Return safety to drivers’ control: Fix the 14-hour rule

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Updated Feb 21, 2017

When the 14-hour rule was imposed on the trucking business it totally destroyed the possibility that safety could be achieved through the hours of service. –Owner-operator Gary Carlisle

The following letter came in from Gary Carlisle, owner-operator of Midland, Texas, in part in response to the recent story about consultant and former trucker Jeff Davis’ contention that paydirt lies on the other side an electronic-log mandate’s implementation. Carlisle has “been in business since 1980” as an owner-operator, and he’s also worked as a traffic manager in the Texas oilfield. He spent most of his young life with “Carlisle Trucks out Tulia and Hereford, Texas, hauling feed and livestock. Between 1983 and 1987 I was leased to several different carriers.”

His letter begins with thoughts on the need — also named one of the top hours of service-change priorities by readers in recent polling — for flexibility in the 14-hour rule, which he views as having “destroyed the possibility that safety could be achieved through the hours of service.”

“I have voiced my opinions to [Texas Congressman] Mike Conaway, [Senator] Ted Cruz and other legislators, but never have been given any encouragement that they understood nor were prepared to take any action to help on the issues named below.” Carlisle’s letter follows

2015 11 03 17 05I have been following the e-log discussion for the last 10 years. I never see where anyone with any truck sense interjects the issue of the 14-hour rule, which when combined with the e-log issue might possibly throw this country into another recession. It is possible that no one but a truck driver really understands the 14-hour rule and the insane change it brought to the industry. Let me share with you the view from an old man that has spent a lifetime in the trucking business.

When the 14-hour rule was imposed on the trucking business it totally destroyed the possibility that safety could be achieved through the hours of service. Can you imagine how anyone could come up with such a plan: if you penalize an experienced truck driver for taking a nap, it will make him safer?

Rather, you need to encourage any driver to take a nap if he feels he needs one. No matter what number of hours he has driven, if he feel he needs a nap, by all means take one. That nap, regardless of length, should not subtract or distract from his opportunity to make a living. The mere idea that you can eliminate that need for a nap with dictation of sleep/off-duty patterns is ridiculous.

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I challenge you or any esteemed member of our government or its regulators to show me where allowing a driver to take a nap endangers him or others. Be a realist. Explain that the day that the 14-hour rule went into effect, it made a liar out of all those that were trying their damnedest to comply with the previous hours of service. For those that want very little help from others, at least allow a driver to determine his own point of fatigue and need for rest.

As for Jeff Davis and his great speech about forcing shippers to raise rates, it has never worked that way. Rates will only rise when everyone quits working, which is a very precarious point for the economy. And even then, they will only rise until they go back to work. The only way to get rates up significantly is to stop the supply of transportation, and it just won’t happen.

Rates may go up when the e-log is forced on us and forces enough owner-operators and small fleets into bankruptcy. Rates came up after the 2009 depression, but only because a significant number of carriers, large and small, went bankrupt. We all know how valuable bankruptcy is for the economy.

Perhaps it is the fact that Mr. Davis and others like him are drinking their own Kool-aid. Detention, wait time for loading and unloading, is a fact of life. You may be able to bill for it or not, but in the long run the shippers and receivers will dictate the terms that will keep them from paying the bill, or at least reduce their share.

Ask any owner-operator. When faced with detention, the next time you are there they have appointments, receiving hours and delivery requirements installed that cut their exposure. Then comes demands that the carrier be on time, regardless of circumstances, and the carrier pays as much as they do. Get out there and ask those that have gone through that scenario.

If you put a burden on a shipper or receiver, he will come up with his own plan to cut into detention, and usually it takes longer with no extra pay.

Anyone with any knowledge of the past knows that the trucking business just don’t respond like that. If the government and regulators had sense, they would back off regulation for 10 years and leave the new regulation alone. If they did that and cut expenditures 10 percent a year for 10 years, the American economy and American dream could recover.

The serious issue for the American economy is government enabling of the sell-off of the major manufacturing segments to foreign countries, eliminating a large part of the blue collar skilled labor in America. That leaves the transportation business the only one they have failed to be able to export. It appears they are hell bent on regulating it out of business. The redundant part of that is that by the ATA’s own assessment, if all the regulation that is in place and proposed to be in place is forced on the American trucker and it is 100 percent effective, it could save 2 percent of the fatalities on American roads that trucks are accused of being at fault in.

Who would ever propose changing the hours of service to allow the driver to assess his own fatigue and choose his own sleep pattern and comply with a daily flexible hours of service that would be beneficial to all?

It is something of a fallacy to think that large carriers want to drive the owner-operator out of business. They merely want to drive the experienced and independent ones out. They have a constant need for new owner-operators to sell their slightly used trucks to for top dollar, on their own lease plan that gets them what they want with a guy that becomes financially vested to stick around and do their dirty work. If he gets too demanding, cut him loose and get another one. It is an endless cycle.

Large carriers have a percent of the business that is less profitable and they will always need a guy that can take care of that part of the business. They feed him a little of the good with most of the bad and it is best for their business and gives an inexperienced owner operator a chance to get a leg up.

Just watch for the banana peel. –Gary Carlisle, Midland, Texas

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