FMCSA

TD154: Trucking News And Free Stuff!

Podcast Show Notes

We don’t have a main topic today, but we do have a mega crap ton of news, some listener feedback, and a fun contest that could win you $50.

So about this news; we’ve got a handful of truck recalls, Canadian ELDs, lots of driverless trucks being ordered, some useful tips for tax time, another reroute around a busted bridge, and yet another safety blitz (yes, really). But hey, all is not lost. We’ll also tell you what qualifies as an out-of-service violation when it comes to lights and hours-of-service. This one might surprise you. We’ll even discuss how some of these violations are actual crimes! Whaaaa?

We’ll address some myths around the COVID vaccine and if you’re still freaked out, how to clean your truck to reduce your chances of getting it. But hey, at least you won’t die from a truck rollover if this prototype fifth wheel makes it to market!

And once again, the powers that be are making truckers unhappy with talks of the new Vehicle Miles Traveled tax, the push for speed limiters and automatic emergency braking, and why DOT physicals still won’t go directly onto your CDL for years to come. Not to mention the courts ruling against lease operators and a survey showing not much faith in the Biden administration. But hey, at least a new FMCSA director has been nominated. So there’s that.

And to finish up, we’ll show you how to value your time more, how to extend the life of your DPF filter (yes, I realize that’s redundant), and I’ll tell you about a new addition to the Garmin dēzl™ OTR series of truck GPSs and a new feature they all have.

What? I told you there was a lot of news. Did you think I was lying?

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. I’m also giving away this Trace tablet from FleetUp to the first person who emails me at TruckerDump@gmail.com

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

  • Volvo Trucks – Check out the new D13TC engine in the Volvo VNL series.

Links mentioned in the news segment:

Possible steering issue leads to recall of 18,000 Freightliner trucks from TruckersNews.com

Two recalls hit 11K Freightliner, Western Star trucks from OverdriveOnline.com

Thousands of International trucks recalled from OverdriveOnline.com

Recalls issued for certain International, Mack trucks from OverdriveOnline.com

Repairs to I-40 bridge over Mississippi could take ‘months, not weeks’ from TruckersNews.com

Operation Safe Driver Week to Focus on Speeding from TruckingInfo.com

With Roadcheck under way, here’s a refresher on the OOS violations for lights, hoursfrom OverdriveOnline.com

Trucking Law: Some safety violations can turn into misdemeanor or felony convictionsfrom OverdriveOnline.com

Paul O. Taylor is managing partner of Truckers Justice Center and has represented truck drivers for over 25 years. He can be reached at 855–943-3518 or at TruckersJusticeCenter.com.

IRS’ 100% meal deduction does not apply to owner-ops’ per-diem deductions from OverdriveOnline.com

Partners in Business tip: Have a fixed residence from OverdriveOnline.com

Fleet Complete’s BigRoad Officially Submitted for Canadian ELD Certification from FleetComplete.com

ATRI puts $20B price tag on vehicle-miles-traveled tax from FreightWaves.com

Can taxing trucks on miles traveled work? from FreightWaves.com

Speed limiters, automatic braking on NTSB Most Wanted List from FreightWaves.com

Smart anti-rollover coupling can jettison the trailer to save truckies from NewAtlas.com

Autonomous truck maker says it has nearly 7,000 driverless truck orders from OverdriveOnline.com

FMCSA petitions to delay implementation of electronic med cert rule until 2025 from OverdriveOnline.com

Debunking truckers’ four favorite myths about COVID-19 vaccines from OverdriveOnline.com

Dr. Alexander E. Underwood works at KT Health Clinic near Springfield, MO. He can be reached at 855–943-3518 or email him at mail@kthealthclinic.com.

Cleaning truck cabs in the age of COVID from FleetOwner.com

Know the value of your time to assess true profit from OverdriveOnline.com

Federal court rules California’s AB 5 applies to trucking, dealing blow to owner-operator model in state from OverdriveOnline.com

California AB 5: Likely next steps, wait-and-see mode, unanswered questions prevail among small fleets, leased operators from OverdriveOnline.com

Higher costs, reduced opportunity – worries dominate small fleets’ Biden administration outlook from OverdriveOnline.com

Biden announces nominee for FMCSA boss from OverdriveOnline.com

3 ways to extend DPF life and keep filters running cleaner from OverdriveOnline.com

Garmin adds dēzl OTR500, a compact addition to its line of truck navigators from OverdriveOnline.com

TD151: In-Depth Review Of The Garmin dēzl OTR1000 Truck GPS from AboutTruckDriving.com

Buy a Garmin dēzl OTR truck GPS using this handy dandy Amazon Affiliate link!

Links mentioned in the listener feedback segment:

TD74: Doing Dallas from AboutTruckDriving.com

TD75: Who’s A Trucker? from AboutTruckDriving.com

TD76: The Spitting “Christian” Zealot from AboutTruckDriving.com

TD80: ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas – Trucker Style from AboutTruckDriving.com

TD83: A Trucker Visits Carhenge from AboutTruckDriving.com

Show info:

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com

Join the Trucker Dump Facebook Group

Join the Trucker Dump Slack Group by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com

Got a second to Rate and/or Review the podcast on iTunes?

Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein

TD150: Trucking News Galore!

Podcast Show Notes

Well there is no main topic in the podcast today, but we’ve got enough news, listener feedback, and other stuff to choke a hippo… provided a hippo would try to eat stuff like that.

Anywho, we’ll be covering truck recalls and lots of stuff about truck brakes, myths about truck inspections, truck parking, new hours-of-service clarifications, and we’ll learn about winter fuel additives.

Good news on the economy and trucker pay is always good, but dash cams, drug testing, delayed driver training guidelines, and drivers getting sued, not so much.

Listener feedback covers, trucking schools, elogs, “smart” trailers, autonomous trucking, and of course, tailgating truckers.

Listen to the podcast version or read the full article and the podcast show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com or search for Trucker Dump in your favorite podcast app.

Be sure to check out the 50% off ebook combo pack for Trucking Life and How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job while you’re there. This deal is only available for a limited time!

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

Links mentioned in the news segment:

Budweiser Wassup commercial

Daimler recalls 142,110 Freightliner Cascadias for faulty brake lights from FreightWaves.com

Kenworth recalls 1,400 trucks for possible brake issue from OverdriveOnline.com

Brake Safety Week sidelined more than 5,000 trucks from OverdriveOnline.com

Trucking Law: Busting myths about inspection regulations from OverdriveOnline.com

Paul O. Taylor is managing partner of Truckers Justice Center and has represented truck drivers for over 25 years. He can be reached at 855–943-3518 or at TruckersJusticeCenter.com.

Traton, Navistar Reach Agreement on $3.7 Billion Buyout from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Q&A: Should I use diesel fuel additives in the winter? from OverdriveOnline.com

TD119:Winter Truck Driving Tips From An Alaskan Trucker from AboutTruckDriving.com

Hazmat renewal waiver extended through 12/31 from OverdriveOnline.com

Answering hours questions, as some ELDs falsely flag errors when new rule options used from OverdriveOnline.com

FMCSA Unveils HOS Resource as Revised Rules Take Effect from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Educational Tool for Hours Of Service (ETHOS)

ETHOS detailed instructions

FMCSA Says HOS Rules Still Apply To Self-Driving Truck Drivers… At Least For Now from TheTruckersReport.com

Waymo Begins Fully Driverless Rides for All Arizona Customers from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Trucking Approaches Holiday Shipping Season ‘Unlike Any Seen Before’ from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Trucker Pay Increasing as Driver Shortage Grows, Industry Capacity Tightens from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

FMCSA delays driver training implementation until 2022 from LandLineMag.com

TD147:Be Careful Choosing A Truck Driving School from AboutTruckDriving.com

Making the decision to accept your fleet’s camera — or not from OverdriveOnline.com

Trucking Law: No false positives, no room for excuses in today’s drug tests from OverdriveOnline.com

FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse

Dr. Alexander E. Underwood works at KT Health Clinic near Springfield, MO. He can be reached at 855–943-3518 or email him at mail@kthealthclinic.com.

Owner-Operator Ordered To Pay $411 Million: Largest Verdict Ever from TheTruckersReport.com

Driver Whose Truck Entered Crowded Protest Faces Charges from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Judge Overturns 12 Year Sentence For Pilot Flying J Exec, Says Jury Shouldn’t Have Been Allowed To Hear “Deeply Offensive” Recording from TheTruckersReport.com

Driver feedback wanted on I-10 truck parking issues from OverdriveOnline.com

I-10 Truck Parking Availability System survey

FMCSA Seeks Nominations for Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Trucker Grub segment:

Scott Gunter, aka @Killjoy in the Trucker Dump Slack Group tells us about Rutter’sconvenience stores, where you can get some really good grub for cheap.

Links mentioned in the Listener Feedback segment:

Service mention: TruCon.app for Ontario drivers

Product mention: Brooklyn Fuel Bucket Mattress from Brooklyn Bedding at TruckingMattress.com
 
Trevor Dunkel aka @Koolaid in the Trucker Dump Slack Group, talks about his experience with Schneider’s smart trailer app that was discussed in TD149: Job Hopping In The Trucking Industry.
 
Todd R aka @RoadToad in the Trucker Dump Slack Group, follows-up about the racism and prejudice in his Canadian truck driving school that we talked about TD149: Job Hopping In The Trucking Industry.
 
 
Gabe is a trucker and has some thoughts about TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You. I mention TD66: Truckers Go Turtle Racing in my response.
 
Nick Mack shares an audio comment about his experiences with his truck driving school and being a driver trainer.
 
Aniruddh Mohan from Carnegie Mellon University study on how autonomous trucks are perceived by truckers. Email him at aniruddh@cmu.edu or text him at 412-576-4494 to schedule an interview.

 

Show info:

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com
 
 
Join the Trucker Dump Slack Group by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com
 
 

TD143: Coronavirus Trucking

Podcast Show Notes

Well, you can probably guess what today’s podcast is all about, and unfortunately it ain’t fluffy kittens. Nope, for today’s main topic I’ll be rebroadcasting an episode of the Payload Podcast where JT Peters talks to an epidemiologist about Coronavirus and how it relates to us truckers.

