Hours of service

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, 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, Help me 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

   

TD131: Review Of The FleetUp Trace ELD

I’ll never forget this. It was December 17, 2017 and I was walking out of the shower room at the Flying J in Fargo, ND. That’s when I saw the trucker sitting alone in the driver’s lounge. He was opening a box. What was that look on his face? Horror? Disgust? Fear? 

My guess is it was probably a little of each. You see, he was opening a new Electronic Logging Device, or ELD. Nothing like waiting until the last second. As we all know, the ELD mandate started the next day. I’m sure many of you went through the same emotional trauma.

Those of you new to ELDs have had them in your trucks for over 8 months now. By now you’ve had plenty of time to figure out what you like and dislike about your current setup. Is it hard to use? Is the software confusing? Does the hardware feel cheap and flimsy? 

Well perhaps you should have a look at the Trace by FleetUp. FleetUp sent me a unit for testing and I’ve been using it for about three months. Well, sort of. You see, I learned a valuable lesson. I’m NEVER going to test another ELD unit! But before you go thinking that’s a slight against the Trace, let me explain.

Disclaimer

No one likes disclaimers, but I feel I need to for this review. You see, in order to truly put an ELD through its paces, you need to have both the software and the hardware plug-in device. Without the plug-in device, the software can’t tell when the truck is moving. And since that’s the very purpose of ELDs, well, you see the problem.  

So as you’ve probably already guessed, I did not have the plug-in device. FleetUp wanted to send one to me, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to install it because I’m a company driver. My safety department said that I couldn’t install it for two reasons:

  1. Another elog device would mean I was running two log books. Last time I checked, that was still illegal. 
  2. My company doesn’t even allow me to put stickers on the windows, let alone install an electronic device that hooks into the truck’s computer! 

To remedy this problem, Kimberli (one of my contacts at FleetUp) installed it on her personal vehicle. This obviously wasn’t ideal, but we did what we had to do and worked around the issues as best as possible. So now that you have a frame of reference, let’s move on.

The Trace Tablet

The Trace device itself is impressive. It is a 7” tablet with a bright orange case, surrounded by a thick, black bumper. I couldn’t believe how heavy the unit was when I first picked it up! It feels like a tank could run over it and the Trace would taunt it with a “neener neener” as it rolled away with its turret between its legs. Second disclaimer: If you’re lucky enough to own a tank, please don’t actually try this. But please DO invite me for a ride-along! Please God, let there be live ammo.

Not only is the Trace case (hey, I’m a poet!) incredibly thick, but part of the weight comes from the metal strip on the back that sticks to the magnets on the mount. The design works perfectly, despite its heft. The first time I used it, I didn’t get the mounting bracket’s suction cup attached to the windshield sufficiently and it popped off in transit. The whole thing, tablet and mount, went crashing to the floor. When I picked it up, they were still connected! The magnet on the RAM mount is so powerful that I’m pretty sure I saw a 747 lose some altitude when it flew overhead. What? It could happen! 

The screen on the Trace is super bright. Only in the harshest of direct sunlight did I have any problems seeing what was onscreen. That’s par for the course with mobile devices. It is both dust and water resistant and can be submerged in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes, not that I can see any scenario where you’d want to do that. As heavy as the Trace is, it would drop you like an anchor if you tried to snorkel with it. 

There is a 13 Megapixel camera with Flash LED on the back, a power button, volume buttons, a headphone jack, a return button, a SIM card slot, a Micro SD card slot, a USB-C port for charging and data transfer, and a cool SOS button that will automatically dial a preprogrammed phone number. And there’s one more button that for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it does. All these ports and buttons have covers over them to promote the dust and water resistance claims. Battery life will last a couple of days if you don’t have the screen on the whole time. But honestly, if you’re using it on the mount you may as well leave it plugged in.

The Trace comes with a hand strap, a really nice carry case, a 64GB Micro SD card and SD card adapter, an AT&T SIM card, and a USB-C cable for charging and computer transfer with both AC and DC plugs. You can include one of two different length of RAM mounts with magnets when you order. 

If you’ve never heard of RAM mounts, they are some of the sturdiest you can buy. They also have interchangeable heads to suit your ever-changing mobile device needs. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that the suction cup requires an extremely smooth surface like glass. I wanted to install it on the face of my dashboard, but even though none of the surfaces on my dash are very course, the RAM mount was having none of it. Once you get good suction on the windshield though, The Hulk would have a hard time ripping it off.  

The FleetUp Software

I’ve always been a huge fan of the color orange, so I was tickled orange (you see what I did there?) when I powered up the Trace to discover a bright orange screen appear. A quick swipe up (on screen directions) reveals four app icons: FleetUp HOS, FleetUp Camera, CamScanner, and TeamViewer QuickSupport. We’ll get back to these apps in a second.

Another nice touch is that it includes the Tech Support email address and phone number right on the main screen. No more plummeting the depths of a website to find out how to get help! Woo-hoo!  

