The new hours of service rules were put into effect on July 1st 2013. The new rules made major changes to the 34 hour restart rule and also implemented a 30 minute off duty break. These rules haven’t really affected me personally on the dedicated account that I currently am driving for. However, I have colleagues that run more regional and over the road applications and they have reported that the new hours of service rules are causing scheduling issues and they are also seeing a reduction in their pay as well. I also spoke with a dispatcher at the company that I am leased to and they report that it makes the planner’s job more stressful due to the restrictions and also causes major scheduling conflicts as well. I have noticed a lot of articles relating to this subject in major magazines and editorials and also in the news. In this article I would like to address the new hours of service rules and the problems that they cause for truck drivers. I would also like to propose some ideas and problems that we face that should be implemented into the hours of service rules. As a truck driver shouldn’t I be the one to be responsible for my driving behaviors and habits?
The first new truck driver hours of service rule that I would like to discuss that went into effect on July 1st was the 30 minute break period. The dedicated run that I currently roll on I pull a 345 mile leg, during that leg of the run I hit a fuel stop for 15 minutes and continue down to the warehouse. I swap my rocky mountain doubles out for the new pair and once I am finished I take my 30 minute break. Then I put it back into gear, release the brakes and off I go for the other 345 mile leg. Honestly, some days I feel like I need that break just to catch my breath but, most days I find myself twiddling my thumbs amp’d up ready to roll only to have to sit there for 30 minutes. I don’t really find this break to be restful or beneficial in any way shape or form. I find this break to be an unnecessary burden. Most of my friends and colleagues feel the same way with this break. The only, and I mean only good thing about this new hours of service rule is, you can use this break time at a shipper or a receiver to fulfill the requirement. I find it hard to believe that the bureaucrats in Washington understand my work ethic or my tolerance to driving for long periods of time or anyone else’s stamina well enough to decree how or when we should take a break. With the exceptions of drive time and the live unload at the end of the day, in which I live one mile from the delivery location and go home after dropping the trailers in the door, nothing in my day uses up 30 minutes of time on my log, nothing. I know that my run is very non-typical of most truck drivers and I really can see how this rule would be annoying when it comes to having to stop. I have also heard reports from friends that complain about truck drivers taking their 30 minute break in the fuel island which really hampers productivity for everyone. This rule also extends the day by 30 minutes if you go past your 8th hour. I see really no reason to extend an already long day of truck driving.
The second new hours of service rule is the change to our 34 hour restart. This rule states that we need to have two periods off from 1 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the 34 hours. It also says that we can only do a reset every 7 days. This rule is totally idiotic and severely limiting in my opinion. Just the fact that you can only reset once in a 7 day workweek is moronic. This rule only affects me when my truck goes into the shop, for instance this week my truck went into the shop on Wednesday afternoon and won’t be out till Friday. Under the old rules I could run fresh hours for an entire week and then restart once I ran out. Due to this new rule, if I try to work past my normal Saturday shutdown time it will screw up my reset for the following week due to the two 1 to 5 a.m. time periods. I am all in favor of anything that allows for more sleep but, I think everyone in the trucking community would agree with me that this rule severely damages our productivity. It also makes it hard for planners and dispatchers (especially those who have never set foot in a big truck) to adequately plan their fleets. It also reduces our actual weekly amount of work time down to 70 hours from a previous 82 hours. Twelve hours is a full day of work for me and probably anyone else, and clearly with the reduction in available hours to work you can see that this would have a real impact on the earning power of the average driver.
The hours of service rules prior to July 1st were limiting indeed. However, they still gave the truck driver a decent shot a earning a good living on the road. The first proposed solution to fixing the problems associated with the new hours of service rules would be to get rid of them. Going back to the old rules would keep America’s freight rolling and keep our economy on good terms. It is hard enough to find good drivers to put in trucks now a days and with all of these new rules that are hard to explain to the new guys I could see a reduction in new drivers in the future. The next step to fixing the hours of service is to see what causes problems in the average day of a truck driver and focus the rules to assist with that. I would say the biggest problem that any truck drivers face in today’s industry is wait time at shippers and receivers. I understand when forklifts go down or somebody calls in sick, but due to loss of jobs in the economy or what have you it takes way too much time for us to get loaded or unloaded. I’m not sure that we can trust the government to mandate something to help us in this cause, but we can do something to help with this wait time on the hours of service. I see the biggest problems occur after the 2 hour mark and before the 8 hour mark of waiting in the dock. We do have the split sleeper rule that we can invoke, however prior to the 8 hours of sleeper time we have to log there is no saving grace. Also, these huge wait times can easily put us into a violation, I know that I have sat at a dock far past my 14th hour and then the warehouse wants you to immediately leave or go park on the street and be subject to a parking ticket. I would suggest we re-implement the old sleeper berth rules where you could split sleeper birth time after a minimum of two hours. This would allow us more flexibility in the battle against slow dock times.
With the loss of productivity to our nation’s transportation industry that these new hours of service rules cause and the loss of wages to the trucking community, I see no reason for the government to meddle in this subject. The hours of service rules were working fine before and will work just as well in the future if they strike the new rules down. Just like any other subject, if we could get some people with common sense and some experience in the subject to actually govern the hours of service rules we might stand a chance in this fight. If these rules are not changed soon I could see a huge hit to our economy in a time where we need to be recovering. I appreciate you taking the time to read my take on the hours of service rules, let me know what you think and as always be safe out there!