But before that, we’ve got lots of news on how this pandemic is affecting the trucking industry; including suspended and forced rules, how truckers are gaining new respect, and some clarification on the $2.2 trillion stimulus plan. And of course, what you should do if you think you’ve got the virus.

But it’s not all about the Corona. We’ve got an update on new HOS rules, autonomous trucks, truck parking, and new high-tech maintenance ideas. Also, a major data breach and tips for being in an accident.

In the feedback segment, we’ll talk about ignorant commenters, under 21 truckers, tailgating, and kitchen utensils.

Listen to the podcast version or read the full article and the podcast show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com or search for Trucker Dump in your favorite podcast app.

Be sure to check out the 25% off ebook combo pack for Trucking Life and How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job while you’re there.

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Paccar Recalls 35,671 Peterbilt Trucks for Fire Risk from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Worldcometers COVID-19 statistics

Multiple Hits to Economy Likely to Trigger Recession, Analysis Shows from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Chinese Plants Ramp Up Again as Rest of World Reels from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Senate OKs Historic $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Rescue Package from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

All You Wanted To Know About Those Tax Stimulus Checks But Were Afraid To Ask from Forbes.com

US Department of Transportation Expands National Emergency Declaration for Commercial Vehicles Delivering Relief in Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak from FMCSA.gov

Frequently Asked Questions Related to the FMCSA Emergency Declaration 03/19/2020 from FMCSA.gov

States Suspend Weight Limits for Trucks Involved in Coronavirus Relief from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

FMCSA demands truck stops must stay open 24 hours from TruckNews.com

FMCSA waives CDL, medical certification renewal regs until June 30 from OverdriveOnline.com

Risk Remains Low for Coronavirus Transmission on Packages from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Step by step: What you can do if you suspect COVID-19 symptoms on the road from OverdriveOnline.com

Options on the road for a speedy coronavirus consult from OverdriveOnline.com

Showers of Praise Greet Busy Truckers from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

How America Is Thanking Truckers During the Coronavirus Crisis from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

CVSA Postpones Roadcheck Due to Coronavirus Crisis from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

TWIC card now satisfies requirements for hazmat endorsement from OverdriveOnline.com

Final Trucking HOS Rule Sent To White House For Approval from TheTruckersReport.com

Truck Parking Bill Could Mean $755 Million For New FREE Truck Parking from TheTruckersReport.com

Starchy Robotics ends remote truck experiment, shuts down operations from FreightWaves.com

Autonomous Tech Company Locomotion Signs Deal With Wilson Logistics from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

TuSimple Expands Autonomous Trucking Program With UPS from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

How Smart Tire Technology Is Changing Fleet Management from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Fleets Move Toward Predictive Maintenance to Prevent Breakdowns, Reduce Expenses from ttnews.com (Transport Topics)

Trucking Law: When trying to help at accident scene can hurt you instead from OverdriveOnline.com

News roundup, Feb. 27: TQL data breach potentially exposed carriers’ bank account numbers from OverdriveOnline.com

Check out the Payload Podcast and subscribe!

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Map from Johns Hopkins University

Links mentioned in the Feedback segment:

Greg tells us about his 20-year old pots and pans that he uses to cook in the truck. They have folding handles, which is perfect for small storage space like the cab of a semi. You can buy them on Amazon using this affiliate link.

Scott enjoyed listening to TD142: Being An Expedited Truck Driver but he writes about some hateful comments made about TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You. He believes that I shouldn’t give haters the time of day by sharing their vile comments on the podcast. What say you?

New listener Rico also shares his thoughts on TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You.

Zachary tells us about learning to drive truck at an early age and relates it to the current under-21 debate.

Show info:

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com

Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group

Join the Trucker Dump Slack Group by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com

Got a second to Rate and/or Review the podcast on iTunes?

Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein

TD139.5: Hurry And Submit Your Comments Before October 21!

Running a bit behind on my podcasting schedule, so this is a just a quick reminder that the FMCSA has extended the commenting period on the New Proposed Hours Of Service Rules until October 21. Check out that link for my thoughts on the newly proposed rules. October 21 is just a few days, so don’t delay! Go and submit your comments now!

Want to hear something pathetic? There are over 3 million CDL holders in the United States, but there are only 7,500 comments submitted so far. That’s pretty lame. If you care enough about trucking to listen to/read the Trucker Dump podcast/blog, then you should care enough to want to give the FMCSA a piece of your mind.

And remember, if you don’t submit your comments, you’ll have no reason to whine and cry about the new rules in the future. And who doesn’t love a good reason to complain? BONUS!

One last thing; if you’ve never submitted a public comment like this before, be sure to check out Tips For Submitting Effective Comments so you don’t sound like a raving lunatic.

TD139: Understanding The 2019 Proposed Hours-Of-Service Changes

Heck yeah! The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, has finally proposed the new Hours of Service changes! All I can say is, IT’S ABOUT FRIGGIN’ TIME! Seriously, they’ve been promising to make things happen quicker this time around, but it sure doesn’t seem like it. 

I suppose we really shouldn’t complain too much about the wait. After all, it’s only been about a year since the FMCSA first asked for public comments on the current hours-of-service. By government standards, this is Flash-like supersonic speed.

In reality, we truckers should probably be grateful that they’re proposing changes at all. If you’re looking in from the outside, everything was running smoothly. But apparently (and I know this is going to surprise you as much as it did me) our FMCSA overlords were actually listening to all us complaining truck drivers. Who knew?

So what were all of us truckers complaining about? I think U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao summed it up nicely when she said, “This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time.” And just as before, the FMCSA Administrator, Ray Martinez is asking for public comments until October 7 October 21, 2019. 

Flexibility is the key word here.

What say we get on with all the gory details of these proposed hours-of-service changes?

There are five changes, so let’s start with the easy ones and work our way up.

Proposed hours-of-service change #1: Short Haul Exception 

Driving under the current Short Haul rules, you must start your driving and return to the same facility every day within 12 hours and not drive beyond a 100 air-mile radius of that facility.

Honestly, I was sort of surprised when I saw this rule. That’s because fellow Trucker Dump Slack member and friend Trevor (@koolaid in Slack) has a local job and I know for a fact he can work up to a 14-hour day. So what’s up with that?

Upon further research, I discovered that the 12-hour workday relates to Commercial Drivers License (CDL) holders who operate within 100 miles of their home terminal and who also DO NOT run log books, which is yet another perk of the Short Haul Exception. And now it all makes sense again since I know Trevor runs a log book. At least I think I’ve got that right. If you know better, email me at TruckerDump@gmail.com. 

The new Short Haul Exception would increase that distance to a 150 air-mile radius and it would also increase the drive time from 12 to 14 hours.

It’s important to keep in mind that you still cannot drive more than 11 hours per day. The extra two hours is designed to let you drive your full 11 hours if you’re delayed by traffic, weather, loading/unloading, mechanical breakdown, etc.

If you’re seeing both good and bad in this new rule, you’re not alone. Stick around until the end and we’ll be discussing these concerns. But for now, let’s keep this big rig rolling.

Proposed hours-of-service change #2: Adverse Driving Conditions

I thought this one was pretty straightforward, but as The Evil Overlord often tells me, “You’re wrong.” Sadly, she’s often right. Grrrr. I think I’ve got this figured out though. It’s a subtle change, but an important one if you find yourself in adverse driving conditions. 

First, let’s define the term Adverse Weather Conditions. According to part 395.2, the FMCSA website defines it as “… snow, sleet, fog, other adverse weather conditions, a highway covered with snow or ice, or unusual road and traffic conditions, none of which were apparent on the basis of information known to the person dispatching the run at the time it was begun.”

So technically, if you found out about icy roads before you left the shipper and yet you still decided to hit the road “knowing” you could claim the Adverse Driving Conditions exception, you’d be wrong. Now how anyone could prove you knew before you left without obtaining a warrant for your Internet browsing history, that’s a different story. LOL

Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s move on to the current rule, which states that you may extend your DRIVING time up to two hours due to adverse driving conditions, but you cannot drive past your 14 hours (15 for passenger-carrying vehicles). 

The subtle difference in the proposed new rule is that the two hours of extra allowable drive time DOES extend your 14 hours (15 for passenger-carrying vehicles). 

For example, under the current rule, let’s say you’re 13 hours into your workday and you’ve driven 10 hours so far. You’ve got one hour left to drive on your 11 and one hour left on your 14 to find a good parking spot for the night. Perfect!

But then you encounter adverse driving conditions, a.k.a. an icy road that’s greasier than Danny Zuko’s Elephant trunk. You can drive two more hours now because of the weather, right? Wrong. Two more hours would put you one hour over your allowed 14.

That’s the difference in the current rule and the new proposed rule. Under the new rule you’d be able to drive the two more hours because your 14 hour rule is extended too. Nice!

Clear as mud now?

Proposed hours-of-service change #3: 30-Minute Break

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but as I reported on the last Trucker Dump Podcast, the stupid 30-minute rule is here to stay. I’m still not sure why they’re so adamant about keeping it, but whatever. It is what it is. At least they’re trying to alter it a bit to give us some more flexibility.

We’ve got another subtly here. The current rule states that you need to take a stupid 30-minute break (Off-Duty or Sleeper Berth) if more than 8 hours has passed since your last Off-Duty or Sleeper Berth break of at least 30 minutes. Obviously I’ve added the word “stupid” there, but I can’t bring myself to say “30-minute break” without adding “stupid” to it.

As most drivers know, this rule is especially frustrating when you’re almost to the spot where you’ll be shut down for 10 hours, but since it’s been 8 hours since your last stupid 30-minute break (or longer), you now have to find a spot to park while you stare out the window for 30 stupid minutes (please tell me you aren’t blocking a fuel bay).

As I’ve said about a kerjillion times (props to @Furiosa in the Trucker Dump Slack group for that word), I can’t recall one single instance where a stupid 30-minute break didn’t make me MORE tired instead of energizing me. Seriously. If you don’t believe me, just go back and read my Twitter feed for the last few years. Grrrr. Any who, the proposed new rule only has a slight modification.

You will still have to take a break if it’s been more than 8 hours since your last one, but now the slightly less stupid 30-minute break can be taken using any duty status other than Driving. 

