The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is petitioning the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to amend the existing federal hours of service (HOS) rules to create more “flexibility” for drivers to address traffic congestion, bad weather, and shipper/receiver dock delays without impacting their available drive time.
That group is requesting that truck drivers subject to HOS regulations be allowed a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for up to three consecutive hours, as long as the driver is off-duty – a rest break that would effectively stop their continuous 14-hour work clock. However, OOIDA stressed that drivers would still need to log 10 consecutive hours off-duty before the start of their next work shift. The group is also calling for the elimination the existing 30-minute rest break requirement.
“There are many operational situations where the 30-minute rest break requires drivers to stop when they simply do not need to,” explained Todd Spencer, acting president and CEO of OOIDA. “It’s either impractical or unsafe.”
He told American Trucker that the 14-hour continuous is creating a “psychological” situation for many drivers that is akin “to having a gun to their head” and forcing them to engage in “behavior that is realistically unsafe,” from driving too fast or driving while tired.
“I think the they [FMCSA] would be open to considering such changes,” Spencer added. “We have never been the lone voice calling for such changes.”
Indeed, Dean Newell, vice president of safety and training for flatbed fleet Maverick Transportation, and Dave Manning, president of TCW Inc. and the currently chairman of the American Trucking Associations (ATA), both called for changes to current HOS rules based on similar reasoning during a panel discussion at NATSO Connect 2018 this week in Nashville, TN; the annual convention of the trade group formerly known as the National Association of Truck Stop Operators.
Newell – who said Maverick has been using automatic onboard recording devices or “AOBRDs,” the precursor of now-mandated electronic logging devices (ELDs), since 2010 – has found Maverick’s drivers only truly drive 6.5 to 7.5 hours per day out of the 11 hours available to them under their 14-hour on-duty time, with the rest lost to loading/unloading time – one and half hours and two hours on average, respectively – and other delays.
ELDs and the “rigidity” of the 14-hour clock are creating other difficulties, noted Newell. “The AOBRD would not start recording time until the truck broke 14 mph, but the ELD kicks in at 5 mph,” he said. “So say a driver is parked for the day at a truck stop, but then shifts his truck to allow another vehicle to fit in. He either broke his [14-hour] clock or just started it for the day,” he said.
“That’s an unintended consequence of the HOS rules,” Manning added. “Drivers can’t stop the clock; they can’t wait for traffic congestion to die down. If they spend 45 minutes searching for a parking spot at a truck stop, the ELD is going to capture that. They need more flexibility; especially the flexibility to rest when they need to rest.”
Even ELD manufacturers have petitioned FMCSA for a change in the HOS rules their devices are designed to track.
KeepTruckin analyzed data from its ELD product, which more than 200,000 drivers are using, and found drivers are being pressured by being detained. According to its analysis, 75% of drivers are detained at a shipper for more than two hours a week, and some 35% are held up for more than six hours each week. On average across its sample pool, the company found that truck drivers experience seven detention events per month.
Meanwhile, after being detained at a shipper, there's evidence drivers are feeling the heat. They drive an average of 3.5 mph faster after being detained for an extended time, KeepTruckin found, and in a survey of drivers, 81% of drivers said they felt pressured to get to their next destination after being detained.
"You would hope truck drivers could use those additional three hours [allotted by the 14-hour limit] for resting or other non-driving requirements they have," said Travis Baskin, head of regulatory affairs at KeepTruckin. "The problem happens when those three hours are taken out of the driver's control."
“We think it’s time to seriously address the issue of lack of options available for truck drivers whose schedules are at the mercy of shippers, receivers, weather, congestion, and other obstacles, to operate safely,” said OOIDA’s Spencer added.
“They [the rules] force drivers to be on the road when they are tired or fatigued, during busy travel times and adverse weather and road conditions, or when they simply aren’t feeling well,” he stressed. “If DOT [the U.S. Department of Transportation] truly wants to improve highway safety, it should consider amending the existing HOS regulations to foster safe habits rather than prevent them. It’s time for a new approach.”