The FMCSA issued hours of service (HOS) regulations for truck drivers that limit the maximum time that can be driven in a period. Recently in the transportation industry, the OODIA made a petition to the FMCSA to create more flexibility for drivers so that traffic, weather or dock delays don’t impact their drive time availability. They are requesting that drivers who fall under the HOS regulations are given a rest break (up to three hours) once for every 14-hour duty. This rest break would be to stop the continuous 14-hour window drivers are given to operate. However, this would not eliminate the consecutive 10-hour off-duty break that is required before each shift.
So, what does this mean for drivers? Well after the 10-hour break, drivers are able to log a 17-hour workday, which means a new workday starts 27 hours, 3 hours later than the prior day. This is known as a rotating forward schedule. This new rule is much more effective than the 10-hour on and 8-hour off rule that had workdays starting 6 hours earlier every 24 hours. Drivers often can suffer from a jet-lag like feeling on a daily basis due to a shortened sleep routine.
Humans need sleep in order to complete basic, daily functions. Humans are technically nocturnal sleepers, we require the room to be dark… who sleeps with light in their eyes anyway? When drivers have to sleep during the day, they can feel fatigued but not sleepy, that groggy feeling you get when your sleep has been interrupted. With sleep being the most important time, should we be tracking it instead of drivers work duty? It would probably be a good idea. By regulating the hours worked, we don’t know for certain that the drivers are well-rested before their next shift. Plus, most humans only need 6-8 hours of sleep each day, the petition by the OODIA is logical.
This petition is somewhat similar to when truckload carriers applied for an exemption to some of the HOS in 2006 to which they dubbed it the name “Hours of Sleep.” It was requested that a 24-hour day was from 6am to 6am instead of 12am to 12am. They even requested flexibility with the 14-hour clock to allow drivers to have 11 hours driving and 10 hours off duty, with 6 out of 10 hours being continuous. Then drivers would be able to sleep when they are tired without being stuck to a strict schedule. This was turned down by the FMCSA, but they said that if all carriers had electronics logs (which is almost universal after the ELD mandate), then it could be considered further. With the ELD mandate in place, we could more exemption rules like this presented to the FMCSA.
Each driver is different, so to make a regulation that is designed to work with everyone is flawed. Allowing drivers to have flexibility will allow their rest and work periods to be tailored to themselves. This way, if a driver is tired, he can interrupt his drive for a few hours of sleep and then continue on. Being able to break up the day can create drivers with less fatigue which can result in fewer fatigue-related incidents out on the road. The exemption can give drivers the incentive to rest versus driving through their time when tired. They get paid by the mile, and fitting in 11 hours of driving into the 14-hour window is difficult. Ultimately, drivers will benefit from the 14-hour window being changed, it’s just a matter if the FMCSA will make it happen or not. But with the increasing number of petitions for change regarding the ELD, maybe the FMCSA can make the change to this in the meantime.