While this doesn’t fix the idiocy of the rule in general, it should help. After all, the purpose of the stupid rule is to keep us from driving more than 8 hours straight. right? Then why in the name of John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt did the stupid 30-minute break always have to be logged as Off-Duty or Sleeper Berth? 

Am I driving while I’m fueling? No. Am I driving while I’m counting freight on a customer dock? No. Am I driving while I’m standing in line to get a delicious Steak Chalupa at Taco Hell? If I am, then I’m doing it wrong. 

The fact is, most truckers get a stupid 30-minute break in without even trying. Maybe we fuel and run into the truck stop to grab a coffee. That’s going to take close to 30 minutes right there. Say 15 minutes of On-Duty, Not Driving time, plus 15 minutes of Off-Duty time. As long as it’s 30 continuous minutes of a combination of Off-Duty, Sleeper Berth, and On-Duty, Not Driving, then you’re golden for another 8 hours. Sweet!

One of the immediate benefits most of us will see is that the pretrip inspection will no longer count towards the 8 hours. Typically after a 15-minute pretrip, I’ll only have 7.75 hours to drive before I need to take the stupid 30-minute break. So if the new rule sticks, that 8-hour countdown won’t start ticking until I go onto the Drive line. Woo-hoo! 

While it stinks worse than a teenage boy’s feet that the stupid 30-minute rule still exists, it’s better than it was before. Sad; because now I’m going to have to keep saying the word “stupid” far more often than I’d like to.

Proposed hours-of-service change #4: Split-Sleeper Berth

Let’s be clear; I’m not a fan of the Split-Sleeper Berth, but I don’t think it’s stupid, unlike another rule we won’t mention again. The problem is, it’s too darn confusing to do a split. 

Just the other day in the Trucker Dump Slack Group, two truckers with over 50 years of combined experience were having a disagreement about how the split sleeper berth was calculated. If they have a hard time with it, how the heck are new truckers supposed to understand it? 

To be honest, any time I absolutely had to do an 8/2 split to pickup or deliver on time, I always called the safety department to get help. Hey; better to ask than to do it wrong and screw up!

Here’s the way the current split sleeper berth works (Dear Lord: Please help me to not sound like a moron. Amen.)

After 11 hours of driving, a trucker is required to log a continuous 10-hour rest period before they can drive again. Or they can split that into two breaks of 8 and 2 that total 10 hours. By the way, it doesn’t matter if you take the 2-hour part of the break or the 8-hour part first. 

Under current rules, one of those two breaks needs to be 8 continuous hours of Sleeper Berth, while the other can be 2 continuous hours or more of Off-Duty, Sleeper Berth, or a mixture of the two. So for instance, you could log Off-Duty for 30 minutes then log in the Sleeper Berth for 1 hour, and finish it off with 30 more minutes on the Off-Duty status. 

The 8-hour portion of that break DOES EXTEND the 14 hour rule, but the 2 hour break DOES NOT. This can really come in handy if you’re delayed at a loading dock for 8 hours. If you do a split, you haven’t lost any of your driving hours. 

As if this weren’t confusing enough as is, now let’s talk about how long you can drive while using the split sleeper berth option. Ugh. I’ve already prayed so let’s dive right in.

Let’s say you drove for 6 hours. You arrive at a shipper and it takes them 8 hours to load you. Now normally 6 hours + 8 hours = 14 hours, so you’re done for the day thanks to the 14-hour rule. But if you log that 8 hours all in the Sleeper Berth status, you’ve just started an 8/2 split. 

So how long can you drive now? The best way I’ve had this explained to me is that if you add the two Driving sessions BEFORE and AFTER one of the breaks, that combined total cannot exceed the 11 hours allowed. 

Therefore, in this example you’ve driven 6 hours. Now that you’ve logged 8 hours in the Sleeper Berth, you now have up to 5 more hours to drive (6 hours BEFORE + 5 hours AFTER = 11 hours) before you need to take another break.

At this point, you have two options. First, you could save your sanity by taking a full 10-hour break and getting back on a normal 11-hour driving/10-hour rest period schedule. Or if you’re a complete nut-job, you can take a 2-hour break (as described above) and keep going with the split. You can even run like this continuously if you’ve completely lost your marbles. Again, I’m only going to hassle with this if it’s absolutely necessary to get the job done.

Okay, so you’ve taken the crazy pill and you’ve completed a 2-hour break to keep going with the split. How long can you drive now? Another 11 hours? Nope; that’s for sane people, not you. Let’s do the math.

Let’s say you drove the full 5 hours you had available. In that case, you’d have another 6 hours available to drive after the 2-hour break. Remember the guideline from above about counting driving time on both sides of either of the split breaks? So 5 hours of driving BEFORE the 2-hour break + 6 hours of driving you’re getting ready to do AFTER would total 11 hours again. Yeah! You now know how to stay legal!

But let’s change that scenario a bit. Now let’s say you only drove 3 hours instead of the full 5 hours you had available. Now if you do the math, you drove 3 hours BEFORE the 2-hour break, which means you now have 8 hours to drive again AFTER the break. Because 3+8=11. Yes? 

Do you see now why I say only crazy or desperate people do the 8/2 split? And believe it or not, it get’s even more confusing when you start figuring that the 8-hour break doesn’t count toward the 14, but the 2-hour break does. But we won’t get into that, largely because it confuses me more than when Kate Hudson married that ugly dude from The Black Crowes.

Now the proposed new Split-Sleeper Berth. 

Thankfully, this will be easier to explain. First, they want to add an option to do a 7/3 split to the already-existing 8/2. Again, the longer 7-hour break would need to be logged all in the Sleeper Berth and the 3 hours can be logged as any continuous combination of Off-Duty and Sleeper Berth. 

This wouldn’t change our Driving hours math at all. All driving hours BEFORE and AFTER the 7-hour or 3-hour break would still need to total 11 hours of driving or less. 

The second change to this rule is now both of the rest periods would extend the 14-hour clock. Remember, under the current rule only the 8-hour break would extend it. Under the new rule, the 8, 7, 3, or 2-hour breaks would extend the 14 hours. 

Honestly, I haven’t used the split sleeper rule enough to know how the changes in this new rule will affect the way we drive. I know the 7/3 wouldn’t mean that much to me because if I was delayed for 7 hours on the current rule, I would simply wait until the 8-hour mark so I could count it as a legal split break. But I guess anything that extends the 14 hours is a good thing. To be continued.

Proposed hours-of-service change #5: Split-Duty Provision

Just you aren’t confused like I was when I read “Split-Duty,” everyone in the trucking world has been calling this the “14-hour pause.”  

We actually just discussed the current 14-hour rule in the previous section. Basically, once you start your day, you have 14 hours to complete it. The only thing that can extend the 14 hours is an 8-hour Sleeper Berth break that will be used in a split sleeper berth scenario. 

After that 14 hours is up, you CANNOT drive again until you take a legal 10-hour break. However, it’s important to note that you can still WORK after the 14 hours is up. So if it takes you 14 hours to get loaded and arrive at your delivery point, you can still do a post-trip inspection or even unload a trailer for 3-4 hours after the 14 is over. Just as long as you don’t start driving again until you get that 10-hour break in. 

The problem with the current 14-hour rule.

The 14-hour rule has haunted truckers ever since it was enacted in 2003. Actually, before that there was a 15-hour workday basically since 1938 when the hours-of-service started. I think it’s odd that I never heard anyone complaining about it when The Evil Overlord and I started driving in 1997. I can’t imagine having one measly hour more would make much of a difference, but I digress.

In general, drivers have been screaming that the unrelenting 14-hour clock makes the roads less safe, not more-so. The reasoning is that we often don’t have time to pull over to take a nap or get off the road during rush hour if we want to get the most out of our driving hours. We aren’t wrong. 

Let’s look at it. You’ve got 11 hours to drive and 14 hours to do it. That leaves 3 hours to play with. That seems like sufficient time, right? If you believe that, clearly you haven’t been trucking for very long. I’m talking to you, FMCSA rule makers.

Okay. You use at least 15 minutes at the beginning of your day for a pretrip inspection. You probably lose another 15 minutes fueling, possibly more. Most carriers require you to log at least 15 minutes checking into and out of a customer, so if you have both a pick up and a delivery on the same day, there’s another 30 minutes gone. Add that up and that’s one hour minimum of the 14 eaten up right there. Now you’ve got 2 hours to play with. 

But loading/unloading takes time. Sometimes LOTS of time. You could easily waste 2 hours at one of those customers! Heck, a lot of carriers allow a customer 2 hours before they even start charging them for detaining their driver. Some still don’t charge them at all! Seriously, it’s not uncommon at all for a trucker to waste 4-5 hours of their day loading/unloading. Not cool.

So now you’re “eating into your 11 hours drive time.” Every trucker already understands this term, but I’ll explain it for the non-truckers.

Let’s say you wake up after a 10-hour break and you’re ready to roll at 8 AM. You do a pretrip inspection, fuel, drive 8 hours to the delivery and sit around for 3 hours getting unloaded. That’s 11.5 hours total. So you still have 3 more hours to drive, right (11 hours maximum drive time minus the 8 hours previously driven = 3 hours drive time)? Well, you would if the 14-hour rule didn’t exist. Instead, you actually only have 2.5 hours to drive.

You see, you started your day at 8 AM, which means your 14 hours is up at 10 PM. But we said you’ve used 11.5 hours of your time with driving, fueling, inspections, and loading. So now it’s 7:30 PM (8 AM + 11.5 hours = 7:30 PM). Remember, we said you must be done driving by 10 PM, therefore you actually only get to drive for 2.5 more hours, not 3 hours (10 PM minus 7:30 PM = 2.5 hours). This is how we drivers lose drive time, aka “eating into our drive time.” 

So basically, we just lost money because we couldn’t drive all 11 hours we had available. Yes, it’s only 30 minutes of our drive time lost in this scenario, but imagine if it had taken even longer to unload. If we were there for 5 hours instead of 3, that would’ve been 2.5 hours of lost productivity. Not only am I losing money, but  my employer also lost the revenue I could’ve been making for them with those unused drive hours. And don’t forget the safety factor. 