The software seems plenty snappy too. When it comes to software, there are few things more frustrating than slow, laggy software. I should know. The PeopleNet elogs my company uses are on a Samsung Galaxy tablet and it sometimes takes a 3-4 seconds for anything to happen after you touch the screen. That causes a lot of miss clicks and that’s just gross. Not so with the Trace. You touch and it responds immediately.

One thing I really like is that the Trace is literally just a tablet running Android. While the FleetUp apps are front and center, just behind the scenes you can install whatever apps you want on the device. For instance, FleetUp is working on a navigation solution, but for now you can download Google Maps or any of the truck-specific GPS apps you favor and it will run it just fine. 

You can even install games and social media apps. It’s basically a multi-use device that you can use for both business and pleasure. Just don’t nod off while reading in bed with the Trace held above your head. As heavy as it is, you might wind up with a concussion.  

FleetUp HOS App

FleetUp HOS is the elog app. It is FMCSA compliant and can even do IFTA fuel tax automation and reporting. Nice! 

It also claims to be the only elog system with a voice assistant. I have to say that while the voice is way more robotic than Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, it’s still extremely helpful when you’re first getting started with the app. 

Not only will the voice assistant walk you through the setup process, but it will also warn you when you’re running out of hours. One thing I was especially grateful for was how it kept reminding me to fill out my Daily Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) each day. In my defense, it was easy to forget when the DVIR was due based on how Kimberli was driving, not me. 

And remember, the voice assistant will only speak up if you’re about to screw up. It’s also good to know that you can disable the voice once you feel comfortable that you know what you’re doing. By and large, I give the voice assistant a big thumbs up. 

There are two main sections in the FleetUp HOS app: Status and Logs.

Logs Screen

The Logs screen is where you’ll find your typical elog graph like our old beloved paper logs. You can also select a calendar to see previous days and one tap will show your 8-day recap. 

There is a green line that takes the place of your ink pen, indicating what you’ve been up to and there is also a vertical red line that indicates where you need to stop driving. First, you’ll see the red line where you need to take your 30-minute break after 8 hours of working. After that, it will readjust to your 11 or 14, depending how crappy your day has been. I never got to the 70-hour warning, but I’m sure the red line would warn you when it’s drawing near too. 

I did see some goofs in both the red line and the green duty line every now and then. At one point I had a diagonal green line going backwards from the Sleeper Berth line to the Driving line (see photo). Maybe I’m a time traveler and just never knew it? 

I also had some instances where the red line wasn’t placed correctly. Honestly, I chock both of these malfunctions up to trying to share a vehicle with Kimberli. I’ll explain here in a second.

 

Status screen

The Status screen is what you see when you’re driving. You’ll see four different colored circles that count down the time available on your 8, 11, 14 and 70-hour clocks. Again, I had some goofs with these too, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You’ll also see where you can log a Yard Move or Personal Conveyance.

Here’s what was happening. As with most electronic logs, you tap a button to indicate whether you want to go to the Off-Duty, Sleeper, or On-Duty status, but the Driving line can only be controlled by the hardware plug-in that was installed on Kimberli’s car. So you can imagine how many violations I was getting without knowing her every move. 

Since I couldn’t place myself on the Driving line, I would often put myself on the On-Duty line while I was driving. Since there was no way Kimberli was going to drive anywhere close to 11 hours per day, it was really my only option if I wanted to test the warnings and the logging system. Many times, I’d wake up to a violation because she drove to work without allowing 8-10 hours after I showed going into the Sleeper. Again, nothing she could have foreseen. 

Same with the red line. I might’ve went On-Duty at 10 AM and expected to see the 8-hour red line at 6 PM, but I’d see it at a different time because Kimberli started her day before I did. So as I said, unique circumstances here, so nothing I’d worry about. But now you can see why I’ll never do another ELD review, right?

FleetUp Camera App

FleetUp Camera is basically a dash cam app. Like any dash cam, it will constantly record and erase video as it needs. In the event of a crash, it will save the last bit of video. You can also tap the screen to save a chunk of video. This is great for those times when another driver does something stupid in camera view, but you’re lucky enough to not be involved. Here we come, YouTube! You can also save photos on the fly. Just touch a button and keep on truckin’.  

The dash cam has different settings depending on what time of day, weather conditions, etc. To be honest, the only time I could tell a major difference was switching from day to night mode.

The Trace shines in it’s ability to multitask. You can run the dash cam in the background while the elogs are still doing their thing, or you can put the dash cam on screen the whole time. And if you want to save battery life, you can kill the screen and both apps will continue to work in the background. 

The only problem I had with the FleetUp Camera app was finding a good position for the tablet on my dash. I really hate to have anything on my dash that blocks my view of the road. That was a problem with the shorter RAM mount they sent me. 

