Pausing the clock essential to highway safety

December 2020/January 2021

Special to Land Line

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering starting a pilot program that would give drivers the ability to pause their 14-hour clock anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours.

If you recall, OOIDA petitioned the agency back in 2018 to create a similar provision.

Providing drivers this ability to pause the clock is essential to highway safety.

Apparently the unpredictability of trucking hasn’t been made known to regulators and lawmakers. Drivers face a long list of delay possibilities, and these occur without any regard for one another. Bad weather can occur in rush hour, when you also can have a breakdown.

There are two main reasons drivers need to have the flexibility to pause the 14-hour clock.

  • Drivers need a place to park when they end their shift. Of course, they would prefer to have running water where they do this. This pause would allow them to wait for some conditions to pass (traffic, repair) and still make it to a safe place to rest with adequate accommodations.
  • Drivers may need to rest in the middle of a shift. Whether it is squinting into the sun, not sleeping well the night before, or having an upset stomach, sometimes drivers need to stop and rest. As it is, drivers most often “press on.” The pressure to keep going comes from needing to make a living, and not give up on the entire day, which the misguided combination of an electronic logging device mandate and rigid hours-of-service rules forces.

As you know, the current combination of ELD/HOS forces drivers to:

  • Park at a shipper/receiver for the next morning’s appointment.
  • Skip meals in case there is a road delay later and they need that time then.
  • Miss home time because a few minutes change in the expected schedule.
  • Miss reloading to drive (earn) over the weekend because of a few minutes of schedule change.
  • Press through conditions with a countdown clock on the dash holding them accountable to the second.

And those are just a few of the problems the current system creates for drivers.

Adding flexibility to HOS is constructive for highway safety. We need graduated hours-of-service rules so that experienced, safe drivers have some daily flexibility.

We also need some weekly overages allowed to improve the efficiency and safety of our supply chain.

I also suggest the creation of a pilot program with no hours of service that takes some safe driver volunteers and lets them run without hours of service for a controlled time to look at the effect on highway safety and driver stress level.

FMCSA accepted comments on this pilot program until Nov. 2. Hopefully, the program will soon move forward so the agency will have the data needed to prove that giving drivers more flexibility will be a benefit to highway safety. LL

Danny Schnautz is an OOIDA senior member and a member of the OOIDA Board of Directors. 

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