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I totally goofed yesterday. While waiting for my truck’s air-conditioning to be fixed, I spoke a couple of words to a old trucker who was sitting in the trucker’s lounge. Although my beloved MacBook Pro was desperately crying for me to come back to her, I never escaped. What’s the matter with me? I know better than that! Well, I’m actually glad we chatted because it brought on this blog post. How so? By mentioning that he was on a 34-hour break and wondering how the new 34-hour rule would effect us come July.
For those of you who haven’t heard about the coming changes, I guess I’ll just have to assume that some idiot lumper accidentally locked you in a trailer for two years. I sure am glad the receiver didn’t accept that damaged pallet of Campbell’s soup. And I’m even gladder that your company finally realized you were actually missing.
So now to catch you up. Back in March of 2011, I did a blog post called, Truckers: Be Heard on the Proposed HOS Changes where I shared my comments to the FMCSA. Then in January of 2012, I told you how I thought the new HOS rules would affect drivers, carriers, and the industry as a whole in the post called, Are All These Changes Good for the Trucking Industry? Now I hate to brag but.. oh, who am I kidding? I love to brag! I totally nailed it on at least one of the topics: the 34-hour rule.
Okay, I’m going to presume that y’all were too stinkin’ lazy to click on the above link to see what the new 34-hour rule involves. Basically, the current rule says that if a trucker can shut down for 34 continuous hours (either Off-Duty, in the Sleeper Berth, or a combination of the two), they can restart their 70-hour workweek. So doing a 34-hour restart means that we can actually work 82 hours in a week.
The new 34-hour rule that starts in July states that this 34 hours now has to consist of two periods of
midnight 1 a.m to 5 a.m. Another new twist is that you can only do one 34-restart per week.
So back to the story. When the old trucker wondered outloud how the new rule would affect us, I had an answer for him. You see, of the past three weekends I did two 34-hour restarts, and I could have done one the last weekend. Why I chose not to really isn’t all that important for this story, so I’ll spare you all the gory details. You know, I think that just earned me an extra reward in heaven. Hope it’s a Klondike bar.
34-hour rule FAIL #1
The first weekend, I was at the Flying J in Beloit, Wisconsin. I got there at 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday and started my break immediately. That meant my 34-hour break would be over at 2:30 a.m on Monday. Good thing, because I had to be up near St. Paul, Minnesota by 8 a.m. After my mandatory 15-minute pre-trip inspection, that left 5.25 hours to go 316 miles. Yes, I knew it was going to be tight. Averaging 60 mph in a 64 mph truck isn’t easy, especially when I figured I’d be hitting St. Paul rush hour. Well, I’m happy to say that I pulled it off. And I got my 34-hour restart to boot. But guess what? Come July that restart wouldn’t have counted because I didn’t meet the requirement of two periods of
midnight 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. And there’s nothing I could do about it. I got to the truck stop as fast as I could and I left as late as I could. I couldn’t wait around until 5 a.m. unless I wanted to deliver late. From some reason, trucking companies tend to frown on that kinda stuff.
The case of the mysterious bus ride
Onward to the next weekend. This was the mysterious weekend where I was tweeting as I was walking toward a city bus. Yes me. As @DriverChrisMc tweeted,
Wow @toddmccann is out of the truck walking. Shocker wonder what could be so important to him
Yeah, I’m pretty pathetic, but there you have it. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to be cryptic; I was just trying to be sneaky. You see, The Evil Overlord has been working for Talent on Parade for the past few months, which is a dance competition that is owned by her aunt and uncle. Since they travel to a new city every weekend, I was happy to learn she was in Des Moines, Iowa, which by dumb luck just so happened to be on my route. I also had plenty of time on the load and had planned on getting in a 34-hour break somewhere along the way.
I got online and saw that there was a city bus stop 1.2 miles from the Flying J in Altoona, Iowa and it had a route going directly to the convention center. Well, as directly as a city bus goes anyway. That’s when I launched my plan. And that’s why all the secrecy. While The Evil Overlord isn’t on Twitter, her uncle Eric and her cousin Kyle do follow me. I figured they’d be too busy to be watching my Twitter stream, but I played it safe just to be sure. Well, I’m happy to say: mission accomplished. I surprised the heck out of the wench and everyone else.