As I mentioned earlier, the suction cup wouldn’t stick to the vertical face of my dashboard so I had to mount it on the windshield on my far left (where the glass was closest to the edge of the dash). Due to the location of the camera on the back of the device, the only way I could get the camera to “peek” over the dash without obstructing my view was to put it in portrait mode (vertical) with most of the device below my dash. It was actually nice to have the device out of my way, but it was awkward to use the elogs with my left hand.  

Again, none of this would be an issue if you don’t mind mounting it on top of your dash. Or perhaps the longer RAM mount might do the trick. All in all, it’s not a deal breaker.

Listeners of the Trucker Dump Podcast might be thinking, “Hey, Todd doesn’t like dash cams, so why is he promoting one.” Well, you’re correct that I not a fan (that’s a whole other topic), but if you are, the Trace makes a good one. 

Cam Scanner App

This app is great for scanning your documents, such as bills of lading and receipts, electronically. Perfect for the slob who uses his dash as a filing cabinet! Get rid of all that paper!

You can take a photo with the camera and it will automatically recognize the borders of the document and resize everything. If it’s off a bit, you can easily adjust the edges. It will then process it to make the text clearer and show you the results. If you don’t like those results, you can alter the contrast with some additional settings. 

Now that it’s too your liking, you can easily share the document (or multiple documents) via email, messaging apps like Whats App, or social media apps like Facebook and Twitter. You can even annotate the document if you have an app called InNote installed. With this, you can draw lines, circles, arrows, and make handwritten notes to bring attention to something on the page. Nifty, huh?

Another cool feature is the Recognize button. Tap that and it will automatically OCR the document. Yes, that’s a fancy term. It stands for Optical Character Recognition. In simple terms, it recognizes words in a photo and saves them. This makes it easy to search for a document later. 

Maybe you can’t remember where you saved a scanned document, but if you know you’re looking for the inspection form you got from the Oklahoma State Trooper, all you have to do is search for one of the words you know will be on the document, such as Oklahoma. Viola! Found it!

There is also a Note button, which enables you to type a message that will be attached to the document. For instance, if a paper receipt you scanned only says “Miscellaneous $15,” you can type a note saying the fee is for parking. Before we move on, let’s all have a moment of silence to curse the truck stop owners who charge for parking.

TeamViewer Quick Support App

TeamViewer is a nice app to have if you’re having issues with your Trace. When you start a TeamViewer session, someone from tech support can remotely access your device. They can either control the device themselves or they can watch what you’re doing. 

Either way, you can feel comfortable about it because you can still see everything that is happening onscreen. Let’s hope you never have any problems with the Trace or the FleetUp apps, but this is technology after all. If you do, at least you know TeamViewer Quick Support is just a tap away.

So what is the cost?

The price of the Trace is $683, which honestly seemed a bit steep to me at first. But then I remembered that this is a multi-use device. 

You can use it as a log book. It’s also a dash cam. It also makes for a great large screen GPS navigation device. You can read ebooks or listen to audiobooks and podcasts. You can even play games on it! Basically, you can download any Android app as long as you’ve got the space on the micro SD card (although there are monthly data allowances to watch – stay tuned for pricing).  

And let’s not forget that the Trace is a highly ruggedized device. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, I’m guessing that the Trace would probably still be humming right along while you’re being vaporized.

So can you buy a 7” Android tablet, a GPS navigation device, and a dash cam for $683? Possibly, but why not have one device instead of three?

The RAM mounts are $70 for the longer model and $60 for the short one.

There is a monthly fee of $25 for using the FleetUp software on the Trace. This includes 500 megabytes of data usage (the website says 1 GB now so this may have changed). There are additional plans with more bandwidth if you’re a data hog.

No hardware needed?

One thing I should point out is that you can use the FleetUp apps without spending $683 for the Trace. If you already have an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you can download the FleetUp apps for free and only pay the $25 per month, per device. 

For instance, if you had three drivers with three devices, the cost would be $75 per month ($25 x 3). But if you were running three team trucks, you’d have 6 drivers instead of three. Each additional person is $10 per month, so in that case, your monthly bill would be $75 (three drivers with devices) plus $30 ($10 for each surplus driver), for a total of $105 per month. Not bad for covering 6 drivers!

The summary

We all heard about the ONE20 ELD going away. My guess is this is just the first of many companies that won’t make the cut. I’m no fortune teller, but I don’t think FleetUp will be one of those companies. I could be wrong, but they just seem to have their crap together. Have a look at the FleetUp website and you’ll see that they have their hand in more baskets than just the Trace. 

The FleetUp Trace ELD is a solid piece of hardware with the ability to take the place of multiple trucking-related devices and it’s easy to use, thanks in part to the voice assistant. The monthly cost is in range with other ELDs and FleetUp is actively developing and supporting their products and services. And remember, the software is free to download if you already have a mobile device to put it on. 

So in the end, the only thing you really have to worry about is dropping the Trace on your foot while wearing flip-flops! 

 

TD130: How Much Should Truckers Bend The Rules?

