OOIDA: HOS plan lessens ‘beat-the-clock mentality’

November 2019

Mark Schremmer

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s message to FMCSA was a simple one. If you want to improve highway safety, professional drivers need more control over when it is and when it isn’t safe to drive.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh delivered that message during the agency’s public listening session regarding its proposal for hours-of-service reform on Sept. 17, in Washington, D.C.

“OOIDA fully supports the proposal because it allows drivers more opportunity to rest when they are tired, to stay off the road during adverse conditions, to avoid congestion, and to give drivers more control of their schedules, which will improve highway safety,” said Pugh, who was a truck driver for 22 years with more than 2 million safe miles.

On Aug. 22, FMCSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register that included five main changes to the hours of service.

  1. The limits for short-haul operations would increase from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air miles to 150.
  2. The adverse driving provision would allow a driver up to a 16-hour window within which to complete up to 13 hours of driving if the driver encounters adverse conditions.
  3. The 30-minute break requirement would be modified, prohibiting driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least one 30-minute change in duty status. This would allow 30 minutes of on-duty, not driving time, off-duty time, or sleeper-berth time to qualify as a break.”
  4. In addition to splits of 10/0 and 8/2, drivers would be allowed a split-sleeper option of 7/3.
  5. Drivers would have the option of stopping the clock a minimum of 30 minutes and up to three hours consecutively once per duty period.

As of press time, the comment period was scheduled to end Oct. 21.

FMCSA said the goal of the proposal is to give drivers the flexibility they covet.

“We believe the proposals in this rule will improve safety by offering the flexibility drivers need so they do not feel like they are racing against the clock, needlessly driving through congestion, or hunting for parking,” FMCSA Deputy Administrator Alan Hanson said.

Pugh said the proposal should not only improve highway safety but also improve the health of individual drivers.

“Drivers need flexibility in the hours of service not only to make their deliveries and pickups but to deal with many unforeseen obstacles that they deal with on a daily basis,” Pugh said. “These changes will also improve a driver’s health and well-being because it lessens the beat-the-clock mentality that seems to be shoved down on their shoulders now.”

The key to the plan, Pugh said, is to make sure that the decisions are truly in the drivers’ hands, and they are not being persuaded by motor carriers or others to work longer days than they should.

“For far too long a driver’s time has been worth nothing, especially to shippers and receivers and large motor carriers,” he said. “This needs to change. Being able to stop the clock for up to three hours, being able to expand the sleeper berth provision – this should all be a driver’s choice that he should be able to use when he deems necessary.

“I hope the agency will take the responsibility in preventing drivers from being coerced by carriers and shippers and receivers. Drivers for too long have been expendable commodities to a lot of people, including the government, and I hope that’s coming to a halt. Drivers are professionals, and they are not expendable by any means.”

OOIDA is also suggesting some tweaks to the proposal, including allowing split-sleepers of 5-and-5 and 6-and-4 and allowing drivers to take the 30-minute break in increments.

Markcus Davis, an OOIDA member from South Carolina, told FMCSA leaders that the need for change became even more necessary when the electronic logging mandate went into effect in December 2017.

“Do you all know that drivers are driving tired more now than ever now since elogs have been instituted? Ask the truck drivers, they will tell you,” Davis said. “I’m not talking about a study. I’m talking about facts. I hear about all of your data and everything, but I’m coming from truth. Drivers are driving tired on these elogs more now than ever.” LL

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, associate editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.