despite a request by federal officials for leniency in all but the most flagrant cases. Inspector John Knesis gave one moving van driver a $580 ticket because the trucker started driving before his 10-hour rest period had expired. The driver said he needed to do so to make his delivery on time. Knesis, after reviewing the driver’s logs and toll receipt time stamps, ticketed the driver for falsifying his log book. Drivers are required to keep such documentation under the new rule.

“The new regs will make it harder on truckers as far as trying to cheat goes,” Knesis says. “We will probably find fewer people trying to evade the rules by not keeping their log books up to date.”

Elsewhere, truckers said they felt stranded as they waited for their 10-hour breaks to elapse. Ward Unger spent part of his off-duty period complaining with other truckers about the new rule at a Simmons Truck Stop in Bracey, Va. His truck was loaded nearly eight hours late, cutting severely into his driving time. “I’m going to give this rule until the middle of January,” Unger said. “After that, I’m quitting. I can stay at home and work for this kind of money.”

Still, not every driver and fleet experienced productivity slowdowns. Barr-Nunn Transportation’s Doug Albright said his company benefited from having about 60 percent of its drivers testing the new regs before Jan. 4. “We’re having to re-route some of our dedicated stuff, but it’s not a major concern,” Albright says. “We worked most of the kinks out of our long-haul routes before the new rules came into effect.”

In Logan, Utah, managers of L.W. Miller Transportation began training drivers and dispatchers on the changes in September. To counteract anticipated productivity losses, the 200-truck carrier, along with dozens of other carriers, began charging customers for detention time. “It’s a new mindset for shippers and receivers,” says President Larry Miller. “If we get cooperation, and shippers pay the detention charge, we can live with it.”

A few miles from L.W. Miller’s terminal, truckers at the Perry Port of Entry in northern Utah were less optimistic about the changes. Duwayne Houde, an owner-operator from South Dakota, complained that the new rule “makes it so you can’t keep a normal schedule.”

Idaho owner-operator Daniel Baker, who reviewed the new rule with an enforcement official at the Perry Port, says his twice-weekly trips to Los Angeles will be tougher. “It makes it impossible to get there and sit unless you can recover the cost through detention charges,” Baker says. “I can drive another hour, but it really depends on when I can get out of loading. I was planning on buying some new equipment in February, but now I may not. Maybe I’ll go milk cows for a living.”

Some drivers complained about spotty or non-existent training to prepare them to work under the rule. Owner-operator Howard Ross, who spent his first 10-hour break at a Pilot truck stop in Youngstown, Ohio, said his carrier had not given him any training about the split sleeper berth regulations. He said he would have to figure out those complicated aspects of the log as situations arise.

His story was echoed at truck stops and weigh stations across the country. Some frustrated truckers called a hotline set up by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. A spokesman said the toll-free number was receiving 150 to 200 calls a day.

Don Rowlett, a 26-year veteran of the road, found advice from an inspector when he filled out his first new log book in a Virginia scale house. “I asked him about taking a break when I want to eat or need a nap, and he showed me the best way to log it,” he says. Rowlett’s company cancelled a December training session and asked drivers to find out how to log on their own, he says.

Back in Utah, Perry Port of Entry Supervisor Leona Dalley says enforcement officials were doing some educating, but that most drivers understood the rule. The most common violation was exceeding the 14-hour on-duty time.

“We’ve had a lot real close to 14,” she says. “One was over 14, but he had a co-driver so we didn’t write him up. So far, everyone seems to be following it right.” Dalley says the Port of Entry would place drivers out of service for exceeding 11 driving hours or 14 hours of on duty, but most of her time was spent answering questions from drivers.

“The biggest problem is that drivers are trying to make it harder than it is,” Dalley says. “I feel that the new rules are easier to understand.”


MAN OF THE HOURS: A DIARY FROM THE ROAD
By Sean Kelley

5:39 P.M., JAN. 5: After two weeks off for the holidays, Stephen Shields comes back to work under a different set of rules. The tall, 43-year-old flatbed hauler pulls out of his Boyd Bros. Birmingham, Ala., terminal with me in tow. He reserves judgment on the new hours-of-service rule that took effect the day before.

“I’m not one of those guys who complained about the change,” he says. “But I am worried about it. Right now, I’m worried about finding parking in South Carolina.”

The logistics of the trip before us – a two-day jaunt to Richmond, Va. with a load of cast iron pipe – won’t tax Shields under the stricter regulations in which a trucker can work no more than 14 hours before taking 10 consecutive hours off.

7:08 P.M., JAN. 5: We pass Alabama’s closed I-20 scale houses. In Georgia, the story is much the same. It seems troopers are taking to an extreme U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta’s call for inspectors to issue warnings, not tickets, for the rule’s first 60 days, except for the most flagrant violations.

11 P.M., JAN. 5: In South Carolina we pull into an open scale house, but our load is light, and we glide through. There is one lone driver pulled over, but it’s obvious he’s just looking for a few hours of sleep.

12:30 A.M., JAN. 6: We pull into a Wilco truck stop near Grover, N.C., for the night. “I almost forgot I have to take 10 hours off,” Shields says. I’ve forgotten, too, despite eight months of writing about the rule. Sleep takes a solid eight hours, as the rule intended, despite interruptions.

9:30 A.M., JAN. 6: We’re wide awake and ready to run. So we sit, eyes forward, waiting for 10:30. Others appear to be in the same boat. “You wouldn’t ordinarily see this many trucks in here at this time,” Shields observes.

Shields has been on the road about 10 years, and he still likes the travel. What he doesn’t like are the inefficient waiting times at shippers and receivers. The rule change could make matters worse by causing those waits to cut into his driving time and compensation.

Furthermore, such delays could strand him in unfamiliar locations, out of hours. That’s one of the reasons Boyd Bros., like many other carriers, has raised his pay and is now charging shippers and receivers for detainment. At 10:30 a.m., we hit the highway.

12:45 P.M., JAN. 6: Back on the road, we stop at a TravelCenters of America near Greensboro, N.C., for showers, fuel and a long lunch of salad and chicken. All this time will be logged as on-duty, per the new rule. At the lunch counter, truckers complain about the new rule’s impact and about trying to find something to do with their extra time.

“I don’t know how to log it,” says Jim Payne of Denton, Ky., who drives for an owner-operator leased to a large carrier. Payne is burning his rest hours by washing his truck, eating and sleeping. “I’ve had no training. I will use three logbooks if necessary. I’m not going to starve out here.”

3 P.M., JAN. 6: Back in the truck, Shields isn’t worried about how to log the rule. His carrier has provided training, but he is concerned about finding parking on the busy I-85 and I-95 corridors. “I’m also worried about getting stuck waiting for a load,” he says.

4:45 P.M., JAN. 6: We reach Simmons Truck Stop in Bracey, Va., ready to shut down for another 10 hours. As at the last truck stop, truckers are complaining about the rule’s extra waiting time and its confusing aspects. One trucker who had already taken 10 hours off was waiting for 24 hours to lapse before driving again. We straighten him out, and he hits the road. Others banter about the rule’s finer points. Some threaten to quit trucking.

8 A.M., JAN. 7: Near Richmond, Va., Shields makes his delivery and waits for word on his next load. Shields, whose lifestyle has been built around trucking schedules for 10 years, says he’s going to give the rule time before making a judgment. The change isn’t necessarily welcome, but it’s one he can live with – at least on this load.


STILL CONFUSED?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has a toll-free number to answer hours-of-service questions 24 hours a day: (800) 598-5664.


Editors Sean Kelley, Tim Barton, John Latta, Aaron Huff and John Baxter contributed to this report.

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