The trucking industry is full of opportunities to fudge things. But the question is; should we? Where do we draw the line between fact and fiction; between right and wrong? In other words, how much should truckers bend the rules?

The trucking industry is full of opportunities to fudge things. But the question is; should we? Where do we draw the line between fact and fiction; between right and wrong? In other words, how much should truckers bend the rules?

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This was the topic of a conversation I had in the Trucker Dump Slack group after a friend called me out about something I mentioned doing. He was basically questioning whether what I was doing was moral or not. For the record, this is one of the things that I love about the Trucker Dump Slack group. We can always have a lively, yet civil conversation without anyone get bent out of shape and resorting to personal insults. So anyway, I don’t fault this guy at all for questioning my morals. In fact, I welcome it. 

You see, this guy is a friend of mine and a fellow Christian. Stick with me here. The religious stuff will be over in a minute. I just need to set the stage so you can see where we are both coming from. 

Even non-Christians know the verse in the Bible about not judging other people. Heck, they quote it all the time to justify some of their behaviors. This makes sense when you’re talking about unbelievers. Why should a Christian judge them against something that this person doesn’t even believe? On a side note, people who disagree with Christians should remember this works in reverse. Anywho…

But far too often Christians use this rule amongst themselves too. And that is not what the Bible says. There are many verses saying that we are supposed to hold our fellow Christians accountable; that we are to call them out and try to help bring them back if they are going down a slippery slope. So with that explained, let’s move on to what my friend was calling me out on. Sunday school class is dismissed. 😉

The setup

The Evil Overlord (wife and ex-codriver) and I are planning to go on a little trip to her aunt and uncle’s lake house this weekend. We’ll be doing some skiing, some canoeing, some fishing, some jet skiing, and possibly some golf if we can squeeze in a few extra hours to look for my golf ball in the weeds. We haven’t done anything like this in ages, so we’re both really looking forward to it. 

Now here’s the problem. To enjoy a mini vacation, you need money, right? My week was looking like I was going to have a measly 2000 miles. However, if I could deliver my 700-mile load by Friday midnight, I would jump from a bad paycheck to an excellent paycheck. Only problem was I needed to go 616 miles in 11 hours… in a 64 mph truck… on a Friday… around Atlanta and down to the Orlando area.

No problem since I’m a super-trucker and all. This friend of mine didn’t think I could do it. I told him he should go ahead and wash his feet so they would taste better when I proved him wrong.

Well, I am awesome, so I arrived at 11:30 PM with about 40 minutes left on my 11-hour driving clock. I went into the office, only to find out there wasn’t going to be anyone who could sign for delivery until 4 AM. The dock guy refused to sign the bill.

The questionable choice

Here’s where the dilemma comes in. In order to get paid for a load, my company has to receive my Arrived at Consignee (fancy word for Receiver) and Empty computer messages by Friday midnight. So now what? I reeeeally needed those miles for a good paycheck.

For starters, I had run all the miles, but I had not “officially” delivered the load yet; not without that signature and dropping the trailer. Here’s some other things that factored into my decision. I had been to this place before and knew it was a drop and hook. I could see at least 5 empty trailers from my cab so I knew it wouldn’t wind up being a live unload.

I also knew that a product count was not necessary at the time of delivery. Furthermore, this warehouse opens the trailer doors from the inside, so you can’t even break the seal (that verifies the trailer has not been opened in transit) before backing into the dock. So basically, I knew this drop was happening no matter what. There was absolutely no reason to reject the load. 

So I sent the Arrived and Empty messages and told the gang in the Trucker Dump Slack group about it. For the record, I would not have made this choice if I had been even 10 miles from the delivery. 

That’s when my friend rightly questioned my honesty. His point was that if my company’s policy considered a load to be delivered only after the bills were signed, then it is a lie to turn in that message before that process is complete. Officially, he is 100% correct. He’s also only been driving for a little over a year. I truly believe that just like The Evil Overlord and me, his sense of things will change the further along his trucking career goes.

He was also concerned that it might screw up my dispatcher if they thought I had already dropped the load, when in reality I hadn’t. He thought they might go ahead and dispatch me on another load. He’s also 100% right about that. But I had that problem licked too. I already had my next two loads planned out, so that wasn’t going to be an issue unless dispatch changed something on their end (which I admit is totally possible).

The question of right and wrong

I remember back when The Evil Overlord and I first starting trucking. We went in determined to follow the rules to the letter of the law. We were going to obey all company policies and we were going to run our logbook completely legal. No hot dogging it for us! Oh, the naïvety of the newbie! 

The insanity of the paid-by-the-mile standards

It wasn’t long before we realized that the trucking industry is full of stupid rules. For instance, we discovered right away that we NEVER got paid for all the miles we ran. We were even paid Practical miles at our first company and it still shorted us! It only got worse at subsequent companies when we discovered the Household Mover’s Guide method of figuring paid miles. What a joke! 

