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Added Regulations No Answer for Truck Driver Fatigue

Jun
12,
2014
10

By: Allen Smith

The recent fatal crash in New Jersey involving Wal-Mart truck driver, Kevin Roper has gained attention by anti-trucking and safety advocacy groups who believe that the industry still does not have enough regulations placed on drivers. Although everyone can agree this was a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with all involved, far too many fail to understand that a large percentage of added regulations actually have an opposite effect on safety.

In the case of the Wal-Mart crash involving comedian Tracy Morgan, comments have been made by some, including safety advocacy groups, suggesting that the accident could have been avoided if the driver had been “properly rested.” They have gone so far as to say that the recent amendment passed by Senate Appropriations Committee would further jeopardize the safety of our nation’s highways. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Regulations are in place to address driver fatigue, yet it is impossible to implement a regulation that could control drivers’ individual and personal actions when off duty. Therefore, these kinds of statements are simply “attention grabbers” and hold no truth in any sort of actual problem-solving actions.

Before this tragic event took place, the amendment to suspend the current 34 hour-restart rule was voted upon by the Senate Appropriations Committee, giving the FMCSA further time to study the rule’s impact upon the industry as it is currently in place.

This amendment would affect the two restart provisions only, as listed below, and was brought up by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) during a markup of the THUD bill, obtaining committee approval by a vote of 21-9.

The present driver HOS Rules state:

  • May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes.

In addition, current regulations pertaining to a “rest period” state that CMV drivers:

  • May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. Must include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. home terminal time, and may only be used once per week, or 168 hours, measured from the beginning of the previous restart.

Again, the proposed amendment would only have an affect pertaining to the two restart provisions within the current FMCSA regulations. The amendment, in many eyes within the industry was added to indeed improve safety, as it would reduce congestion of trucks on the road between the hours of 1-5 A M.

Amending or adding additional regulations upon regulations is not the complete answer to improving highway safety. As I mentioned earlier, added regulations can actually have an opposite effect on safety. Case in point: the required 30 minute break.

As a driver who has worked 12-14 hour night shifts for the past eight years, it is always good to grab my “home load” and begin the finalization of my shift. During these hours, my body is accustomed to keep the adrenaline flowing and finally head homeward bound.

Due to the new 30 minute break rule, I will have my final load on and ready to go, but instead of being able to continue driving and finish my shift as I am physically accustomed to doing, I now must stop for 30 minutes. Within this 30 minute time-frame, the body naturally relaxes and the adrenaline subsides. Restarting 30 minutes later, I may now no longer be as “awake” as I was previously due to this “relaxing break.”

What were before an easy task ahead now can become much more difficult, removing further aspects of safety that were there before. This is just a small example of how adding “safety regulations” upon regulations can actually make the task of the driver a great deal more difficult. To clarify, the 30 minute break is not part of the 12 month restart amendment and will remain in place.

The continual efforts to add regulations upon regulations will have little or no beneficial effect on driver safety as long as the major causes of truck driver fatigue go ignored:

  • Shipper and Receiver Detention Time running into driver HOS
  • Lack of adequate and safe parking areas
  • Forced Dispatch
  • Entry-Level Driver Training Standards continue to be ignored by FMCSA

I believe it is all of our responsibility as trucking and truck driver advocates, to not let this tragic event, including the death of a much loved and admired comedian, Jimmy Mack, to go unnoticed. It is our obligation and opportunity at this time to stand up and explain to those who are fed exaggerated and misleading untruths, the real causes of the word “fatigue” for professional drivers.

It is our duty to comment on mainstream media, such as the Daily News and Businessweek, in order that the truth about truck driver fatigue and regulations can be revealed and understood.

© 2014, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.

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By: Allen Smith

Allen Smith is a 37 year veteran who started at an early age in a household goods family moving business. He began driving straight trucks in 1977 and moved to the big rigs in 1982. His experience within the industry includes; owner operator, company driver, operations manager, and owner of a long distance HHG moving business, taking many of the long haul moves himself when needed. Allen Smith, a truck driver advocate who is driven by the desire to help others succeed within an industry where injustice, unrewarded sacrifice, and lack of respect and recognition exists. Allen and his wife Donna are hosts of Truth About Trucking ”Live” on Blog Talk Radio. Other websites include AskTheTrucker, TruckingSocialMedia, NorthAmericanTruckingALerts, TruthAboutTrucking, and many Social Media websites. In 2011 Allen and Donna hosted the first Truck Driver Social Media Convention, designed to create unity and solutions for the trucking industry. This is now being extended through the North American Trucking Alerts network as those within the industry join forces for the betterment of the industry. Allen strongly supports other industry advocates who are also stepping up to the plate to help those who share honesty, guidance and direction. He believes that all those involved in trucking need to be accountable for their part within the industry, including drivers, carriers, brokers, shippers, receivers, etc… The list of supporters and likeminded people grow daily, networking together and sharing thoughts and ideas for the betterment of trucking. He has coined the popular phrase "Raising the standards of the trucking industry"

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10 Responses to Added Regulations No Answer for Truck Driver Fatigue. - Post a Comment

  1. Thomas Ingraldi

    The overall log rules are not the problem. Only one rule hampers production and serves no viable purpose. This rule was to create circadian rhythms in drivers and failed miserably. That rule is the 14 hour clock. Remove that one rule and production increases because we can drive and sleep as our body needs not as the clock dictates… Get rid of the 14 hour clock and drivers do what they do best. Drive when they can and more important sleep when they need to, not when the clock says to. The rule never worked.