Since The Evil Overlord is extremely busy and sometimes works up to 16 hours a day, my plan was simply to surprise her, hang out for a few hours, and catch the last bus back to the truck stop. But once her aunt Kim found out I was going to be hanging out at the truck stop for 34 hours, she surprised us with a separate hotel room. So basically, for the rest of the day and part of Sunday, I hung out with The Evil Overlord as she tabulated the scores for what seemed like a million dance acts involving 10 million girls. Adorable little girls, awkward pre-teen girls, a few lone boys who had the foresight to get involved in an activity where they’d be surrounded by scantily-clad girls, and older, clothing-challenged girls, a few of which I have no doubt will be manning the poles of America in the near future. I just looked away during most of these. The Evil Overlord had warned me that “wardrobe malfunctions” happened more often than they probably should. I don’t want or need to see that kinda stuff. Seriously, some of the clogging and traditional dancing is kinda cool, but the hip-hop numbers were… well, let’s just say I’m surprised there’s so many dads that let their little girls take dance lessons. So anyway, back to the trucking side of things.
34-hour rule FAIL #2
I got to the truck stop at 4:15 a.m. early Saturday morning, amazingly found a parking spot on the front row, and hit my bunk so I could jump out of my foxhole and launch my surprise attack around noon. My load didn’t have to deliver near St. Cloud, Minnesota until 6 a.m. Monday morning. With 309 miles to go, I figured I’d leave by midnight to give me plenty of time to get there. That is until I got my preplan on Sunday afternoon. To keep from losing the 1300-mile preplan, I now needed to leave around 4 p.m. on Sunday so I could get to the receiver and get a 10-hour break in before I picked up the preplan. Problem was, The Evil Overlord couldn’t break free to get me back to the truck until almost 6 p.m. Luckily, I’m a moron who can’t tell time. After getting under way in a freaked-out panic, I soon realized that my appointment was for 8 a.m., not 6 a.m. Whew! Disaster avoided. Sometimes it’s good to be the town moron.
So now to the 34-hour stuff. By the time I left at 6 p.m. on Sunday, I had just under 38 hours of down time. But once again, it didn’t meet the idiotic two periods of
midnight 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. that the new rule requires. So come July, that break wouldn’t reset my 70-hour workweek either. Even worse, if I’d been able to leave at midnight on Sunday night like I’d originally planned, I would’ve had almost 44 continuous hours off-duty and I still wouldn’t have gotten to reset my 70! Utterly. Friggin’. Ridiculous.
34-hour rule FAIL #3
Now for this past weekend. I used every last hour I had to get to the Pilot in Priceville, Alabama. At that point, I had a choice to make. Dang it! I just had my Klondike bar ripped from me! Oh well, may as well proceed now that it’s gone. So anyway, I had to deliver the load 496 miles away in Columbus, Ohio by midnight on Monday. That meant I had just enough time to squeeze in a 34-hour break. But if I went that option, I wouldn’t have been able to get my air conditioner fixed at our Columbus shop until Tuesday morning.
But I did have one more option. I had 5 hours to run after my break and 5.5 hours available on Sunday. If I used these hours, I’d be at the shop first thing Monday morning. Now normally, that’s a no-brainer. But not only would I be missing a chance to do a 34, I also didn’t have full hours the rest of the week… the week that I’d be trying to get home. Well, to make a long Klondike story short, I opted to skip the 34. But of course, this decision would’ve been a breeze if it had happened in July, ‘cuz yep, you guess it, it wouldn’t have counted either.
So here’s the thing. Unlike some drivers, I’m not totally convinced that the rule makers at the FMCSA are out to get us. I truly believe they’re trying to make things safer for us and the public. That they think the new 34-hour rule is doing us a favor by getting us two “nights” of sleep. Well, as you can see from my last three weekends, this rule just isn’t going to work. And without that 70-hour reset, we’ll no longer have the potential to work 82 hours. Well that was weird. I just felt my right butt cheek raise up. That’d be the one that holds my wallet. But for toots-and-giggles, let’s say all three 34-hour restarts had counted. Well, even then only two of those restarts would’ve qualified since the new rule also states we can’t do two restarts in the same week. Ugh.
Listen up, Hours-Of-Service rule makers
I already wrote you once, but apparently you didn’t listen. So pull those rose-colored earplugs out and I’ll tell you again, “The rule is useful as it stands. Change it and you may as well get rid of it altogether.” Now normally I’d be pounding on my chest and doing the Tarzan yell to prove my awesomeness in being right. But in this case, I’m just shaking my head slowly as I try to figure out how the heck these people’s heads got so full of bat crap.
*So, has anyone else been keeping track of how the new 34-hour rule will affect you? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts on the matter. If for nothing else, so I won’t have to wallow in this misery alone.*