For you non-truckers, this method pays Post Office to Post Office, not actual addresses, which we all know is totally doable with today’s GPS technology. Yet most carriers still calculate with this method. Why? Because it generally pays the driver about 10% fewer miles than they’ve actually driven… and because they can get away with it. 

Getting your loads turned in on time

Another example is getting paid for loads. Back when we started, our paychecks were determined by what loads we could get turned in by noon on Tuesday. These were the days when many companies still had you mail in your paperwork before you could get paid! Seriously! Snail mail! Like a caveman!

So we might deliver a load Friday night, but the mail system wouldn’t get it to the payroll department until Wednesday night. How fair is that? That often translated in not being able to make your mortgage payment one week and getting raped by the IRS on the following week’s paycheck.

Eventually, carriers started using electronic methods like Transflo to send in your paperwork. While this was better, it still required you to be at a truck stop with a Transflo kiosk by a set deadline. If you didn’t have a load going toward one in time, you were screwed! Thankfully, Transflo now has a mobile phone app so I can actually send in my paperwork minutes after I deliver. Not that I need to anymore since as I said before, all they need is my Arrived and Empty messages to be sent in on the truck’s communication device. Please keep in mind that each carrier handles this differently. I’m sure there are many that still require paperwork in hand to pay you for the load.

The fudging of log books

And of course, there’s the trucker’s logbook. For you non-truckers, we drivers have to keep a record of every moment of our day. Nowadays it’s all done electronically, making it harder to cheat the system.  But back in the day, we used paper logs.

It was a fairly common practice to fudge paper logs. The Evil Overlord and I never really abused it (possibly because we were a team operation that didn’t really need to), but many drivers used to run two log books. One of the log books would look legal because they would leave out entire trips after the fact so they could log more hours in a week. The other book was so they could keep track of their lies.

In all honesty, we never did that. The most I was ever off was about 3 hours. I don’t even remember the circumstances, but as luck would have it I got pulled into a Kansas weigh station for a paperwork check. The trooper briefly examined my log book and handed it back. How he didn’t notice that I shouldn’t have been standing there for another three hours is beyond me, but I was obviously overjoyed! I never got that far out of sync again. 

But the trucking industry isn’t a perfect world. There were times when you couldn’t find parking and you had to drive a little over your time. We just drove however many minutes less the next day to make up for it. 

Or maybe there was a traffic jam due construction or a wreck that would delay us 3 hours. We’d log those three hours like we took them at a truck stop. According to my paper logs, I don’t think I ever had a delay due to traffic. See how lucky paper logs are?! 

The nickel and diming

The point is, trucking companies don’t succeed by throwing their money away. By and large, the trucking industry works on a small profit margin. Any penny saved is a penny earned. 

Think of all the extra little things that most of us drivers don’t get paid for. Fueling, truck inspections, minor mechanical breakdowns, waiting in line at a customer’s guard shack, getting your truck washed, sweeping out a filthy trailer, sliding your tandems to get your weights legal, sitting around waiting on a load or a message from dispatch, listening to horrible hold music on the phone, and in my case, sitting in an inspection bay line at my company terminal for 2 hours. 

Now as another Trucker Dump Slack member (Kris a.k.a. @Gravy) once pointed out, most of that stuff is figured into your mileage pay. He should know since he owns a small fleet of trucks. I guess I can see his point about sweeping a trailer, fueling, inspections, and common tasks we have to do on a regular basis.

However, I’m not convinced that waiting for 2 hours to get a tire fixed or waiting an hour for a message from dispatch is included in the mileage pay. Heck, I once had a company tell me they didn’t pay vacation pay because it was figured into the mileage! What the heck!? While the pay-per-mile rate was good, it wasn’t THAT good! Yeesh!

The technicalities of trucking

In my point of view, so many of these moral choices we have to make are based on the “spirit of the law” rather than the “letter of the law.” I think we all just have to judge what we’re doing and decide if we’re okay with it or not. 

For example, I’m a Christian who believes in the Bible. It flat-out says that you shouldn’t lie. So was I lying by submitting my load as delivered when it wasn’t officially delivered yet? I honestly don’t know.

To me, this is a technicality. My company has to set a deadline for their company policies. So by the letter of the law, I was wrong to say I had delivered already. On the other hand, I get paid by the mile and I had run all the miles by midnight. I was sitting on their property and there was no chance they weren’t going to accept the load. My conscience is clear on the latter choice. That’s the spirit of the law.

Let’s look at another example of a technicality. My company will only pay detention time (time spend waiting to load/unload) if I send in a detention request before I send my final Empty message. If I send it even 30 seconds before that Empty message, I’m good. But if I forget and send it 30 seconds after the Empty message, they won’t pay my detention time unless I call and pitch a big baby fit. 

This drives me up a freakin’ wall. Why? Because they know when I arrived at the customer and when I left. I always remember to send those messages. Heck, the Arrived call usually pops up automatically when I stop thanks to the magic of GPS! It’s simply a technicality!