    If you worked regular hours you may create rhythms but we do not. We rarely fill our 14 hour clock. You may start at 7 am but unless you end your day at 9 pm, your next day may start at 3 am. Or you may not deliver until 10 am so now you may drive til midnight.
    I have told this story many many times. A simple day pre-2004. For simplicity start sleeping at a customer, which I try to avoid. Deliver at 7am and leave customer at 8am. Drive 2 hours and arrive at another customer. Take 1 hour to load. Drive an hour and stop for lunch, 1 hour. drive 2 hours and stop for a shower because schools get out, 1 hour. Drive 2 hours stop for dinner because it’s rush hour, 1 hour. Drive 3 hours and shut down for the day. I just drove 500 miles at 50mph and goofed off most of the day. Try doing that on the 14 hour clock.

    All the 14 hour rule does is make drivers play beat the clock. Most drivers become drivers because they don’t have regular rhythms and\or do not need 8 hours sleep.It is not driving at night or the amount of hours that is the problem. We all have our own feelings for what is the best time to drive. Some like nights , some days. The problem is the “beat the clock system” in place now. We all have had days where for whatever reason we did not get enough sleep on our break, weather that was just our mandatory 10 or off time at home. You leave out when planned and that lack of rest sneaks up on you. At this point any normal person would pull over and take a nap. But with the 14 hour clock that is no longer easily done without putting a dent in your paycheck. And let’s face it we are out here for a paycheck.

    There is still no excuse for driving fatigued, but at least the average “Joe” should understand how sometimes it gets done. Wayne Foutz? you said you left a job because you knew you were going to kill someone. That is the biggest fault in this industry. Any time you let anything but good judgement drive your truck, bad things will happen. My beef has been the 14 hour clock, but it is anything.

    It had been mentioned that possibly the crash avoidance system malfunctioned. While I don’t think Walmart has that system in place, it still comes down to letting it “drive” your truck. When your hands touch that wheel you are the one to determine weather or not you can drive, not dispatch, not “systems for dummies” and not your paycheck. You are morally responsible to everyone outside your windshield to do the job to the best of your abilities or park. There is no in between. All the excuses\reasons in the world do not justify you moving that truck at less than 100%. Dispatch says move that truck, you send a message saying I am tired. They legally must shut you down, if they don’t find another company…TRI

    • Denise

      I have felt this way myself about the 14 hour rule. I found myself more tired and more stressed because of it. So I sold my truck and quit driving.

  2. Linda S Pickett

    I have been driving for almost 19 years. When the regulations made it so we couldn’t break our 10 hours of driving up into split hours, the FMCSA took away the drivers ability to say, * I’m tired I will take a nap and finish my driving when I feel rested.” The rule of having to drive until you use your 11 hrs made a driver drive tired. I think this made a driver have to drive more tired then if he had the opportunity to get some rest when needed.

  3. Tom

    The issue is a lot of the non trucking public does not know that we are just as regulated as Pilots. I was watching Fox News and they kept saying “He was up for 24hrs”. I was glad to read your statement that they can not regulate what someone does when their off duty. The accident was caused by someone who should not have been on the road not due to the regulations.

  4. Mike Provost

    Allen, just so I am clear: Did the S.A.C officially suspend the current 34 hour restart rule, as it pertains to the “Two consecutive periods of 1AM-5AM”? I was out of my office a bit this week, and hadn’t heard anything official. I want to be sure I am prepared to speak on it correctly in next weeks orientation class. Thank you sir!

    • Allen Smith

      The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to suspend the current 34-hour restart provision of the HOS rule while the FMCSA studies the impact of the rule. The amendment removes a rule in the HOS Final Rule, requiring drivers to take a break between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. when working consecutive nights.
      If the bill becomes law, drivers will no longer be limited to taking one 34-hour restart in a 168-hour period and the restart will no longer have to include the two consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods.

      The Collins amendment is part of the Senate’s transportation spending bill. It still has to pass the Senate and “COMPARE” with a House of Representatives bill. Then the entire federal budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 must be passed and signed into law. In other words, it has a long way to go.

      Changing the 34-Hour Restart Rule
      Changing the federal transportation laws:
      1. The U.S. Senate has to pass its transportation spending bill.
      2. The U.S. House of Representatives has to pass its transportation spending bill
      3. The House and Senate must compromise on the two bills.
      4. The White House must review the combined bill. If the administration signs the bill, it becomes federal law.

      Finally, if passed, the bill would also require FMCSA to publish a final ELD rule by Jan. 30, 2015 ( which found its way in there also)

  5. Mike Provost

    Thanks a bunch bud!

  6. […] the Collins amendment will create safer roads. I believe there are many reasons which contribute to truck driver fatigue. I can see that the FMCSA still has much work to do with CSA and I believe that drivers should get […]

  7. […] pushing for and implementing additional regulations to combat truck driver fatigue will continue to prove unsuccessful as an industry attempts to establish a one cure-all solution […]

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