A driver may want to take a nap or get off the road to avoid rush hour, but remember, any time spent not driving is money they aren’t earning. So drivers can’t always sleep when they’d like to, nor can they avoid heavy traffic if they’re butting up against the 14-hour rule. Well they could, but in reality we all know what’s going to win that battle when there’s money on the line. 

According to their website, “The primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”

How exactly does that mission statement line up with what you just heard/read? We can’t always sleep when we want to and we can’t always avoid heavy traffic either. I’m so confused.  

Enter the 14-hour “pause.”

Sticking with the FMCSA’s “adding flexibility” goal, the newly proposed rule allows for up to a 3-hour “pause” in the 14-hour workday, which basically results in the 14 hours being extended into a 17-hour workday under certain circumstances. Yes, that sounds awful. We’ll discuss that bit of controversy in a bit. 

Under the new rule, it would add the option to “pause” the workday with one continuous Off-Duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than 3 hours continuous. The length of this break relates to how long the 14 hours is extended. So a 30-minute break (pause) would extend the 14 hours to 14.5 hours. But if you took the full 3 hour break, you’d get to extend out to 17 hours!  

Now let’s have another look and see how our earlier 14-hour scenario would’ve played out if we could’ve used the new “pause” feature. 

If you recall, you took a 3-hour break at the delivery location. Under the new rule, you could claim that 3 hours as a 3-hour pause, which means the 14 is magically extended to 17 hours. Voilà! Not only are you not losing any of your valuable drive time, but you would still have 2.5 hours to stop and take that nap or avoid the loop from Hell, commonly known as Atlanta rush hour!

And that finishes up the 5 new proposed hours-of-service changes. But of course, that’s not the end of it.

The controversy

In a surprise that I don’t think any trucker in-the-know would’ve anticipated, both the American Trucking Association (ATA) and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) quickly praised the newly-proposed rules. If you’re not in-the-know, these two industry trade group rivals often clash because one is speaking for owner operators and the other represents many of the large carriers.

But like anything in trucking, not everyone agrees that the proposal is so great; and for good reason. 

So what are some of the main concerns?

The ups and downs of the new proposed hours-of-service changes.

There’s really not much downside to the Adverse Driving Conditions, the new 30-minute rule, or the added 7/3 sleeper berth. But of course, there’s always something to complain about. 

Again, the FMCSA sees all this as “adding flexibility.” I guess that really depends on your point of view. The first complaint has to do with the time extensions associated with both the Short Haul Exception and the “Pause” feature. 

Short Haul Exception concerns

Obviously, jumping from 12 hours to a 14-hour workday could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your viewpoint. 

First the good. If you’re paid hourly, that’s an extra two hours of pay, isn’t it? And if that 2 hours puts you into overtime-land, then that’s some major extra bling-bling for your neck. You’re going to be so totally gangsta if this new rule goes into effect. 

Likewise, if you’re paid by the mile or per load, having an extra two hours to play with might let you squeeze in a few more miles or cram in one extra load before the 14-hour clock ticks down. You know, it really is such a helpless feeling when your paycheck is affected by something that is completely out of your control (think traffic or mechanical failure). 

The downside is that if you simply don’t want to work the extra two hours, you may be screwed. I think the verdict is still out on whether a driver will have any choice in the matter. Well, I suppose they always have a choice. It’s just that their choice might be to find a new company who won’t force the extra two hours on you. 

The “Pause” concerns

Much like the Short Haul Exception, the “Pause” rule has a lot of potential to be abused by shippers/receivers and trucking companies alike. Will a carrier expect you to take the “pause” to maximize your workday? Probably. Their logic will be that if you can use the pause, then you should use the pause. Many drivers will disagree.

I’m going to have to side with the truckers here (surprise, surprise). Nowhere in these proposed rules did I see where it says this pause is mandatory, so I think we can expect to have to continuously lock horns with our dispatchers about it.

Having said that, it’s important that you have this discussion with them. Don’t just do what they tell you to do because you don’t want to get in trouble. That’s a rookie mistake. 

Remember that someone is always hiring in the trucking industry. That means they need you more than you need them. If you don’t want to utilize the “pause,” then don’t. If they keep trying to force it on you, find another employer who won’t. It’s really that simple. Believe it or not, there are carriers out there that will do the right thing. 

But hey, if you’re willing to do a pause to maximize your earning potential and your opportunity to control your time, then have at it. I know I would. Although to be honest, most of these proposed rules won’t make a lick of difference to me with my new LTL job. 

I think the shippers/receivers are a bigger concern. They already show a blatant disregard for a trucker’s time. I fear that their attitude now will be “Hey, we have an extra 3 hours to play with.” Again, much like the carriers, they’ll think we’ll want to use the pause feature. 

In reality, no trucker wants to work even a 14-hour workday, let alone a 17-hour day! But many of us will if it will maximize our efficiency. 

Obviously, if you’re an owner operator, you have the option to avoid customers who abuse the “pause” feature, but my guess is most company drivers will have to suck it up like buttercup.

How can you make your voice heard?

Now it might be tempting to stand on the sidelines thinking you don’t have any control here. But remember the horrible 34-hour rule from 2013 that required two breaks between 1 AM and 5 AM in order for it to be legal? And what about the fact that you could only use a 34-hour break once per week to reset your 70 hours? Yeah, both of those stupid rules were suspended in 2014 due to lots of criticism from drivers like you. 

Here’s your chance to do it again. Is there something you’d like to see changed with these new rules? If you need an easy guide to the proposed changes, then go here. Then when you’re all loaded up with knowledge and a bucket full of opinions, go and submit your comments! You only have until October 7, 2019!

 Summing up…

In general, I think these proposed changes are good for truckers… as long as you don’t let anyone force you into working longer hours just because you legally can.

As much as I hate to admit it, the FMCSA actually came through with their promise to add flexibility to the current hours-of-service. All five proposed changes do just that. Now we just have to see what ultimately makes the cut. 

Listen, some drivers are going to love these new rules. Some will hate it for good reasons. Others will hate it simply because it’s yet another change. 

I think trucker Logan Tarr put it best on Facebook when he asked complaining truckers, “Sounds good to me, I don’t really know what y’all want? They take away flexibility (ELD mandate) and you complain, they try to add flexibility and you complain.”

I simply recall the old joke: 

What’s the difference between a puppy and a trucker?

The puppy quits whining eventually.

Podcast Show Notes

In today’s show, I’ll explain the newly proposed hours-of-service rules so you can go leave your comments for the FMCSA. And speaking of safety issues, we’ve got a couple of truck recalls, yet another inspection blitz, more about ELD compliance, more about platooning, and you better watch out in Minnesota.

We’ll also discuss the laws behind drug and alcohol screening and sleep apnea, then we’ll hit on deceptive factoring, yet another carrier shutting down and leaving drivers stranded, whether you should be paid for sleeping, and finally your chance to be a superstar on TV.

Trucker Grub is going to point us to some yummy cajun food this time around.

In the feedback segment, we’ll hear a tailgating story of a guy stuck in a truck sandwich, a funny story about sleep apnea, taking a large dog on the road, and what the heck is Slack?

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

  • Volvo Trucks– Check out the new VNL series and all it’s awesome features

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Pilot Flying J gearing up to celebrate Truck Driver Appreciation Week

More than 25,000 Volvo trucks recalled over transmission issues

Certain Freightliner Cascade tractors recalled over brake airline issue

Brake Safety Week inspection blitz set for Sept. 15-21

Your Comprehensive Guide To The Proposed HOS Reform Rules

As industry groups laud FMCSA’s hours proposal, truckers offer mixed reactions

FMCSA Proposes Removing Another CDL Testing Regulation

FMCSA begins to explore harassment of female, minority truckers

The mandate’s last roundup: The AOBRD-to-ELD shift

The AOBRD-to-ELD shift: Data/edits and visibility at roadside

Hours edits: Drivers in full control with ELDs

FMCSA FAQ for ELD rule

Trucking Law: Drug and alcohol regs are tighter than most know

Trucking Law: Adapting to sleep apnea’s most common treatment

Bucking court rulings, DOL argues drivers aren’t owed sleeper berth pay

Caution urged regarding deceptive factoring practices

One driver, two trucks — Peloton aims for Level 4 platooning platform

Got A Speed Limiter? MN State Police Are Ticketing Slow Drivers!

Carrier Shuts Down, Leaves 300+ Drivers Stranded

Wanna Be On TV? Casting Call For Skilled Truckers!

For the Trucker Grub segment, Nick Mack features cajun food at the Tiger Cafe on I-10 Exit 139.

Links in the Feedback section:

Lenny read TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You and tells his harrowing experience with big rigs.

Driver Dave is back with a funny story about sleep apnea.

Christopher has a question about taking a large dog on the road with him.

Brad is a new listener and asks how to join the Trucker Dump Slack group.

Show info:

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com

Join the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group

Join the Trucker Dump Slack Group by emailing me at TruckerDump@gmail.com

Got a second to Rate and/or Review the podcast on iTunes?

Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein

   

Trucker Comments Requested For New Personal Conveyance Rules

The FMCSA is no longer accepting comments for this topic.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, has announced that it is changing the Personal Conveyance (PC) rules and they have extended the original 30-day comment period to February 20, 2018. This means we truckers need to do something we may not like to do… think about the issue and submit our feedback.

If you remember, a few years back the FMCSA was taking driver feedback about the insane new 1 AM to 5 AM requirement on the 34-hour break part of the 70-hour restart rule. The FMCSA got the research and combined with a lot of complaining drivers, they changed the rule. So yes, I guess it is possible that they are capable of seeing reason. Who knew?

We drivers need to pull together and get these changes implemented

As it stands, each carrier can change certain parameters within the rule and my company always errs on the side of caution. Because of this, the current Personal Conveyance rules are virtually useless to me. I can literally use PC about 20% of the time when I’d like to. Makes me mad enough to twist the ears off a baby bunny rabbit.

What has changed about the new Personal Conveyance rule?