And here’s another thing to prove my point. This company policy can be overridden easily if someone decides to do a little computer fixing. It literally takes a few minutes at most. So if they can fudge the system, why can’t I? 

Two wrongs don’t make a right

Now as I was justifying my actions to my friend, he pointed out that two wrongs don’t make a right and that we can only control our actions and choices. Again, wise words that are 100% accurate. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to do it that way.

As a Christian, I know I’m supposed to “turn the other cheek.” But even Jesus himself didn’t always do that when he was justified in his actions. And if Jesus was doing it, there’s no question in my mind that it was justified. Case in point; he cleared out the temple with a whip and overturned all the tables when people had turned the holy place into a marketplace! I take that to mean that just because you’re a Christian, doesn’t mean you have to get walked on and abused.

Work the system, man (or woman)

Again, all these trucking companies have systems in place so that everyone who works there has a guideline to go by. Sometimes these systems work for you; sometimes they work against you. 

Let me explain one more situation that happened on the same weekend to explain how this system can work on your behalf or against you. 

After my Friday night delivery, I picked up a 190-mile load Saturday morning that delivered the following morning. I drove straight through and got parked by 5 PM Saturday. My delivery was set for 10 AM on Sunday. If you do the math, that’s 17 hours down already. 

My next load was scheduled to pick up anytime after midnight on Sunday. So basically, by the time I could pick up my load, I would have been sitting for 31 hours. Might as well stick around for another few hours and get my 70 hours back. You know how I like to do resets instead of working against my recap everyday, right? 

So I deliver Sunday morning and I receive my new load information. I thought it was a live load, but apparently it is a preloaded trailer. An important point is that I still had 12 hours available to run that day, but I didn’t pick up any hours after midnight, which is why I was trying to do a 34-hour break. The big key here is that the load comments did not say the load was ready. It still showed a pick up time of anytime after midnight. 

Now according to my last podcast/blog, TD129: 4 Ways To Become A More Efficient Trucker, I normally would call and ask if this preloaded trailer was ready early. But I didn’t. Why?

First, because I didn’t want to screw up a 34-hour break. But the main reason is because my company has a policy that I get $75 if I have fewer than 500 miles over the weekend.

Here’s where things get morally sticky

I had only run 190 miles so far for the weekend and I wasn’t planning to drive until the early AM hours of Monday. That means I would only be getting 190 miles over the weekend, which makes me eligible for the $75. 

Now I could’ve called dispatch and they might’ve told me the load was ready to go. I did have hours to run after all. But if I grabbed the load, I then miss they chance of the $75 extra and I also screw up my 34-hour break.

However, if I uncharacteristically act like most truckers do and just accept their stated appointment time as gospel, I can get both the weekend pay and the 70-hour restart.

So there’s the choice I had to make. Play dumb and reap the benefits (like most truckers would in this situation) or by being my normal efficient self, I might wind up screwing myself out of $75 and in the long run being less efficient by not getting my 70-hour reset?

I thought about it for about two seconds and went with playing dumb. I did this for two reasons:

  1. My dispatcher may look at the situation on Monday and decide not to pay me anyway. There won’t be anything I can do about that.
  2. I’ve gotten screwed by this “less than 500 miles” rule many, many times. In fact, they did it to me again in this example. 

Here’s how they squeeze out of paying weekend pay. By the way, I generally like the company I work for or else I wouldn’t have spent 12 years of life with them, but every company has their stupid rules. This is just one of those.

For easy math, let’s say I have a 501 mile load and that’s all the miles I’ve got until Monday morning. I pick it up on Friday afternoon. I run 495 miles on Friday night and I drive 6 more miles after midnight to arrive at my delivery at 12:06 AM Saturday morning. Guess what? All 501 miles are counted as weekend miles because I “officially” delivered on Saturday, despite the fact that the vast majority of the miles were run on Friday.

This can work against me on the opposite end too. Say I’ve been sitting at a truck stop since Friday at 11 PM. I finally receive a 600-mile load at 11 PM on Sunday. You can see where this is going. Yep, all 600 miles counts as weekend miles, even though I may only be able to knock off 60 miles at most.

This is the method they used to screw me this time. I delivered the 190-mile load on Sunday morning and they immediately dispatched me on a 325-mile load, even though the pickup time was set for anytime on Monday. Those two loads totaled 515 miles, as my dispatcher matter-of-factly pointed out when I requested the $75 weekend pay. In my book, those 325 miles shouldn’t count towards the weekend, but they do. It’s just another example of how these companies work the system to their advantage. 

Seriously, receiving weekend pay at my company is about as rare as a porcelain doll that actually doesn’t look creepy after the lights are turned out. So when I have an opportunity to make it work to my advantage, I do. Or in this case, I tried.

