Choking down the milk and cookies

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Updated Oct 28, 2016

News of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance of industry and enforcement being denied its petition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to do away with the daily 30-minute-break requirement in the hours rules called to mind prior reporting on the state of Arkansas. There, 30-minute-break violations were a huge part of that state’s well-documented boost in hours enforcement in recent years. Reflecting the national trend as regards the 30-minute break (aka the “milk and cookie break” in many readers’ parlance), year 2015 in Arkansas saw rest-break violations decline significantly from rates seen in the first six months the break was in effect in 2013 and then in 2014.

Numbers in the chart above for 2013 are doubled to show what the full year would have looked like if the bonanza inspectors saw in break violations for the last six months of that year was the reality for the full year. Years 2014 and 2015 in the chart, however, show real numbers for violations and, clearly, as noted above, inspectors’ ability (or willingness, as it were) to write such violations is on a downward trend. Part of CVSA’s rationale behind requesting FMCSA remove the regulation entirely is, I suspect, complication introduced by the raft of exemptions that have been granted to particular companies and sectors who’d rather not bother with it for a variety of reasons, which we’ve written about here in past. Those exemptions could also be part of the reason for the downward trend in violations, too.

What the downward trend doesn’t show, however, is how big a share of all hours violations is occupied by the 30-minute break. In 2015, even with the decline in total violations, 30-minute-break violations accounted for 14 percent of all the hours violations incurred. Only two other hours violations were written more frequently in 2015 — “logs not current” and “form and manner.” Both of those, however, are weighted for purposes of carrier safety scoring in the CSA Hours of Service category a good deal lower — 5 and 1, respectively. The 30-minute break violation sits at a 7 weight, equivalent to the weight given to driving beyond the 70-hours-in-eight-days cumulative limits and providing an officer with a outright false log.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that given the 30-minute break is obviously easy pickings for some officers, as I’ve written before, and combined with CVSA’s request for its removal and FMCSA’s willingness to exempt half the industry from it, if FMCSA won’t strike it, there’s certainly a rationale there for a reduction in its Hours of Service BASIC weighting.

Meantime, drivers, log it like it ought to be — off-duty, and before you spend any eight more consecutive hours on-duty — or don’t be surprised if you get dinged for it.

And try your best to enjoy the milk and cookies.