The biggest change for the better is their plan to let truckers use Personal Conveyance while under a load. Current rules say you have to drop a loaded trailer to use PC, which is just plain nuts in my opinion. What’s it make any difference if we’re loaded or bobtail? If we get to a delivery and the customer won’t have a dock for 3 hours, what’s the difference if I bobtail to a truck stop under PC time, or if I’m pulling a loaded trailer? I just don’t get it. Imagine that? A trucker not understanding the logic behind an FMCSA rule.

So here’s the call to action. Unless you’re saving a baby from a burning minivan right now, stop what you’re doing and go submit your comments. I’m going right now.

TD116: Diabetes And Truckers

Today’s guest post called, Commercial Truck Driving and Diabetes: Everything You Need To Know comes from Elisabeth Weaver of The Diabetes Council. Now before I go on, I’d like to encourage you to listen to this podcast even if you don’t have diabetes. One thing I learned from the article is that being a trucker with diabetes seems like it’d be about as much fun as having your head gnawed by a Grizzly bear. So maybe hearing it will make you think twice before you have yet another breakfast consisting of Ding Dongs and Mountain Dew. Just saying. Clearly it’s better not to get diabetes in the first place. So back to Elisabeth and the article. According to her bio, she’s a certified diabetes educator, she loves to write, and she considers writing to be a perfect part-time job. She is dedicated to helping people with diabetes. Elisabeth has a loving husband, a son (17 years) and a daughter (19 years) and she lives in Pender County NC near the intracoastal waterway. This all got started because Elisabeth emailed me to ask if I would help promote the article by tweeting it to my Twitter followers and putting a link to it on the Trucker Dump blog. Well, I enjoyed this article so much that I thought it deserved more than that. Now this is where I usually lose potential guest bloggers. I wrote Elisabeth back and told her I’d be happy to give her a whole guest blog post if she would consider recording an audio version for the podcast. Normally this is where I can actually hear them scream bloody murder as they run into the forest. But surprisingly, she was up for it; providing that I’d allow her coworker Holly Kim to record it for her. Fine by me. Anything that relieves you listeners of my whiny voice for a while is awesome! Well, I have to tell you, Elisabeth crammed this article chock full of useful information about truckers (or potential truckers) who are dealing with diabetes out here on the road. I can’t help but think this article will be even more useful as time rolls on and the DOT and the FMCSA overlords tighten their noose on the health requirements for truck drivers. And as far as the audio presentation goes, Holly knocked it out of the friggin’ park with her reading and the sound quality. I didn’t even have to edit anything! So either Holly is a flawless reader with a wonderfully clear speaking voice (in which I hate her friggin’ guts out of pure envy) or she’s an editing guru. Dunno. Perhaps it helps that she used to work at a radio station and owns a fancy-pants microphone… not that I’m jealous about that either. So anyway, I’ve said this before, but let me say it again in case you’re new to the podcast/blog. My goal for guest posts is to find articles covering subjects I know nothing about, which (I know this will come to a shock to you) isn’t that hard to do. This article and subject matter fits that criteria perfectly. From the looks of all the truckers I see with purple legs, I’d say this content is extremely important and needs to get out there. And it also fits because I have no desire to research diabetes. Because I’m lazy and stuff, you know. I’ve included a link to the original Diabetes Council article below. You’ll also find all the links mentioned within the article further down in the podcast notes. [box]If you have experience with diabetes as a trucker, please consider leaving your thoughts in the comments section over at The Diabetes Council website. Commercial Truck Driving and Diabetes: Everything You Need To Know by Elisabeth Weaver (Almekinder). Feature photo by Alden Chadwick via Flickr Creative Commons[/box]

Links in the podcast version:

I got to meet Buck Ballard from The Trucking Podcast in person! And of course, the Internet rule says that it didn’t happen if there aren’t pictures. The folks over at RoadPro are giving away prizes every day of September for National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Click here to enter the contest! I’m looking for an Owner/Operator who would be willing to test a product called Wheel-Check for me and do a short audio review (3 minutes or less). Drop me an email at TruckerDump@gmail.com and I’ll have them shipped to you ASAP. Warren wrote in telling me he couldn’t download the songs that I use for the intro/outro of the podcast. I fixed it so now you can download both songs by Walking On Einstein for free! Bummer. I lost a paycheck from writing for TruckerMagazine.com. Listen to find out why. If you love your Apple products/services and want to discuss them with like-minded people, join me in the iTruckers Slack group. Just download the free Slack app and email iTruckers@iCloud.com for an invitation to join. The Trucker Dump podcast got mentioned over at Truckersnews.com in an article called, Podcasts May Be The Perfect On-The-Road Entertainment. Thanks for the inclusion! Trucker Dump podcast is now available on Google Play, if that’s how you roll. OverdriveOnline.com reported a story called, Love’s fuel-hauling fleet awards drivers with $3.4 million in safety bonuses, which is about a cool safety program from Gemini Motor Transport. If case you haven’t heard, I wrote an ebook called, Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver. It even includes a link to a free 9.25-hour audiobook version! Available anywhere you buy ebooks. Steven sent in an audio review of Trucking Life. You might remember him as my co-host from TD111: Improving Our Reputation As Truckers. Thanks Steven! Links mentioned in the main post: Elisabeth Weaver (Almekinder) from The Diabetes Council wrote today’s article, called Commercial Truck Driving and Diabetes: Everything You Need To Know and her coworker Holly Kim reads it for us. Driver’s license Laws by state from the American Diabetes Association website. Read or download the 12-page Federal Diabetes Exemption Program packet (PDF) from the FMCSA website. Check out the FMCSA website to find a certified DOT doctor near you on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. A whole Pinterest page devoted to exercise routines for truck drivers. Map of clinic locations from Team CME. Links mentioned in the feedback section: Long duck writes in again. In case you’re wondering what kind of name Long Duck is, he’s named after the guy from Sixteen Candles. Long story. He seems a bit confused today, but he has a comment after hearing the conversation I had with my nephew in TD110: Jabbering With Jared. He also talks about parking lot poop (yes really) and the “tools” (weapons) he keeps in his truck. He finishes up with his comment about TD112: Truckers Can’t Read. David writes in after listening to either TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemesis: Complacency or TD104: Complacency Strikes with a great story of his own complacency. And he somehow manages to expertly tie it in with Looney Tunes cartoons and an Eagles song. Nicely done, David! Well, it looks like Bryce succumbed to my constant badgering about wanting audio comments from listeners. After hearing it, I’m convinced he’s a glutton for punishment, possibly caused by huffing too many diesel exhaust fumes. 😉 Thanks, Bryce. Keep on huffin’! New listener Andrew writes after listening to TD99: Four Ways To Be An Awesome Trucker to tease me about wearing sweat pants and the frequency of the podcast. He also listened to TD33: Automatic Or Manual Truck Transmission and relays his experience. Here’s another reminder that I’m still looking for questions and comments about exercising on the road for an upcoming podcast on the subject. Send your thoughts to TruckerDump@gmail.com. I’m also looking for more stories about YOUR evil overlord. If your spouse has done something that MY Evil Overlord would approve of, please send it in, preferably in audio form. 2-3 minutes max and send it to TruckerDump@gmail.com. Looking forward to hearing the adventures of your evil overlord!  

TD112: Truckers Can’t Read

According to the FMCSA website, “You must be able t speak and read English to drive trucks in the United States (I had linked to the goof, but they apparently fixed it).” You know, I think this is one of those times where the word “ironic” actually works. Notice anything about this sentence? Yep. Our brilliant overseers somehow managed to misspell a two-letter word. Seriously. I copy/pasted it. Click the link if you don’t believe me. Man, I hope they don’t fix it now. You know, it’s time like these that I’m glad my blog is about as popular as a reality show about corporate accountants. Quite honestly, I didn’t trust my own eyes the first time I saw it; kinda like that time when I was 12 years old and my best friend and I spotted a discarded Playboy in the alley behind our small-town public library. Of course, now this Christian would just keep walking, but I WAS FREAKIN’ 12, MAN!!! AND THEY WERE NEKID!!!! Okay, let’s come off Memory Lane (or Memory Alley in this case) and get to the point. What the heck is wrong with truckers today? Can y’all not read or what? At least the 11 million or more illegal immigrants (depending who you ask) who come here every year have a legitimate excuse. But I see a crap-ton of cases every day where CDL-holding drivers apparently can’t read. Case in point… Anyone who has been on I-65 in Kentucky recently knows that pretty much the whole stinkin’ 137-mile stretch is plagued by bright orange Daleks. I’ve been there quite a lot lately and I can tell you firsthand that most truckers can’t read. Either that or they’re just blatantly ignoring traffic signs. But that can’t be right, can it? Truckers would never do that, would they? Apparently, they would. A big chunk of that road has signs that clearly read, TRUCKS MUST USE LEFT LANE. There are a bunch of them. I wasn’t keeping track, but I bet there’s a sign every 4-5 miles for at least 60-70 miles. I was in the left lane going 55 mph, because that’s how fast the other non-readable signs said to go. That’s when I realized I was the last remaining literate trucker. I had truckers screaming by me on my right side. Now since I also seem to be the last trucker on the planet that actually obeys the speed limit (Prime drivers don’t count – ooooo, burrrrrrn @DriverChrisMc), I wasn’t surprised in the least that everyone was passing me. What did surprise me is that no one… I mean NO ONE was getting back in the left lane after they had passed. They just stayed out in the right lane! So actually, they were even closer to those LEFT LANE signs than I was! And they still couldn’t read them! I simply don’t understand why. Like I said, I was the only one in the left lane that was within eyeshot, so it’s not like they had to stay out there to get around other trucks. And of course, the cars weren’t in the way because they were all going faster than the speeding trucks. Can someone please explain the rationale here? Now you all know how much I loathe the CB, but this is one time I couldn’t resist. I keyed up the mic and asked, “Am I the only one who can read? Or do y’all know something that I don’t?” Crickets. Now normally I’m on Team Trucker, but I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Where’s a cop when you need one?” Yes, I know what most of you are thinking, “You drive your truck and I’ll drive mine.” I hear you. Now shut up. It’s my blog. This all happened when I was southbound. When I headed back north a couple of days later, I thought to myself, “Surely that was a fluke. I’m sure it won’t be that bad on the way back up.” Well, I was kinda right. I had two other trucks who were content to fall in behind me and go 55 mph in the left lane. I saw a couple of law-abiding south-bounders too, but still, the vast majority of truckers were hammer down in the right lane again. I thought, “Maybe it’s just a Kentucky thing? Maybe there’s just so much whiskey in this state that everyone is blurry-eyed?” Nope. A couple days later I was on I-94 heading down into Chicago from Wisconsin. The signs there read, TRUCKS USE 2 RIGHT LANES. There were four lanes in my directions and I was in the far right lane like a good little boy. I get a cookie, right? Sure as shootin’, some hot dog trucker comes up in the third lane. He wasn’t going that fast, so why was he one lane left of legal? It was 4 AM, so it wasn’t heavy traffic. There weren’t even any vehicles in the second lane. Even more mind boggling, when another lane opened up so there were now five lanes, he scooted over one more to where he was now two lanes beyond legal. What the heck? Okay, fine. I get it. Trucking is hard. Being paid by the mile bites harder than a rabid crocodile. I also understand that you get dispatched on loads that couldn’t deliver on time even if you had a jumbo-sized Tardis. Also, your company’s E-logs give you less and less wiggle room. And of course, you need to speed to make up for the fact that your company’s routing software screws you out of at least 10% of the mileage on every trip. But maybe the problem is both the carriers and the driver. You say your mileage pay is lower than a snail’s bellybutton? Find a carrier who pays more. Can’t deliver that load on time without speeding? How about telling your dispatcher that their poor planning doesn’t necessitate you risking your CSA points, your CDL, and a handful of cash that your Evil Overlord would rather spend on pedicures than give to some small town Barney Fife. E-logs forcing you to drive faster? Well, get used to it. They’re coming to us all. And perhaps if you don’t like how you get shorted on mileage pay because you can’t fly like a crow, well…  well with that you’re pretty much screwed. Join the crowd. I just wish that so many drivers out here weren’t hell-bent on giving all us truckers a bad rep. I mean, I know that auto drivers are often as alphabet-challenged as all you truckers, but I can’t help but think that at least some of those Kentucky-bred 4-wheelers saw those signs and were wondering why all the trucks were in the right lane. Or were they? For all I know, they didn’t pass Reading class either and they thought I was the feminine wash bag who was blocking the fast lane. Who knows with them. The fact remains that you truckers are naughty little lads and lasses. And you know what that means… you’re going to have to wash your stocking the day after Christmas. I hear those lumps of coal can cause quite a mess. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Photo by MIT-Libraries via Flickr Creative Commons

