Hours of service wish list: ‘We are people, not machines’

user-gravatar Headshot
Updated Oct 21, 2021
rest area hours

Such was the sentiment of one of the callers you’ll hear in the podcast below, commenting on the current hours of service and offering a few ideas on how to improve them to, in turn, improve safety on the roadways. The poll included a big list of potential fixes, and you can see in the results here, with many of the top choices (respondents could choose only one of these) centered on providing with the rule greater flexibility of choice in when to run. And when to sleep.

“Keep the 14-hour total on-duty hours per day but allow the driver to stop the clock for resting in the sleeper when tired, sick, in traffic, waiting to load and etc.,” wrote Don Milz, reflecting the second-most-chosen option in the poll, and one that in some ways resembles the first-most-chosen option as well. “As an experienced driver with 39 years driving, I think I know better when I need a break or am tired.”

Too often, today, as another caller noted, drivers’ time is eaten up at loading docks where shippers and receivers have little respect for the value of a minute or an hour or even several hours as drivers wait, unpaid, to load. Such problems, among others, present scheduling pressures — given the inexorable ticking of the 14-hour clock — that then force drivers to make undesirable choices. Pressing ahead through a metro area during the most dangerous time of day, for instance, or into weather that might better be given more time to clear out. (And hey, I always think of Mel Kilburn when the subject of getting loose from the dock arises: If all else fails, pray.)

The hours of service rule itself isn’t the only tool to potentially combat such problems — that’s why related items like increasing regulatory authority over shippers and receivers in the hours chain was included in the poll, garnering fourth place with more than 10 percent of the vote in the big list. It’s notable that the Obama administration’s FMCSA has proposed requiring carriers to pay at least federal minimum wage for uncompensated waits in its now-perennially dead-in-the-water Grow America Act highway bill draft. The caller, however, suggested a minimum of $30/hour for company drivers. For owner-operators negotiating their own contracts for freight, a $110/hr rate he suggested as appropriate. Requiring such by law goes back down the route of regulating transport pricing, by some views — read this 2012 examination of the issue for more on the subject. A broker surmised there “a bloody war” to result over lobbying against any such measure ever seeing the books. Nonetheless, the caller’s point’s well taken: The problem is such that half-measures won’t do it justice.

Another owner-operator suggested that better survey results might be obtained with a poll that allowed for multiple selections, as “there are far more useful items that need to be combined from your selections. Selecting only one doesn’t really show what would be useful.” Appreciate the input, Billy, and as such you’ll find the wish list poll, take two, below the podcast.