July 2019 The Roemer Report

Trucker’s Get the First Glimpse of Independence from HoS in July

Hour of Service (HoS) mandates have been vexing professional truck drivers for several years now. However, vexation turned into (near) rebellion, especially when compliance became electronically unavoidable via the providence of big brother and electronic logging devices otherwise vilified as ELDs.

Responding to congress, the Obama administration mandated use of ELDs in December 2017 — a regulatory requirement. According to a report by Associated Press(AP) reporter Richard Lardner just before the 4th, the FMCSA is set to relax these regulations and grant truck drivers a bit of independence from certain aspects of HoS – although at this writing – exact details yet to be announced but scheduled for July 31.

Because off-duty and on-duty time for most truckers is recorded automatically and precisely by ELD, things got a little tense among the patriots on the road, forced, being round humans, into a damned bureaucratic square holes; via the hammer of regulation and rules by committee.

Lardner noted that per standard human natures, paper logs could be “fudged pretty easily,” but not with ELDs, which hard-wired to the “truck’s engine and has a display screen visible to the driver.”

Relax and remember personal responsibility

As mentioned the HoS rules have not been announced but drivers are wanting to know what the changes are going to be.

While the trucking industry has long been fighting to relax the federal guidelines, says Truckers Coach TV, safety advocates warn that the move might weaken regulations too much, leading to the greater potential for driver fatigue and therefore, less safety. They point to new government data that shows fatal crashes involving trucks weighing as much as 80,000 pounds have increased.

Current regulations, says Trucker’s Coach TV, limit long-haul truck drivers to 11 hours of driving within a 14 hour on-duty time period. Drivers must have had 10 consecutive hours off duty before on-duty time starts again.

Operators who are going to be driving for more than eight hours are mandated to take a 30-minute break before reaching the eight-hour mark. If the rules are violated, reports the Associated Press, drivers can be marked “Out of service,” for a day or more.

Quite rightly Truckers Coach TV notes that because most drivers are paid by the mile, “if they are not driving, they will not make money.”

Not exactly what the skeptics had in mind

Remarking to the AP that “flexibility” is a code word for “deregulation,” Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of insurance companies and consumer, public health and safety groups, said HoS requirements are already “exceedingly liberal in our estimation.”

Statistically, according to a recent FMCSA study there were 4,657 large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2017, a 10% increase from the year before. Of all those incidents (a vague measure because it reveals just the number of trucks involved in fatal incidents not drivers at fault), the AP reporter breathlessly noted that some “Sixty of the truckers in these accidents were identified as asleep or fatigued,” and a cheap unsubstantiated shot claiming the NTSB said this type of driver impairment is “likely underreported” on police crash forms.

Wow, of all fatal traffic incidents involving trucks in 2017, not all of which were the fault of the driver, a whopping 1.2 % may have played a contributing factor in traffic deaths.

After spiking higher for two straight years, the number of overall fatalities pulled back slightly in 2017, according National Safety Council. The NSC estimates there were 40,100 motor vehicle deaths last year, which would be a drop of about 1% from the total of 40,327 in 2016.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) notes the schedule dictated by the rules is out of step with the daily realities confronting most of their members. Heavy traffic, foul weather and long waits for cargo to be loaded or unloaded keep them idle. All the while, the 14-hour clock keeps on ticking, pushing them to go faster to make up lost time.

“Especially vexing is the mandatory break requirement,” says OOIDA’s Todd Spencer. “The pause forces drivers to pull over when they don’t really need to rest,” he said, “and parking for a big rig is often hard to find and they may end up stopping in unsafe places, such as highway shoulders.”

Get rid of the “Dirty Thirty”

The OOIDA has been pushing for the 30-minute break to be eliminated. In comments filed with the Transportation Department, the group recommended that truckers instead be allowed to effectively stop the 14-hour clock for up to three consecutive hours. During this off-duty period, drivers could rest or simply wait out heavy traffic.

“This is not rocket science stuff,” explains OOIDA’s Spencer. “Rest when it makes sense to rest. Drive when it makes sense to drive.”

Professionals commentate, will the FMCSA listen?

On the news that regulators were set to relax HoS rules for drivers, Truckers Coach TV ran a story that attracted quite a few comments from subscribers. There comments though often direct and not free from skepticism or sarcasm, for the most part were thoughtful and enlightening.

Chris says it plainly: “I don't think any or most of those advocacy people have a CDL or ever drove a truck for a living. I think the driving limit of 11 hours per day is OK, but the driver should be able to rest when they're tired without it having a negative impact on their schedule like it does now.”

Devin was succinct: “Take out the 30-minute break and allow us to pause the clock.” D Man was in the same place: Eliminate the 30 min break as well. I could have made it through traffic, now 30 mins - 35 mins has passed.”

A MouseKiller who roared

MouseKiller may have said it best: “Trucking is not a 40 hour job. It is not a job that just anyone can do. It takes a special person to do it,” Amen brother.

Here is a pro talking about what it takes to be an over-the-road trucker. “A person that can handle abrupt changes and adapt on a moment’s notice. A person that knows how to coordinate shifting, clutch and the traffic.” MouseKiller describes it as a job loaded with challenges that need nearly instant correction and has the skill to communicate with shippers, receivers and of course LEO’s.

Loves the profession, loves America too

MouseKiller says that a person that loves to drive a truck does it for various reasons. They don’t mind that they might not be home at five and don’t care for a “humdrum” job. “If people want to work for a 9-to-5 pay check,” he says, “then by all means do it.”

Clearly, MouseKiller is a veteran road warrior. “Most of us except the challenge of being gone from home and family for days at a time,” he explains. “Most of us have put our kids through college … by driving a truck.”

MouseKiller also has pride in who and what he is. “Trucking is a proud profession. We feed America and make sure medicine is on the shelves. We do a very good job of keeping America running.”

He’s also concerned, but not ready to relinquish the role of personal responsibility, the kind that our founding fathers agreed was a prerequisite to our republic and the secret to our success as a nation. “Let the driver take all the time they need to be safe behind the wheel.”

Safety is the responsibility of everyone on the road and society will never be 100% safe from the dangers our modern society imposes – no matter what the advocates say. Professional truck drivers are human, accidents happen and there are bad apples, but regulations built on contempt and ignorance just won’t hold. Just ask the British.