Links mentioned in the podcast version:

A photo of my new house! Shaun from PowerTrainHorns.com made an infographic out of TD95: 4 Reasons That Trucker Might Be Tailgating You The folks at Fleetmover.com put the Trucker Dump podcast on their “Best Trucking (and Non-Trucking Podcasts To Listen To On The Road.” Sweet! I list some of the articles that are in the TruckerMagazine.com that I have been writing for. Check it out. Buck and Don from The Trucking Podcast have been riding me pretty hard (in good fun) about me wearing sweat pants at work. Buck wrote an article called 5 Acceptable Places To Wear Sweat Pants. Have a read and let me know what you think about truckers and sweats. Erich McMann has a new Christmas song called, Santa Was A Trucker. Check out the video here. The FMCSA misspelled the word “to” on their website (broken link). What makes it ironic is the misspelled word is on the page about truckers being required to be able to read and speak English. LOL I don’t mention this on the podcast, but I link to TD67: The Road To Smutville in the blog post. I bring out all the stops with two Dr. Who references in one podcast: Daleks and the Tardis. Look at me go! As so often happens, I mention three listeners today; Greg @RiverRatWA57, Long Duck @LongDuck71, and Chris @DriverChrisMc. Electronic logs are being forced on all truckers

TD103: 6 Causes Of Tired Truckers

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DroolingWell that’s just dandy. The entire non-trucking world is already convinced we truckers are all driving around with those gross eye boogers and now we get a high-profile story in the media that confirms their fear of tired truckers.

Now the only way you wouldn’t know what I’m talking about is if you’ve been doing missionary work in the jungles of Uganda. So here’s the basics: a Walmart driver recently slammed his truck into the back of a vehicle carrying comedian/actor Tracy Morgan (30 Rock) and some of his friends. One of them was killed, while Morgan and the others were critically injured. Apparently, sometime before the crash, the truck driver had bragged on Twitter about being awake for at least 24 hours. Brilliant. Juuuuuuust brilliant. Just what the trucking industry needs. Sheez Louise, driver. Why don’t you just tattoo a giant red target on your forehead?

So is it true? Are all truckers driving tired? For the most part, the answer is no. Most of us know when to get off the road before it’s too late. Although clearly, this case proves that there is at least some truth behind the allegations.

Now I haven’t spoken to this particular Walmart driver, but I have spoken to a few others. They assure me that if there is a procedure or a safety device available, Walmart has implemented or installed it. Walmart even made a statement that their electronic logs show the driver was legal at the time of the accident. How can that be? How can a driver be awake for over 24 hours and still be legal to drive?

First off, let me say I totally believe that the driver was “officially” legal to drive. I have an electronic log system in my truck similar to the one Walmart has. Most of the large trucking companies do nowadays.

And for the record, I don’t care what some obnoxious truckers say; if the carrier wants to make their e-logs tamper-proof, they can do it. I can’t edit diddly-squat on my e-logs and according to the Walmart drivers I’ve talked to, they can’t either. So if this guy’s logs say he was running legal, I buy it. But that doesn’t mean he should have been driving. I’ll explain as I go through the…

6 Causes of Tired Truckers (in no particular order)

#1 Cause of Tired Truckers: The 14-hour rule

All truckers must adhere to HOS (Hours-of-Service) rules set forth by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration), which is under the DOT (Department or Transportation). For the record, we drivers pretty much hate everything about all three of those abbreviations. 🙂

If you want a full, detailed description of the HOS rules, please check out TD94: Understanding the New Hours-Of-Service Rules. That was one looooong blog post and we don’t have time for it here. The rule that is the biggest culprit in making tired truckers is the 14-hour rule.

  • The 14-hour rule says that a driver cannot drive past the 14-hour mark from when they started their day. For example, if a driver started at 8 AM, they must not get behind the wheel after 10 PM without first taking a legal 10-hour break. They can, however, work after the 14-hour mark. So they could fuel, unload a trailer, or replace a tail light, but the trucker cannot drive again without getting that 10-hour break first.

I hate the 14-hour rule primarily because I now feel pressured to drive even if I’m tired. If we truckers want to maximize our time, we often don’t have time to stop and take a nap if we need one. Nor can we pull over and wait out rush hour. Now that’s really stupid. I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing most of the public would appreciate fewer big trucks clogging the highways at peak hours. Derrr.

But you know what? There is a way to extend the 14-hour work day. That’s good for us truckers, right? Well, here’s where we can get into some sleepy-time trouble.

#2 Cause of Tired Truckers: Long load/unload times

There is one exception to the 14-hour rule. If a driver logs a continuous 8-hours in the Sleeper Berth at any time after they start their day, the 14-hour day can be extended.

When a driver uses this 8-hour break to extend his day, we call it “splitting” because we now have to get our mandatory 10-hour break by splitting it into two segments, one of 8 hours and the other of 2 or more. Splitting sleeper berth time sucks for everyone. It’s meant to give us drivers flexibility, but all it does for most of us is confuse us to the point that we have to stop into the nearest Costco for a bulk pack of Extra Strength Excedrin. Bonus! It’s got caffeine!

The even sadder thing about being able to extend the 14-hour period is that is usually doesn’t accomplish it’s goal. The rule makers are willing to let you extend the time because they think you’re sleeping the whole time. Well, they’d be as wrong as a Hindu inhaling a Big Mac. As a matter of fact, here’s how it worked for me when this happened just the other day.

I had slept a full 8 hours of my 10-hour break and I eagerly headed out to pick up my load, which was supposed to be ready any time after 3:30 PM. I did my 15-minute pre-trip inspection and drove 45 minutes to the shipper, arriving at 8:00 PM. Sadly, my good mood is instantly squashed when the security guard said the load wouldn’t be ready until 4:00 AM. Okay. So now what?

Well, I immediately put my stupid electronic log onto Line 3 Sleeper Berth since extending your 14-hour day can only be done if the entire 8-hour break is logged as Sleeper Berth time. Okay. So I immediately go straight back to bed and sleep for 8 hours, right? Uhhh…NO! I just slept eight hours! I’ve got a better chance of becoming the next Pope than falling asleep again.

So instead, I procrastinate writing a blog post by watching some movies and playing QuizUp on my iPhone. By the way, my QuizUp username is ToddMcCann if you’re feeling macho enough to challenge me. So anyway, the time finally passes and I restart my day. So how many hours can I still drive?

Well, I only used 45 minutes of my 11 hours drive time earlier, so I still have 10 hours 15 minutes to drive. But the 14-hour rule also still applies to my new starting time. So I used 45 minutes of drive time and 15 minutes of On-Duty time. That’s 1 full hour of “working time” against my 14 hours, so I have to get the 10.25 hours of driving done within 13 hours.

That all sounds fine, but remember, I’ve already been awake since aproximately 7:00 PM. It is now 4:00 AM, so that’s 9 hours I’ve been awake already. But my logs tell me I have 10.25 hours to drive, meaning I could “legally” be behind the wheel until 5:00 PM if I wind up needing the whole 13 hours available on my 14-hour rule. Since that sentence was about as confusing as a fur coat-wearing PETA member, let me make it easy by saying that by the end of my shift I could have possibly been awake for 22 hours.

So what do you think most truckers do? We load up on caffeine and hit the road, that’s what we do. Remember, most OTR truckers only get paid when we’re moving. Now the smart ones know to pull over when they get too sleepy, but I’ll not lie and say that all truckers know when to call it quits. Clearly Mr. Roper thought his load was more important than his life. Or in this case, someone else’s life. Sad.

Extending the 14-hour rule is a great idea that in practice works about as well as booger-flavored candy. Okay. Bad example there. While grown-ups would hate that, kids would probably make it a best-seller. How about broccoli-flavored candy? Yea. That works much better. Even adults wouldn’t want that; unless of course, you’re a weird adult. And since you’re reading this, I’d say that’s a good possibility.

