Let the 14-hour conversations … begin?

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Updated Feb 16, 2018

Hours Night Parking Ramp 2017 05 04 13 18It’s been said before a time or two in a variety of ways in these halls: “Finally someone addressing the real issue,” Scott Bradley commented on Overdrive‘s Facebook page under the news of an official petition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from OOIDA to do away with the 30-minute break and add a “pause button” to the 14-hour clock with any rest period up to 3 hours in the middle of the duty day.

OOIDA’s modest proposal doesn’t go so far as to argue for liberalization of required 10-hour rest period splitting, which FMCSA is currently seeking to study (last I heard the request for the study was with the White House Office of Management and Budget, whose director is now doing double duty as acting director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau he wanted to gut in the past, so … maybe distracted a little bit could be the apt phrase to describe the OMB at this juncture). Any duty day extended with mid-period rest would still require 10 off should FMCSA actually choose to pursue the change OOIDA is petitioning them for.

They haven’t acted on these official stakeholder-group petitions to change the hours rules significantly in the recent past, one of them you’ll recall from a couple years back that asked for removal of the 30-minute-break requirement, initiated by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance of truck enforcement and industry. As regular readers will recall, the bevy of individual sector exemptions to the break requirement that FMCSA has granted have complicated enforcement and rendered the break in the minds of many truckers (and some enforcement officials) ridiculous enough to truly earn the “milk and cookie time” moniker it’s gotten from many readers.

Speaking of the break, the trend in break violations, since the CVSA petition’s denial and further exemptions, has continued down during the most-recent full year (2016) I can see in our subset of violations for operating for-hire carriers:

As I wrote back in 2016, numbers in the chart above for 2013 are doubled to show what the full year might have looked like if the bonanza inspectors saw in break violations for the last six months of that year, when it went into effect, was the reality for the full year. Years 2014, 2015 and 2016 in the chart, however, show real numbers for violations and, clearly, inspectors’ ability (or willingness, as it were) to write such violations is on a big downward trend — whether ability or willingness is anybody’s best guess. Part of CVSA’s rationale behind requesting FMCSA remove the regulation entirely is, I suspect, complication introduced by the aforementioned raft of exemptions. Those exemptions, as noted, could also be part of the reason for the downward trend in violations, too.

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As for pausing the 14-hour clock in the manner OOIDA’s proposed, it wasn’t exactly in the hours of service wish list we compiled from reader suggestions a few years back. So: Here’s to the novelty of the solution to mid-period-rest flexibility. (ELD provider KeepTruckin launched an online signature-collection effort about a two-hour 14-hour extension that was somewhat similar late last year.) Yet I can hear the long-ago words of rapper Talib Kweli (yeah, I’ve been a fan over the years a bit) in my head, echoed by a recent reader comment in protest of any extension of the duty day whatsoever: “[Expletive] the harder way. We’re doing it the smarter way.”

Such logic, though delivered there in a less-than-magnanimous tone to say the least, recognizes the value of time constraints when it comes to negotiations on rates with a focus on getting the absolute most possible out of the least time worked. And: I imagine this push will be an uphill climb, but as is the case for any long haul o’er the mountains to the sea, the load’s got to pick up somewhere.

Like I said, though not all readers had positive things to say about the effort (too little too late was another general sentiment in that regard — see the comments under this Overdrive Facebook post for some examples), the majority did, including commentary under yesterday’s story about the petition here at OverdriveOnline.com. Following find a brief round-up, and feel free to weigh in on our podcast message line with your view via 530-408-6423 — we’ll round some of the views up in a future podcast. What’s No. 1 on your hours of service wish list?

Devin Scott: 25 years driving trucks. No speeding tickets ever, and yet with this e-log and continuous-14-hour rule, I’ve found myself racing the clock to out-race a violation. Very dangerous. Simply, it needs to go. We as drivers need flexibility to be safe, period.

Lee E. Tibbetts: Glad to see that OOIDA is putting the fight where it needs to be, on hours of service. The 30-minute break definitely needs to be “deep-sixed.” 11/14/10 is fine, but should be daily. Do away with the 70-hour rule. Putting the 14 on pause up to 3 hours is a good idea as well. It would be even better if it could be used as part of the 10 hour break [by splitting the sleeper period with it], which would keep drivers on a consistent 24-hour clock.

Ken Potts: This would be too much common sense, so it won’t be enacted.

“Joe2boltz,” via OverdriveOnline.com: The pause button will work. I like to take a nap in mid-run now that I’m in my 60s, or to avoid rush hour. I can work with a pause button. ELDs really [mess] up the deal, but they need to be able to drive the trucks from the desk nowadays with this new breed of drivers. Personally, I think if you have 10 years or more of good history you should be exempted from ELD compliance. The new drivers need it. Not the vets.

James Guilbault: I like the 3 hours to stop the clock. There are a lot of older drivers out there that need to take a rest break without taking away their driving hours.

Allan McCullough: Thank you for the sympathy, but you might be surprised what us older guys are capable of. It is nice to take a nap while all of the ATA member companies’ drivers fight the traffic.