Report: Truckers take to D.C. streets (one Tased and arrested) and engage FMCSA, Congress on hours change, more

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Landis & Sons owner-operator Mike Landis’ 1999 Peterbilt parked up on Constitution Ave. for further demonstrations and attendant meetings with regulators and lawmakers around hours regulations and the ELD mandate. Photo courtesy of Landis.Landis & Sons owner-operator Mike Landis’ 1999 Peterbilt parked up on Constitution Ave. for further demonstrations and attendant meetings with regulators and lawmakers around hours regulations and the ELD mandate. Photo courtesy of Landis.

Grassroots groups of owner-operators and drivers returned 30-40 power units to Constitution Ave. between the White House and Washington monument yesterday, April 9, to press concerns to the public, lawmakers and regulators at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration over the electronic logging device mandate and the need for hours of service flexibility.

At least two different groups of truckers met with FMCSA in the morning and afternoon, in both instances hoping to establish an ongoing dialogue with regulators about the issues and just what might be possible in terms of short-term relief from hours pressures made apparent with the turn to ELDs. Says Pennsylvania-based owner-operator Mike Landis, who brought his 1999 Peterbilt cabover back to Constitution Avenue and was involved in a morning meeting with FMCSA with small fleet owner Mintu Pandher, owner-operator Mike Jellison and several other truckers, “I’m hopeful, with [new FMCSA Administrator Ray] Martinez” having come in and seen the passion truckers have around ELDs and hours. It “seems like he really wants to be a little more proactive than the last” officials at the top, before the changeover in administration last year. “They do want to work with us on the hours of service. They want some solid stuff on peoples’ opinions.”

Landis personally believes that when it comes to hours, generally “we should be able to do what we want and there should be stiffer consequences if we foul up.” At the same time, he knows regulatory limitations are necessary at the least to prevent abuse of drivers’ time by entities that would control it. In the end, he adds, “we’re here to help change this problem and help be the solution.”

Landis and others, he says, had meetings set up through Wednesday, April 10, and planned to remain on Constitution Ave. at least through that day, perhaps longer.

In yesterday’s meeting with Landis and others were Director of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Joe DeLorenzo and other officials, too, who had quite busy days yesterday. Truckers Lee and Lisa Schmitt, among others associated withe Monday Information Facebook group (formed in part to coordinate last year’s Monday, Dec. 4, “ELD media blitz” bid to garner coverage of driver issues around the nation), also met with officials to talk hours of service flexibility and more.

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In addition to the split-sleeper berth study long in the works, which the agency hopes to kick off in the next few months, the Schmitts, who run under the One20 Trucking name — the One20 online community delivers discounts to members at truck stops and other outlets the nation over, sells the F-ELD, and more — are working with their group to propose a pilot program that would test a set of hours of service rules that enables even more flexibility than split rest under current rules.

As described by Lee Schmitt in an online show under the “Gear Jammer Radio” banner, the rule-set proposed to test would retain an 11-hour driving limit per duty cycle and do away with the 14-hour on-duty limitation, imposing a cumulative 7 or 8 days limitation of 70 or 80 hours on-duty, which drivers could use however they wanted. An eight-hour off-duty or sleeper period would be required after 11 hours of driving, and a 24-hour restart of the cumulative on-duty limits would be a part of the mix.

Basically, Lee Schmitt says, it’s somewhat analogous to what’s afforded to operators utilizing the oil-field rules today, and would be something of a way to get closer to the pre-current-rules “10 on and 8 off,” with a maximum of flexibility for splitting rest. A pilot program would be a way to show whether safety is impacted adversely with use of a different rule set or not.

FMCSA’s DeLorenzo also took part in the online radio talk, which you can hear at this link, outlining the variety of options open to regulators for nearer-term (though certainly not immediate) change, likewise progress on the split-sleeper study, which should kick off recruiting drivers to take part in the coming months. The Schmitts and other Monday Information members took along One20 Director of Membership Sara Steele to a meeting with reps in the Department of Labor in an attempt to open up lines of communication around the classification of the job of truck driving under DOL regulations, which exempt carriers from, for instance, having to pay overtime and comply with other wage and hour laws at the federal level.