Is that morally wrong? I suppose it might be. But again, my conscience is clear about this. All I’m doing is trying to make the system work for me, just like they are doing for themselves. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but it does help me feel like I’m getting just a tad bit of the money I’ve been screwed out of over the years. Too bad it didn’t work this time.

One final argument 

Let me present one bit of math to put the nail in the coffin here. Let’s jump back to the Household Mover’s Guide that usually pays 10% fewer miles than I actually run.

I’ve driven for 21 years. Let’s say I averaged 120,000 miles per year (this is a low estimate). Total: 2,520,000 miles. Let’s round down to 2.5 million miles. I got screwed out of ten percent of those miles, so that’s 250,000 miles I’ve never been paid for! I’m guessing I averaged about 45¢ per mile over that 21-year span. Multiply that and now I’m really depressed. Apparently I’ve been screwed out of $112,500. 

Wow. Just wow. I think it’s safe to say that no matter how many times I manage to work the system to my advantage, I’m never going to break even. My conscience is clear. Is yours?

[box]What are your thoughts on this subject. Do you work the system to your advantage? How far do you go? Leave your comments below.[/box]

Podcast show notes:

TD129: 4 Ways To Become A More Efficient Trucker

Experienced truckers know that there are many things in the trucking industry that are out of your control. If you’re a newbie who has not figured this out yet, you soon will. But this does not mean that everything is completely out of your control either. Here are some ways you can become a more efficient trucker.

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

  • Citadel Fleet Safety– Call 800-269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: truckerdump.
  • Classic Truck Insurance Group– Call 888-498-0255 for your free quote today.

[box]Listen to the podcast version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Google Play. Or search for Trucker Dump in your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein.
[/box]

Efficient trucker tip #1: Always ask about early delivery or a drop

This is a big mistake I see too many truckers making. Drivers often assume that just because their company is “forced dispatch” that they have to take whatever load is given to them. This is simply wrong. Forced dispatch only means that you have to take the load if you can’t supply a good reason not to. So if you want to become a more efficient trucker, you need to start thinking differently.

Never accept the status quo.

Every time I get a new dispatch, the first thing I do is look to see when the load picks up and delivers. Ideally, you’ve got just enough time to drive the empty miles to pick up the load and get it to its delivery on time, but not arrive there too early. Great. Accept the load, drive safe, and stay out of my way! 🙂 (That’s my tagline at the end of each podcast.)

But all too often when they’re asking you to drive 50 miles to pick up a load, it doesn’t pick up for five hours; meaning you are going to get there about four hours early! And then when you look at the delivery time, you figure you’re going to be there a whopping 10 hours earlier than your appointment time! What now? If you’ve got the customer’s phone number, use it. But as you well know, many of us company drivers don’t have access to it. If that’s the case, contact your dispatcher.

Sure, you could use the extra time on these loads to stop in some quaint town along the way and go sightseeing. Or you could use the time to polish your chrome or head into the casino for some blackjack. But this article is about being a more efficient trucker. None of these things are efficient. In fact, they’re all going to cost you time and money!

Call your dispatcher

I don’t keep stats on this sort of thing, but if I had to guess I would say I am calling or messaging my dispatcher on about half my loads; possibly more. Whichever wait time (pick up or delivery) is the longest is what I ask about first.

“Hey Gina, I can be at the shipper at 1:00 PM, but the load doesn’t show to pick up until 5:00 PM. Will they load me early?”

Sometimes it’s a set appointment and there’s nothing you can do about it. Other times they will have notes about the customer saying that you can pick up anytime and that the time listed is just a “suggested” appointment time. Honestly, that doesn’t seem very efficient to me, but unfortunately I can’t change their company polices.

Other times I’ll notice the pick up time is something crazy like 24 hours away, even though I’m only 80 miles out. Again I’m immediately asking dispatch what the deal is. Maybe freight is just slow in the area so your options are limited. But it’s also a possibility that somebody in the office screwed up and thought you didn’t have driving hours available or they just looked at the shipping date wrong! You might be surprised how often this happens.

If you’re going to arrive at your delivery extra-early, ask if they will accept the load early

This happened to me again just the other day. The load delivered at 9:00 PM, but I could get there about 9:00 AM. The comments section for this load specifically said, “Do not attempt to deliver earlier than appointment time.” Now usually when the load comments are that specific, I know they are set in stone. Therefore I was resigned to it. But I still put on my efficient trucker hat to figure out how to make the best use of my time.

I was low on hours that day anyway, so my plan was to come off a 10-hour break and drive the remaining three hours to get as close to the delivery location as I could. I’d then take yet another 10-hour break and then deliver the load 9:00 PM. My thought was that by the time I was unloaded, I would be getting hours back at midnight and be ready to roll again. Of course, this sucks for your sleep because I had just come off a 10-hour break. How I’m expecting myself to sleep again that soon is a different issue that we don’t have time to go into.

