Hours of Service Rules – Recipe For Disaster
First off this is total speculation – the rules have not changed, yet. I just think that if the rules are changed from 11 hours of driving – to 8 hours of driving – without anything else being changed that this will be a recipe for disaster.
In the recent weeks there has been a couple of “high profile” trucking accidents in Ohio. Both were determined to be caused by fatigue by the truck driver. Changing the allowed time for truckers to drive will NOT help the situation, but will most likely make things worse. Advocates for safer highways such as Truck Safety Coalition, Public Citizen and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety suggest to FMCSA that they believe truck drivers are driving too many hours.
The problems related to fatigue related accidents in trucking starts with “Just in Time Delivery” – a demand driven inventory system in which materials, parts, sub-assemblies, and support items are delivered just when needed and neither sooner nor later. Included in this problem is on the shipping side as truck drivers have to sit on a dock awaiting to be loaded – sometimes for hours – in which “burns” up the hours that a truck driver has available to drive to deliver a load – just in time.
The way the hours-of-service now operate is that a trucker has 14 hours per day to complete that days task – whether it’s loading and then driving to make an appointment – or driving and making a delivery appointment. The drivers “clock” starts as soon as he or she starts their day – by doing their pretrip inspection as required by law. If this happens at 06:00 AM then by 8:00 PM that evening the driver must be parked and off-duty. But, a truck driver is ONLY allowed to drive for 11 hours in that 14 hours. Now if the driver has to wait on a dock to load or unload, then the clock is still “ticking away” at the 14 hour clock. If the driver has to wait – 5 hours, which is not unheard of – to either load or unload then the driver can only drive “legally” 9 hours for that day.
The problem is that when the driver gets delayed at a shipper or receiver the load that is already scheduled still has the same appointment time. The driver is “expected” to still get the load there “just in time” for that appointment – or else. The “or else” can be a punishment by the driver’s company perhaps by firing for too many late loads, or fining the driver for a late load, or just by letting the driver sit somewhere for a few days with no load. The company that the delivery or load is being picked up at can also “punish” the driver by making them sit and wait which in turn messes up the next load – costing the driver money.
So to make sure that this does not happen to a driver they will do just about anything they can to get the load delivered “just in time” for the appointment. Either by running the load illegally by driving over their hours or cutting their break time to get up and make the delivery or loading schedule and then “fudge” their log book to make it “look” legal.
One reason – that is a big concern in trucking – that makes a driver run over on his or her driving hours is the parking situation – or the lack there of – that interferes with truckers today. With inadequate parking available now – the parking problem will only increase with the “shortening” of the driving hours. Cutting the hours a driver is allowed to drive will only be a recipe for disaster if the parking problems are not fixed.
Pay and the lack of is another reason drivers will go over their hours. Most drivers are ONLY paid by the miles that they drive – meaning if the driver has to sit for hours waiting to load or unload they are not making any money – but the clock is still ticking on their 14 hour clock. In order to make up the difference they will drive.
Advocates believe that the science is clear and convincing: excessive working hours, especially in a high-risk occupation like truck driving, promotes sleep deprivation, fatigue, low alertness, and increased frequency of performance errors that lead to crashes, injuries, and deaths. The current rule needs to be reformed to provide truck drivers a HOS regime that demands far fewer hours of work and driving from them and provides them much more time to rest and recover. This will ONLY be accomplished by adding flexibility to the current HOS by allowing drivers to take a break without it going against their 14 hour clock.
If the hours-of-service are reworked by replacing the 11 hour driving limit with an 8 hour driving limit and nothing else is addressed, this will only make the problems worse and cut the pay even further on truck drivers and that is not the answer. The problems of No flexibility in the HOS, the lack of sufficient parking, and the low pay need to be addressed to reduce fatigue related accidents and truckers driving over their allowed hours.
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