Numerous other truckers — in addition to the trucks parked on Constitution Ave. were numerous autos that brought drivers in — have spent the time meeting with their representatives in Congress and others on the hill, and generally many have been encouraged by the responses they’re getting at the various levels of government.

New York State-based owner-operator Doug Hasner regular Overdrive readers may remember from the magazine’s coverage of the December 4, 2017, ELD media blitz events across the country and the later meeting taken with Senator Ted Cruz. He was sitting in a meeting with a North Dakota Congressman that got cut short around midday when a message came in to participants that, after what appeared to have been a shift change at least one among the variety of law enforcement agencies (federal park police, D.C. metro police, secret service) policing the park areas around Constitution Ave. had resulted in tickets being handed out to vehicles parked at the scene of the demonstration, some with the threat of towing.

“We broke off the meeting,” Hasner says, got in a cab back toward the scene, and “sure enough they’re writing tickets.”

Hasner, who came down to D.C. for the event in his personal auto, says he was notified he would be getting a $500 fine for a problem he knew he had already — the printed coating peeling away from his New York plate on the rear of the vehicle. “I’ve known about it” for a while, he adds. He just hadn’t gotten it replaced as yet.

Owner/operator Doug Hasner during December anti-ELD mandate ralliesOwner/operator Doug Hasner during December anti-ELD mandate rallies

He told officers he could swap the front plate (undamaged) and rear plates if that would help remedy the situation for the immediate future. “You’re still going to get a fine,” he says they told him, and he nonetheless “commenced to start loosening the screws” with a multitool he carries. “They came over and told me to stop. I said, ‘For what?’ They said, ‘We don’t want you to take the plate off right now.'”

Hasner is a former corrections officer, having worked in a variety of New York State prisons involved in officer training on the use of force. When he retired from that system after more than two decades, he went trucking as an owner-operator.

At this point in his retelling of his encounter with law enforcement on Constitution Avenue, he says, “They’ve got everything they need to write a ticket. I’m just trying to remedy the situation” when what he calls an “on-site supervisor … grabbed my hand and said, ‘I really don’t want you to do that.'”

Hasner then “basically called him out,” he says, noting there was no reason to touch him. The officer then put a bent-wrist submission hold on Hasner and two other officers pinned him against his vehicle. “I still have the [multitool] in my hand,” Hasner adds, saying he felt he was at that point being turned into an example for the rest of the crowd gathered there. “Pin you up against something where you can’t fall down, you can’t get away, and it looks like you’re resisting. That’s where they had me. … I went into survival mode because now I’m going to get charged with assault,” he felt. After queries about “the weapon,” as noted a multitool with just the screwdriver extended, Hasner says he “released my hand and gave it him and then I struggled a bit, as my hand’s still invisible [to the other officers, and placed the hand on top of the tire, palm down.”

That, he believes, “should have been the end of the use of force.”

But it wasn’t. Officers, he says, pulled him away from the car and the gentleman he gave his multitool to then hit him with a Taser-type shock device. He’s been hit with one before in training, he says, during his corrections time during use-of-force exercises, and insisted this morning he was OK from a physical standpoint.

He was arrested and charged with “failure to obey, resisting arrest and tampering with evidence,” he says, but fairly quickly released.

D.C. police’s office of public affairs confirmed the arrest and charges, but added nothing other than that it was United States Park Police arrest.

Given how officers handled the situation, Hasner feels it’s likely little will come of it for him personally. “I was supposed to be at the FMCSA today” as part of another group of drivers scheduled to meet with the agency, but “because I’ve been arrested, I didn’t feel comfortable to even attempt that.”

Hasner’s group’s focus, as with others, is on a variety of hours of service options that “would be acceptable to the industry” and FMCSA. “We’re trying to get something together with the FMCSA that we like and they like. We’re looking for a partnership. There’s no reason we can’t sit down at the table” and hash things out. “They have no concept of how what they call [logs] ‘cheating’ has been benefiting everybody else” all along the supply chain.

With the ELD mandate, he believes, safety isn’t going to get better. The opposite, rather, he says. “You’re taking individuals already in a stressful environment and you’re just adding more stress.”