#3 Cause of Tired Truckers: Uncertainty of our next load

Most trucking companies try to let their drivers know what their next load is before they deliver their current one. These are called “Preplans.” They preplan us for two reasons:

  1. To stay ahead of the game to keep you moving. And…
  2. So that we can truckers can schedule our day to get sufficient sleep.

If you’re still going to have hours to drive when you get unloaded, naturally they’ll try to give you a load that picks up near you ASAP. If you’re nearly out of time, they’ll try to preplan your next load so that it gives you just enough time to take a legal 10-hour break and hit the road again. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

To explain how this can make truckers tired, let’s say you’ve slept all night and you get up and drive two hours to get unloaded. You still haven’t got your preplan yet. Maybe there just isn’t much freight moving. Or maybe your dispatcher or the much-hated planners just dropped the ball. Who knows? Finally, your satellite beeps. You say a silent prayer for a decent load and then mumble a naughty word when you see that it picks up 10 hours from now. Ugh.

Again, you’ve only driven for 2 hours, so you still have 9 hours left to drive. Now what? You can’t sleep because you just slept all night. And by the time you’re getting sleepy, it’s time to go pick up that load that needs to keep moving all night in order to deliver on time. So you won’t have time to get a nap, either. Even if you do have time on the delivery you might not have time due to the retarded 14-hour rule.

Often times, there just isn’t a whole lot us company drivers can do about this. After all, we don’t control what loads we get. But maybe if we had seen the preplan the day before, we could have adjusted our sleep.

For instance, if you knew you only had 2 hours to drive the next morning and then you had a 10-hour wait to pick up your next load, you might have decided not to sleep for 8 full hours. Maybe you would’ve only slept for 4 hours and then gotten up 4 hours earlier than when you needed to start driving. So now after you add your 2-hour drive time, you’ve been awake for 6 hours. Stay up 3-4 more hours and maybe, just maybe you can lay down and sleep for 6 hours or so. While not ideal, that’s usually enough to get us through.

No matter how you slice it though, you can see it will never be ideal, even if we do know what our next day’s schedule is. Now I can imagine what all you non-truckers are saying, “Don’t take the load if you need some sleep.” Yeah. That leads into the…

#4 Cause of Tired Truckers: We get paid by the mile, not by the hour

Unlike our hourly-paid brothers in Europe, we lowly US drivers get paid by the mile. While this is great for incentivizing drivers to work harder, it’s also the very thing that makes us less safe. We truckers don’t get paid big money to do worthless work, unlike so many of the high-level executives who got bonuses for mismanaging their companies to the point of needing bailout money… part of what went for more bonuses. Grrrr.

No, when we truckers get a load that we can legally run, we usually do it. Granted, most of us are smart enough drivers to know when we’re about to see polka-dot pandas floating across our vision. That’s when it’s time to pull over before we ass-end a celebrity’s vehicle and yell for the spotlight operator to shine the light on us.

It’s my firm belief that the vast majority of the problems in the American trucking industry would slowly work themselves out if we were switched to an hourly wage. If the trucking companies had to pay drivers to sit for five or six hours to be loaded, they’d start cracking down on the shippers/receivers. If they didn’t pay attention, the carriers would raise their rates to force them to pull their head out. And if they get their act together, then truckers aren’t in a rush to deliver. Nor are they needing to try to sleep during an unneeded 8-hour break.

The problem with the idea of going hourly is that I’m also just as certain that the hourly rate the carriers would come up with would be so low that it would drive even more truckers away from the industry than are already leaving. But that’s another issue altogether. Basically, we truckers have to move down the road to make money. And that’s what we do. But our friendly Walmart driver has an even bigger problem. Actually two.

#5 Cause of Tired Truckers: Minimal home time

There are all kinds of schedules for OTR (Over-The-Road) truckers, but the vast majority of us stay out for two to four weeks (or even longer) and then only get two or three days at home before we head back out to keep all you fine Americans stocked up on Budweiser and Cheetos.

What this means is that we have to try to get as much out of our home time as we can. You’re only home for so many hours and you’ve got to find time to spend with the spouse and the ankle-biters, fix the shower faucet (again), take the car in for service, and get your laundry done. And oh yeah. You might want to sleep some too… if there’s time.

I don’t know about you, but sleep is not usually my top priority when I’m home. It falls somewhere between fixing that stinkin’ repeat-offender faucet and spending time watching movies with The Evil Overlord or getting killed by the nephews (and every other online player for that matter) in Black Ops II.

The way it works at my house is that I have to conform to everyone else’s schedule. The Evil Overlord and our wallet-sucking nephews stay up really late on the weekends and basically all summer long. But even if they had normal, non-vampirish tendencies, it still wouldn’t matter. If I’ve driven 8-10 hours to get home and they’re all getting ready to go to bed, great; I can hit the sack too. But if they’re just getting up, what do you think I do? Go to bed for 8 hours? No! I stay up so I can be awake when they’re awake.

So maybe I’m shorted on sleep as soon as I get home. Maybe not. But now it’s time to hit the road again. Again, I’m on their schedule. If they’re getting up at 1 PM (not uncommon at all) and I need to leave about that time, everything is peachy. That happens about half the time. But say I need to leave at 6 AM in order to deliver my load on time. That’s about when they’re heading to Snoozville. So what now?

Well, for me that depends on the load. If I’ve got a long 8-11 hours of driving ahead of me, I’ll try to lay down and take a 3-4 hour nap before it’s time to go. But if I’ve only got 3-5 hours to drive, I’ll just stay awake and grab a giant mug of coffee on the way out the door.

It’s possible that this Walmart driver being awake for over 24 hours had something to do with this. He may have wanted to hang out with his family for as long as possible before leaving the house. Can’t fault him there I guess. But you do have to be smart about it and get some sleep even when you don’t want to.

It’s a good possibility he overestimated his machoness. We men tend to do that, you know. At least I think that’s what The Evil Overlord is implying when she calls me an Omega Male. (If you don’t get that joke, tweet me @ToddMcCann and I’ll explain. LOL) But wait. It’s possible that this driver had an even bigger problem.

#6 Cause Of Tired Truckers: Commuting

I’ll admit that for the most part, commuting isn’t a huge deal for truckers. Most trucking companies allow their OTR drivers to take their trucks home, so when they leave their house their logbook starts counting down. But some drivers don’t have that option. Like I said earlier, while Walmart is probably correct in saying the driver was driving “legal,” they may have neglected to mention that Mr. Roper had a commute that makes the Indy 500 look like a go-cart track.

That's one heck of a commute!

That’s one heck of a commute!

Apparently, Mr. Roper lived in Jonesboro, Georgia but worked out of a Walmart Distribution Center in Smyrna, Delaware. As you can see from the map, Google says that’s a 750-mile commute that will take 11 hours and 23 minutes! And from what I hear, most Walmart OTR drivers get home every 6-7 days! So it’s possible that this guy was making this commute each week. And remember, that 750 miles is one-way!

According to the Walmart drivers I’ve talked to, this is a somewhat common practice for Walmart drivers. Granted, the drivers I’ve spoken with had never heard of a driver living this far from his home terminal. Over a Steak-n-Shake sundae, one Walmart driver told me that it’s so hard to get hired that many drivers will take any driving job Walmart has available just to get their foot in the door. Then after a position opens at a terminal closer to them, they transfer locations to lessen their commute.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most drivers. We’ve all heard the stories about how much money Walmart drivers make. Another driver said he lived 3 hours from his terminal. He said he always got to the yard early enough to get some sleep before he had to leave, but I’ll bet that’s not completely true 100% of the time.

Now we don’t know Mr. Roper’s situation. Maybe he had just moved to Georgia and he hadn’t been able to transfer to a closer terminal yet. Or maybe he was tolerating a 750-mile commute just to “get his foot in the door.” We just don’t know. Just like I don’t know if my summary of this tragic accident has a shred of truth. But here goes.

To sum up…

If I had $100 to spare, I’d be willing to bet you that the accused Walmart driver left the house, drove over 11 hours to work, hopped in his truck, and did a full 11-hour shift. That would put him awake for 22 hours. Figure in some pee breaks and moving his crap from car to truck and you could easily see him being awake over 24 hours. Worst case scenario is that he didn’t sleep a full 8 hours before he left the house either. And that’s also a possibility I could easily see happening.

So how could this particular accident have been avoided? Well, I’m guessing like so many trucking companies who punish all their drivers for the stupidity of a few, I’d be willing to toss out another $100 that Walmart will be changing their policy about how far a driver can live from a terminal. There doesn’t seem to be a limit as of now, but expect one in the future.

But this incident is a specific case. So what can be done to stop tired truckers from driving? Nothing really, barring a switch to hourly pay for all CDL holders. That would certainly limit the wasted time at shippers/receivers. But that ain’t-a-gonna-happen anytime soon, if ever.

As bad as I hate to admit it, electronic logs help some, but they can’t control how much we sleep we get before we get behind the wheel either. The HOS rules definitely need some tweaking to add more flexibility too. After all, a driver knows when they need to sleep more than the beaurocrats at the FMCSA.

So it basically boils down to this. Drivers need to know their limits and get off the road before those adorable polka-dot pandas attack. Wow. If I had just said that one line at the beginning, I could’ve saved 3,368 words. Oh well. You know me…

TD101: Stupid Rules That Truckers Tolerate

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Oops. I guess I pulled from the dock too early.

Oops. I guess I pulled from the dock too early.

Any trucker who’s driven for more than a week will tell you that there are stupid rules everywhere in the trucking industry. Naturally, if you’re one of those truckers, your thoughts immediately flew to the well-meaning, but ignorant rule-makers at the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration, or FMCSA for short. But today is not the day to rail against the FMCSA. I’ve done plenty of venting about them in the past. Just type “FMCSA” into the search bar if you don’t believe me. We also won’t be discussing bad trucking company policies. I did touch on that way back in TD10: When Company Policy Overrides Common Sense. No, today we’re talking about stupid rules that are put into place by the shippers and receivers we truckers deal with every day.

