New HOS Rules... Give Me A Break, Literally

--Please also see the Main Hours of Service page.

(You can find explanation of "old" rules there, as well as images and software links.)

 

New Hours of Service rules, as of Jan 4, 2004.

 

A Driver may not drive:

 

8 More than 11 hours, following 10 hours off-duty.

8 Beyond the 14th hour after coming on-duty, following 10 hours off-duty.

8 After 60/70 hours on-duty in 7/8 consecutive days.

 

34-Hour Restart

 

Truck drivers may restart a 7/8 day consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off-duty.  This is a brand new provision - there has never before been a way to "restart" the 70 hour clock.  The big shots uptown had a momentary brainiac moment when they spit this out.

 

What frustrates me the most is that we have a bunch of non-drivers making comments, suggestions and criticisms of everything concerning HOS.  They study scientific data and draw conclusions that drivers mostly laugh at.  (Example comment:  "It's incredible," said Jeff Burns, a Kansas City attorney and board member of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. "We've got literally decades of science that say the risk of an accident goes up dramatically after eight hours on the road."  I've really had quite enough of non-drivers' input into problems they have never personally dealt with.  Why not study the effects of sitting on docks all day and/or night?  Apparently that does not make an interesting study.  They've poured "literally decades" of time into the study of driving, but not three minutes into dock abuse. 

 

Perhaps better yet; why not spend some time and money studying how to better educate the motoring public?  When I see statistics that say 70+% of car drivers are at fault in crashes with trucks, it seems extremely beneficial to do so!  That, however, would detract from the issue the "safety advocates" love to keep at the forefront:  killer trucks, killer truckers.

 

On Duty Time

 

The bane of a many a trucker's existence - on duty time.  We donate hundreds, even thousands of hours every year to inefficient and poorly run shippers and receivers.  No one cares how many hours we waste away, bored to death on docks.  Some groups are actually naive enough to say that we should all be good boys and girls and if we spend too much dock time, we should be disciplined enough not to go drive.  EXCUSE ME???????  Dock time is UNPAID for most of us; they want us to haul freight, to stock grocery stores, to bring clothes and electronics, but we must perform the majority of our job functions for FREE?  You have to be kidding... Do they do THEIR jobs for free?  Do they leave friends and family for days and weeks at a time simply because they want to see America's economy running strong?  NO.  Expecting a trucker to do so is ridiculous.

 

Am I angry?  That is an understatement.  I didn't expect the government would acknowledge our on-duty dilemma, but now I know for a fact that they will not.  Industry will not, either.  Who will?

 

The OOIDA (Owner Operator Independent Driver Association) puts it this way, "Federal officials have done little more than shuffle the deck chairs,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice president. "The real issue is unproductive and unpaid time truckers are forced to ‘donate,’ which actually contributes to fatigue. The feds didn’t address the heart of the matter, which is the tremendous loss of productivity that actually works against goals the government wants to achieve.”  

 

In another quote, they say: "Not until truck drivers are no longer regularly pressured to meet unrealistic delivery deadlines, and they are no longer forced to perform uncompensated work for as many as 33 to 44 hours per week, will we see a significant reduction in fatigue issues."  (View entire article)

 

Amen.

 

Self-proclaimed trucking "safety advocates" don't like the new rule, either, but for different reasons.  They think on-board recorders are the answer to everything, stating, "The new rule has no teeth, because it does not require trucks to be equipped with electronic recorders that verify how much time drivers spend behind the wheel."  They are also unhappy because driving hours have been increased from 10 to 11 hours.

 

Spare me.

 

What these martyrs don't quite "get" is that when the day comes that drivers absolutely have to run perfectly, 100% legal, life in these United States will change.  Prices on the store shelves will go up.  Drivers will demand significant pay increases for the enormous amount of time they are currently NOT being paid for because they will no longer be able to make up for lost time by driving illegally.  If drivers do not receive such concessions, they will quit in droves.  Carriers will be forced to charge more and manufacturers will in turn be forced to raise product prices.  You and me and Grandma down the street will feel it in the pocketbook.  It would be a crisis - not a problem.  Why do you think the Government so conveniently steers itself away from addressing any of this?  Do you think they want to be seen as responsible for bringing such a problem on?  The safety advocates will continue to whine and moan but it is doubtful they'll win out.  I doubt that they fully understand just what they'd get if they did "win."

 

Others in high up positions show their brilliance with comments like this:  "This is a package that our members can work with," said Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer of the American Trucking Associations, the industry's largest trade organization.  "We have worked hard all along for a rule that is a good mixture of common sense and sound science," said the former Kansas governor.  "These new guidelines will allow the trucking industry to do what we do best -- move America's freight safely and efficiently."

 

Excuse me, I need to go throw up. 

