The hours of service rule continues to be at the top of the national trucking-safety conversation after the December 2014 Congressional rollback of the 34-hour restart restrictions. The House version of the fiscal-year 2016 DOT appropriations bill has today further reinforced the rollback with clarifying language on FMCSA’s need to clearly demonstrate safety efficacy with a real-world study before reimplementation of the restrictions.
The Obama administration, meanwhile, threatened a veto of the funding bill last week, specifically calling out, among other things, the bill’s supposed prevention of “data-driven changes that would improve safety for all travelers by addressing truck driver fatigue.”
Such invocations of tired drivers, common enough as clickbait in the mainstream media, from our leaders do nothing to improve a rule so many drivers see as unnecessarily hampering their ability to drive when rested. And sleep when tired.
The poll results here follow several solicitations of ideas from owner-operator and driver readers over the course of this year for potential improvements to the hours of service rules to improve trucking safety. As many of you will know given high levels of participation, Overdrive then put the big list of suggestions up for consideration here at the website, most recently in this multiple-choice poll. Readers were instructed to pick up to five of the improvements, which, combined, might produce the greatest safety net result.
The most commonly selected five, with some grouping of individual items from the poll that shared some basic attributes, are shown below:
1) Roll back 2013-implemented hours changes.
**Remove mandated 30-min. break after 8 hours.
**Leave suspension of 34-hour restart restrictions in place.
2) Loosen rigidity of 14-hour on-duty maximum by allowing extensions with mid-period rest (or revert to pre-14-hour-rule regs entirely).
3) Give FMCSA authority with enforcement power over shippers and receivers relative to detention time.
4) Adopt segment-specific or experience-tiered rules to move away from a one-size-fits-all hours approach.
5) Bring interstate company drivers under fair-labor protections with overtime-pay requirements.
In addition to the first, second and third items — discussed at some length in this prior story under the “We are people, not machines” headline — ideas relative to the fourth item came in a few different forms, one of which would by measure of commenter Fred Count provide a clear safety incentive within the rule. His favored move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to hours is to reward safety with flexibility.
The commenter’s three-tier system:
Rule A — minimum 5 years experience and at least 3 years with no tickets, no accidents = ELD use with no hours restrictions.
Rule B – 1-5 years experience and/or 1 ticket and/or non-chargeable accident = pre-2004 [pre-14-hour] rules.
Rule C– less than 1 year of experience and/or more than 1 ticket or a chargeable accident = today’s rules.
“This would seriously promote safety,” he wrote, “because everyone would try like heck to get on the A system. Just a thought, but what do I know? I’m just a 50-year-old 24-year experienced driver with my last ticket or accident over 9 years ago. … To sum up what everyone else says, I know when I’m tired and when I’m not!”
The idea is echoed in part by operator Jeff Clark, who recently re-introduced his “Gold Card” idea for drivers with proven safe records via his blog on the Team Run Smart site. (Overdrive wrote about the notion at this link and this link quite some time back.) Essentially, it runs along the same lines as the three-tier rule proposal above — an hours exemption for the best of the best. Furthermore, Clark writes, while “flexibility must be earned … experience should be privileged. That is the most fundamental idea behind the [gold card] standard. Experienced drivers are better drivers. Reward them and they will stay.”
Finally, completion of a wish list is all well and good, but it’s still just that, a wish list. Commented “Joe Schmoe,” ever the voice of skepticism: “Nice discussion but so what? Doesn’t mean anything to the FMCSA, DOT, Congress or the White House.”
Equally skeptical or more positive about potential elevation of such discussions? Weigh in here.
Ken Earley: 10 hours back to 8 hours, sleeper berth. 14 hours change to 16 hours. 34 change to 24 for 70 reset. Thanks!
Richard Miller: Back to the old way and put the flexibility back in it. Current way is unsafe.
Larry Monaghan: 12 hours to do what I need to do. Start ODO, end ODO. Nothing more needed.
Jim Kennedy: Why bother dreaming? The rule makers are clowns.
David Whiten: No changes. Leave it be.
Ronald Bender Sr.: Run when I want to run. Not when the DOT or stupid machine tells me to.
Sergey Sbrabus: Canadian HOS are best.
Brenda Faye McClain Brooks: We should be able to run when we feel like it…