Report: Open road is gone as modern trucker grapples with hours rules, e-logs and parking shortages

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Updated Nov 30, 2015

dockToday’s truck driver is tired, and it’s not due to being overworked.

Such is the basic premise of an examination from the Wall Street Journal Nov. 14, which says a “confusing tangle of rules” and a myriad of devices like electronic logs and speed limiters are dampening not only the industry’s efficiency but the will of those who are and want to be truck drivers. 

WSJ’s piece calls over-the-road drivers “a vanishing breed,” and it blames — along with the disruptive hours rule and overbearing electronics — the leverage shippers have over both drivers and the industry, reduced income, loss of home time and issues like lack of safe parking.

Unpaid detention time, to that end, also got some ink: In detailing how the hours of service rule strain impacts the industry’s per-mile pay model, both FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro and the article touch on the fact that paying drivers by the mile strains the industry, both in terms of driver retention for fleets and the fact drivers go unpaid while dealing with shipper delays.

The WSJ weaves in the story of 18-year driver Manuel Hernandez, a company driver for Mesilla Valley Transportation and uses his struggles with regulations, e-logs and delays as examples of what the industry as a whole faces. 

To make the e-log point known, it tells the story of Hernandez loading in El Pasa, Texas, and beginning a trek to Perris, Calif., — a 754-mile run. As he drove, the article says, “a relentless chorus of electronic beeps” hounded Hernandez, and his electronic log notified him where to get fuel and would ask for an explanation every time the truck stopped. 

Gone are the days, says the piece, of Hernandez being able to make up time spent detained by shippers or receivers by taking shortcuts or driving faster — his e-log (formerly known as electronic onboard recorder or EOBR) reports to his carrier “cheating” on his route, while the truck’s speed limiter won’t let him drive faster than 64.5 mph. 

Also, since the new hours rules took effect July 1, Hernandez often has to skip his trips home to see his wife, because he’s stranded and out of hours, causing him to sometimes sit for 48 hours at truck stops before making it home for just a 10-hour visit with his family. 

The article delves into tough roadside inspections and even underfunded rest stops that lead to parking shortages. Click here to read the WSJ story.