Time for pause

OOIDA lends support to split-duty pilot program.

December 2020/January 2021

Mark Schremmer

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The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association lent support to a proposed pilot program that would give drivers the ability to pause their 14-hour clock but also cautioned the agency to prevent coercion and address the issue of detention time.

OOIDA submitted formal comments on Nov. 2, regarding FMCSA’s pilot program, which would allow drivers to pause their 14-hour clock anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours.

The pilot program would give FMCSA more data to see if such a provision in the hours-of-service regulations could be done without negatively affecting safety.

The provision is reminiscent of a request OOIDA made in its 2018 petition to the agency. The pilot program would allow drivers to pause the clock for at least 30 minutes and up to three hours. The driver would be required to take 10 consecutive hours off duty at the end of the shift.

“OOIDA commends FMCSA for proposing the Split Duty Period Pilot Program,” the Association wrote.

“We believe this pilot program can provide substantive data to permanently give drivers more control over their schedules. Allowing drivers to pause their 14-hour clock would give truckers greater flexibility to rest when tired and avoid congestion, adverse weather conditions, or other factors that make driving unsafe. As proposed, the split-duty provision would not increase maximum driving time or maximum on-duty time, nor decrease minimum off-duty rest periods between shifts. Additionally, drivers would have more chances to get sufficient rest and would not be as stressed to beat the 14-hour clock. This would result in positive outcomes for driver health and highway safety.”

OOIDA Foundation surveys

Through surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019 by the OOIDA Foundation, OOIDA members have indicated that they would benefit from the provision in a variety of ways.

“The additional flexibility would allow drivers to utilize their drive time more efficiently, enabling drivers to complete more trips without extending their driving time,” OOIDA wrote. “This is important because truckers do not necessarily want to drive more hours but would rather use their hours more efficiently so they don’t feel compelled to drive in unsafe conditions.”

Preventing coercion

OOIDA also wants to make sure that the provision is for the benefit of the driver and that safeguards are in place to prevent drivers from being coerced.

“FMCSA should clearly emphasize that discretion of the split-duty provision belongs to the driver and any attempts made by shippers, receivers, or carriers to coerce drivers into using the off-duty pause in an inappropriate manner will be considered unlawful,” OOIDA wrote. “Rather than taking away flexibility from drivers, the agency and the industry should work to address the underlying issues with detention time.”

OOIDA said the agency should use the pilot program to assist in addressing the detention time problems.

“Given industry concerns that drivers would be pressured to use the pause to cover detention time, FMCSA must establish a meaningful method for participants to report excessive detention times due to their use of the split duty break,” the Association wrote. “Current channels, such as the coercion rule and the National Consumer Complaint Database, have proven inadequate outlets to curb detention times or deliver timely feedback for drivers. We encourage FMCSA to prioritize the collection of detention time data during the pilot program and once again stress that any use of the split-duty break should be at the sole discretion of the driver.”

Monitoring techniques

Regarding the pilot program itself, OOIDA suggested that the agency use less burdensome monitoring techniques so that truck drivers aren’t discouraged from participating.

“Many drivers are not accustomed to using these systems during the normal course of their work day, and their mandatory presence might dissuade them from taking part in the pilot program,” OOIDA wrote. “We think the agency should employ less burdensome techniques in order to encourage more representative involvement.” LL

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Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior 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 more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.