Drivers share message of inflexible hours of service
An OOIDA board member is featured in an Associated Press article and video.
As part of an interview for an article about FMCSA’s upcoming rulemaking on hours-of-service reform, OOIDA General Vice President Terry Button took a reporter from the Associated Press on a ride-along.
Button, an owner-operator from Rushville, N.Y., who started working as a truck driver in 1976, said his main goal was to get people to understand what professional truck drivers deal with on a daily basis.
“I wanted (the reporter) to see what was ahead of me and behind me in the mirrors and all of the distracted drivers out there,” Button said. “I wanted him to see the world that our members work in, and I wanted to explain that someone sitting at a desk in Washington, D.C., thinks up a regulation that they are unaware of the people they are making the rule about.”
“How can you judge me and what I do by sitting in a cubicle in an office?” Button told the Associated Press.
The AP article, which was published on July 1, was about FMCSA’s highly anticipated notice of proposed rulemaking regarding hours-of-service reform. The rulemaking, which had not been released as of press time, promised to provide truck drivers more flexibility within the hours of service.
After the electronic logging mandate went into effect in December 2017, the inflexibility of the hours of service became the focus. Many truck drivers said the current regulations are too rigid and can force drivers to travel in unsafe weather conditions or extreme traffic.
In February 2018, OOIDA submitted a petition regarding hours-of-service-reform to FMCSA. The petition asked for regulations to allow drivers to take a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for three consecutive hours if the driver is off-duty. OOIDA also asked the agency to eliminate the 30-minute rest break requirement.
A few months later, FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking about hours of service. The agency hosted five public listening sessions on the topic and received more than 5,200 comments. Truckers echoed OOIDA’s sentiment from the petition, saying the current regulations lack the flexibility drivers need to maintain safety.
“If you run out of time in the middle of the George Washington Bridge, are you just going to pull over and park?” Button asked in the AP article.
During a listening session at the Great American Trucking Show in August 2018, Tom Chavez, a truck driver from Texas, explained the inflexibility of the 30-minute rest break.
“The 30-minute break is kind of obsolete,” he said. “Nobody is hungry at a certain time. It’s kind of ludicrous to say that you’re mandated to take a potty break. You know if you’re older and you’re on the road that if you have to go, you have to go now. Not 30 minutes from now. I have to go now.”
This past March, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao told a room full of truck drivers at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., that the agency had listened and change was coming.
“You wanted flexibility. We listened,” Chao said.
The agency’s notice of proposed rulemaking was sent on March 28 to the Office of Management and Budget for review. As of mid-July, the proposal was still listed as “pending review,” and July 31 was the projected date for when the notice would be published in the Federal Register.
Button said he hopes the new rules will allow a schedule that aligns with the daily realities that confront truck drivers.
For example, truck driver Lucson Francois told the Associated Press a story of when he ran out of hours five minutes from his home and was forced to pull over for 10 hours before he could drive again.
“You don’t want even a one-minute violation,” Francois told the Associated Press. LL