Stupid rules caused by stupid truckers

You know, if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that people are often idiots. I think we can all agree on that just by watching one short episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Or if you’re a trucker, you can simply look out your windshield for the next three seconds. Now it wouldn’t be so bad if all these idiots could be stupid in a vacuum, but unfortunately their stupidity oozes out onto the rest of us like a jelly donut inevitably squirts raspberry goo onto your new white shirt. What I’m trying to say is that all too often the stupid rules we truckers have to follow can be traced back to some crap-for-brains trucker screwing it up for everyone.

Dock accidents

At some time or another, some trucker has tried to pull away from the dock before they were supposed to. Whether this was an impatient trucker, a simple lack of communication, or possibly a bit of both, it really doesn’t matter; the trucker will likely take the blame. The shippers/receivers have come up with all sorts of ways to keep dock accidents from happening. Before we get into the stupid rules, we should discuss the things that shippers/receivers have done to prevent dock accidents.

  • Photo by Eric Blacker; darkstaff on Flickr,  @darkstaff on Twitter

    Photo by Eric Blacker; darkstaff on Flickr, a.k.a. @darkstaff

    Dock lights – Every modern dock is equipped with these lights. They are always on the outside of the building on the driver’s side of the dock so the driver can see them from the driver’s seat. If the light is green, that means the trucker can back in or pull away from the dock safely. If it’s red, you should keep your stinking hands off the gear shift. These lights are reversed on the dock side, so when the driver has the green, the forklift driver gets a red light, meaning they shouldn’t go onto the trailer. Likewise, when the driver sees the red light, that means it should be safe for the lift driver to go on and off the trailer.

  • Photo by Eric Blacker; darkstaff on Flickr, a.k.a @darkstaff

    Photo by Eric Blacker; darkstaff on Flickr, a.k.a @darkstaff

    Dock restraint systems – These restraint systems are designed to lock the trailer against the dock. There are many manufacturers, but they all pretty much do the same thing. A giant hook comes out and latches onto the bumper of the trailer. These restraints work on all trailers because every trailer since the early 80s is required to have a DOT (Department of Transportation) regulated rear bumper installed for safety reasons.

It’s important to note that both of these safety devices can only be controlled from inside the building. And more often than not, there’s a sign stating that the driver is not allowed to touch the controls. Okay, so you’d think that would be enough, right? Well, apparently not because many shippers/receivers have implemented additional guidelines that can be characterized as nothing less than overkill. Oh boy, if my brother knew I just said “Overkill,” he’d be wigging out. He does love his 80s metal bands. So now we get to the stupid rules ranting. Let’s go.

Overkill dock safety practices

Chocking a tire – (see picture) Most companies have chock blocks sitting out and there are signs stating that you won’t get loaded until you stick one under your trailer tire. Sometimes the loader checks this visually, other times not. Now these chock blocks won’t keep a torque monster like a semi from pulling away from the dock if you’ve got a mind to, but they will provide enough resistance to hopefully wake you up out of your stupor. Okay. So now we have something stuck under one tire. Fine. Combined with the dock lights and the restraint system, that should be enough, right? Well, that depends how anal the shipper/receiver is.

Chocking two tires – Okay, now we’re getting into overkill land. Some customers will have you use two chock blocks, one for each side of the trailer. Does this make any sense? Sure, it might double the resistance factor, but it seems a bit excessive. Or does it? Maybe not. Cuz some companies go even further.

Blue is service line. Red is supply (emergency) line.

Blue is service line. Red is supply (emergency) line.

Air line locks – The braking system on a tractor-trailer is controlled by air. The blue line you see in the photo is the service line. It regulates air to the brakes. If you press hard on the brake pedal, it forces more air to apply the brakes harder. The red line is the supply line (or emergency line). It’s job is to supply a steady stream of air to the air tanks on the trailer. If the pressure drops too low, the trailer brakes will lock up. This is the loud pop and whooshing sound you hear when we are parking.

Photo by Hy Ryan

Photo by Hy Ryan

An air line lock is used to make sure the trailer brakes stay locked. This small device is attached to the glad hand by an employee of the customer. Since the red air line can’t be attached at the same time, this really does a good job of keeping the trailer in place. Even if a trucker wanted to, they probably couldn’t move the trailer. With those trailer brakes locked, even a torqued-out diesel engine usually can’t drag a loaded trailer with the air brakes locked.Okay.

So now if I want to move this trailer before I’m supposed to, I’ll have to ignore the red light, rip the restraint system off the wall, and run over two chock blocks. But that’s only after I take a sledge-hammer to the air line lock. Yeesh. Is this step really necessary? But wait! There’s more!

Disconnect from the trailer – We’re not talking about just the red air line here. We’re talking unhooking both air lines, the electrical line, the fifth wheel, lowering the landing gear, and pulling out from under the trailer. Sometimes they’ll let you sit in front of the trailer. Other times they’ll have you go park in another area. So now I’m not even hooked to the trailer. Finally! Safety has been assured, yes? You would think, wouldn’t you?

Take your keys inside – Believe it or not, there are still some customers who take it one step further: you have to take your keys inside and hang them on a board or give them to the shipping clerk. Sometimes they’ll let you go back out to your truck, but there are just as many who require you to stay in the building. So now we’re completely safe. No chance of pulling away from the dock. But just to be safe…

Lock your keys in a locker – Okay. Let me go ahead and say that this has only happened to me a few times in my 17-year career. Still, it has happened. I’ve done all the aforementioned stuff and when I went inside they actually take my keys and lock them in a locker. Only after they’ve finished loading/unloading and I have my paperwork in hand do they hand me the key to the padlock. Hellooooo? Have we reached Paranoiaville yet?

Other miscellaneous stupid customer rules

One of many stupid customer rules

One of many stupid customer rules

No idling – I’ve already covered this topic in far greater detail way back in TD11: The Insanity of Truck Idling Laws. As a matter of fact, that whole article was brought about by this very situation. I was sitting at a customer who wouldn’t allow trucks to idle while being loaded. Other customers go so far as to say there is no idling whatsoever allowed on their property; sitting in a dock or not. Okay; let me be brief. Here are 3 reasons no-idling rules aren’t cool:

  1. A co-driver could be trying to sleep.
  2. I could be either colder than Eskimo snot or hotter than Daisy Duke in a jacuzzi.
  3. I might need to idle to power all my electrical crap. Enough said.

Both drivers must exit the truck – The Evil Overlord and I have dealt with this in two scenarios. One; they don’t want either driver in the truck while they’re loading/unloading. Again, 9 times out of 10 this disrupts one of the driver’s sleep. That’s just so uncool, man. And secondly, they’ve needed us both to check in at the shipping/receiving office.

Honestly, this latter situation hasn’t happened a lot, but it really hacked me off every time it did. And if was peeved, you can imagine how pleased The Evil Overlord was. Especially when she was the one having to get out of bed. Seriously, if it’s a security issue (like a high-value load), what’s the point of dragging both of us inside? If the truck or any of its product gets stolen, the company I drive for knows everything about both of us, including our social security numbers. And if they know what truck number picked up the load (and how could they not if they sent me to get it), they know who is driving the truck. And let’s not forget that most trucks have satellite systems that can be tracked too. Overkillllll!

Unreasonable speed limits – Why is it that a customer can post a 10 mph sign and every driver is expected to do it, except of course, all the yard jockeys… who are apparently trying to run down The Flash? Listen, I understand the need to not have every truck flying around the parking lot, but if I’ve got to go to the far side of that huge warehouse, I’d like to get there sometime before tomorrow afternoon. Lighten up already!

Shipper load/driver count – I covered all this junk back in TD32: SLC to CYA, but I’ll touch on this particular one again. Sometimes the shipper will claim responsibility for the correct count of the product. That’s called a Shipper Load and Count, or SLC.

Other times, they pass it off onto the driver. We call this Shipper Load/Driver Count, or SLDC. In this situation, we drivers have to stand by the dock door and count the product as it’s loaded. Here’s the problem with this; we don’t know the product. Now if the loader tells us that each pallet has 30 cases of prune juice, then that’s easy enough to count; 6 boxes on each row, 5 rows, equals 30 cases… and lots of pooping. But if it gets any more confusing than that, how are we to really know what we’re signing for?If they tell me there’s 200 boxes per pallet, how easy is it to know for sure? How do I know the loader hasn’t taken 10 cases out of the middle of the stack and hidden them in the trunk of his car? And if the pallets are double-stacked… well, then I’m really clueless about what’s on that bottom pallet.

My point is, why should it be the driver’s responsibility to make sure the trailer is loaded with the right amount and correct type of product? Loaders should be responsible for loading. I mean, I don’t ask the receiver to back my truck into the dock, do I? That’s my job. What the heck is his if it’s not loading trucks?

Cleanliness of trailers – I haul sugar quite a bit. These loads are known as “food grade” loads. Not only are these loads a pain because they’re heavier than Jared before Subway, but these customers also require you to get on your hands and knees to lick your trailer floor clean. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad. But I have had trailers rejected for what seems like ridiculous reasons.

Listen, I understand the concept of “food grade.” As one annoying sugar plant supervisor once told me, “How would you like to find metal shavings in your food?” Well I wouldn’t. But still… I have been rejected due to a few (and I mean less than a dozen) teeny, tiny, little metal shavings before. We’re talking smaller than a grain of rice here.

Again, I understand “food grade.” But can you tell me exactly how a rice-sized metal shaving is going to jump off the floor, over a wooden pallet, rip through some plastic shrink-wrap and the heavy paper packaging for each bag of sugar, and somehow manage to embed itself into the sugar? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Oh. And did I mention these tiny specks of hellish impurity are usually only still there because they’re down in a crack in the floor of the trailer? Yeah…

So there you have it. These are just a few of the stupid rules that we truckers have to deal with every day. Now I know we truckers aren’t alone here. I’m sure every non-trucker has their own set of stupid rules they’re required to follow too. Heck, just look right here inside our own industry for a great example: The members of the FMCSA are a bunch of non-truckers who have to make up rules for those of us who are truckers. Talk about stupid. Now where’s that Daisy Duke link again? 😀

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So what have I missed? What’s the most customer overkill you’ve witnessed? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll share them on a future podcast too!