 

I thought the ATA had hit bottom when they rescinded their endorsement and kissed the collective behinds of NATSO in regard to allowing private industry to provide parking and conveniences to replace the run-down rest areas along California interstates.  I think they are pleased simply because the new rules are not going to be such a huge change over the old ones.  The new rules, when first proposed, had a requirement for  breaks every so many hours and a very long rest requirement over weekends, which was preposterous.  They did away with that and speaking only for myself, I am relieved, but the rules that will go into place Jan 4, 2004 are smoke and mirrors, a reshuffling, useless.

 

Surprisingly, I do have one positive comment on the new rules.  I think a 10 hour rest break is an improvement.  I only wish the driving time would have been upped to 12 hours.  The eight hour break was really only a 5 or 6 hour break, once the driver took the time to eat, do paperwork, shower, etc.  The longer break without longer driving, though, equates to a pay cut for mileage paid drivers, who are the majority.

 

A longer rest requirement will increase the need for long term parking, however, and this may become quite an issue.  Parking, particularly in the east, is hard to find.  States that have enacted anti-idling laws reduce our quality of life to crap.  So, now, we will be expected to find a place to park in the middle of the winter or summer for ten hours straight where we will not be ticketed $500 for idling our engines more than five minutes.  Shame on the cruel people who helped to enact these laws.  How would you people like it if I came into your home and told you that your furnace or air conditioner could not run for more than five minutes at a time?  I don't see or hear the safety advocates worried about the quality of my rest when I have to freeze, fry or pay out the ying-yang to run my truck and be comfortable.  Where are you on that issue, CRASH??????  No where to be found, that's where.

 

Finally, I question just how well some people understand the new rule - or the old ones, for that matter.  A Kansas City Star article makes this comment, "Under the regulations, which were four years overdue and take effect Jan. 4, truckers can be on duty a total of 14 hours -- including loading time -- fewer than the 15 total hours now allowed. Truckers must then take a 10-hour break, compared with eight hours under current rules."

 

The way the above statement is phrased is technically incorrect.  Under the current rules, a driver may be on duty for an indefinite period of time.  That's right, a driver may stay on a loading dock for 120 years if he or she so chooses.  He or she may not, however, drive the truck again until the he or she has taken an eight hour break and is in compliance with the 70 hour/8 day rule.  Therefore, this statement is just plain wrong.

 

The Most Idiotic Part Of All  --  They're Taking Our Meal Breaks

 

I haven't heard many people bring this up, nor have I seen much mention in any writings so far, but I am floored by the fact that the Feds have also taken away Meal Breaks.  This is not an easy thing to understand, so bear with me here.... A driver, under the old rules, could stop driving and go to a truckstop for some lunch.  When he went in the truckstop, his driving time stopped.  (as it should)  When he fired the truck up again and drove away, his driving time resumed, where it had left off.  Once he/she'd driven 10 hours, he would be required to take an eight hour break. 

 

Now, though, the time the driver spends in the truckstop, laundromat, shopping, etc, etc, in effect, count towards driving time because he may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty following a 10-consecutive-hour break. The "old" rules allowed a driver to be released from responsibility and to go off duty when in a truckstop or otherwise away from the truck.  The new ones do not.  The new rules actually punish the driver who wants to lay down for a 45 minute power nap or even a more refreshing hour and a half snooze, because such small periods of time do not count towards split sleeper.  If the driver begins his day at 8:00 am, he has until 10:00 pm to get his driving in.  If the driver spends 10 hours of his day unloading, he only has four hours to drive.  I'm not going to do the math on that income; it is too depressing.

 

It is not as though drivers don't lie through their teeth about on duty time now and no doubt, they still will.  Drivers will still claim "sleeper berth" at the shipper's and receiver's docks and will somehow learn to finagle that to work in a legitimate looking split sleeper berth period and make everything look right on paper. State DOT's should rake in quite a few bucks while my fellow drivers and I learn how to most effectively cheat the newest system.  There is no doubt that we will learn how.  The alternative is a 50%? paycut.  With those two choices, what would you do?

 

In what might possibly be most stupid comment made by anyone thus far in the HOS war, Michael Jackson, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, was quoted in the media as stating, "Probably we will not have thunderous applause and unanimity from all sides on this issue, and that is a sign that we have likely done the right thing."

 

Sounds like a government official to me.

 

On the other hand, perhaps the most intelligent and to the point comment made about any and all of this has been made by OOIDA:  "Not until shippers and carriers stop pressuring drivers to break the rules, and drivers are paid for all the work they do, will the hours-of-service rules have their intended effect."


Jim Johnston, president of OOIDA said, “After almost 65 years of working with regulatory controls that should have been declared obsolete decades ago, this is a pretty sorry excuse for a revision to address today’s problems.”

 

Sigh.

 

Resources:

 

View FMCSA driver brochure and details

 

JJ Keller HOS Information Center

 

 

 

 

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