Obviously, I didn’t really want to do this, so I thought to myself “What can it hurt to ask about an early delivery?” So I did (see screenshot). You can see the happy result. As I always tell my dispatcher, “He who does not ask, does not receive.” You might remember that the next time you’re in a similar situation.

One thing I forgot to mention was that due to my low hours, I only had 2.5 hours left to drive that day after my delivery. I’m sure many drivers would’ve just accepted this fact and stuck with the original plan. Not this super-efficient trucker!

As you can no doubt already see, I’m very aware of my available hours. But I’m even more anal about this the closer it gets to home time. This instance happened about a week before my scheduled home time.

I’m sure you’ve probably been in this scenario before.

You’re just shy of having enough driving hours to get home without taking another 10-hour break first; or you’re waiting around until midnight to get hours back before you can finish the drive home.

Either that or you turn outlaw and drive the few hours home illegally. You naughty little pet. Good luck with that now that elogs are mandatory. My point is, that 2.5 hours extra that I could utilize today might be the 2.5 hours that I need to get home this coming weekend! This is yet another reason why it’s so important to be as efficient as you can be.

If you can’t deliver early, ask if you can drop the loaded trailer somewhere

If your dispatch says the customer won’t let you deliver early, ask them if there is somewhere along your route that you can drop the load; for instance, if you have a terminal or a drop yard en route. As a driver, you probably know your route better than the dispatcher, so make a suggestion. “Hey; since I can’t deliver this early, can I drop at the Columbus or St. Louis yard? I’m going right past both on the way to delivery.” If they’ve got other freight in the area that needs to move, they’ll usually hook you right up.

Yes, it might suck to turn a 600 mile trip into a puny 350 mile run, but at least you’re not going to be sitting outside a customer for 24 hours waiting to unload. You can use that time to be running a different load to make up those lost miles. Trust me, it usually pays off in the end.

Probably the reason I make the call to dispatch so often is because it works to my advantage most of the time. If I can point out how the load isn’t very efficient, they will often toss it back into the pile of loads and come out with something better. But other times I’m just stuck with the load and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. That’s when you reach into your medicine cabinet, pop a chill pill, and accept it as part of trucking. At least you tried to be the most efficient trucker you can be.

Now I can hear some of you thinking, “My dispatcher isn’t going to want to go to all this trouble for me.” Well tough noogies. That’s their job. Besides, dealing with the driver is often the dispatcher’s only job at most of these large carriers. There are usually different groups of people who plan the loads and deal with customer service issues. Not always the case at smaller carriers, but it’s still their job.

In my personal experience, I can tell that my dispatcher does sometimes get annoyed with me questioning these loads so frequently. But that’s usually when she is especially busy trying to get drivers home for the weekend or something is going horribly wrong with another driver on their fleet.

Remember; part of a dispatcher’s performance review is based on how efficient their fleet is. So it actually benefits them if you ask this question and become a more efficient trucker. You just might have to remind them of this fact until they get used to you asking about getting rid of these loads early.

Now let’s say that despite your best effort, you’re still stuck with this load and you’re going to get to your delivery 10 hours before your appointment time. How can you still be an efficient trucker?

Efficient trucker tip #2: Sleep at the customer

One reason I’m glad that I was on the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) bandwagon earlier than most (2010) is because it forced my company to start adding one new bit of information to our load information; whether there is overnight parking at the shipper or receiver. This used to be another phone call or message to dispatch, but now the information is right there in the load comments. Thank God, because this makes me a much more efficient trucker! How so?

Unless I am 100% positive that my load is a drop & hook trailer, I will always try to sleep at the customer overnight if it is allowed. I know this is not a popular choice among truckers, but I’m convinced it makes me a more efficient trucker. Even if it is drop and hook, I will still often sleep there anyway. Why?

It saves my 14 hour clock

I’ve talked to many truckers over the years who simply refuse to sleep at a customer unless it is their only option. The argument is always that they want access to food and bathrooms. Fair enough. But if you want to be the most efficient trucker you can be, you really need to get over this.

Sleeping at the customer honestly wasn’t as necessary back in the days when we had paper logs. We could often fudge the timeline so that we didn’t lose much driving time. But since the inflexible ELDs have been mandatory since December 18, 2017, sleeping at a customer’s facility is really the #1 way I’ve found to maximize my 70-hour workweek.

First off, it’s not hard to work around the bathroom and food issue

If at all possible, you should always find out ahead of time what the bathroom situation is. Some of the customers I visit have 24-hour restrooms for drivers. Sometimes, it might be a porta-potty, but it’s better than nothing.

Even if they don’t have restrooms available overnight, simply stop at the nearest truck stop before you get there and take your giant trucker dump. Even if you don’t think you need to, you might ought to pull in and try. In the #1 department, even us older guys with smaller bladders can get through the night since the vast majority of truckers have some sort of piss bottle in the truck. Don’t deny it. Even if you don’t, you can always go water some of the local shrubbery. Serves the customer right for not keeping the restroom open for you.

As for access to food, if you’re one of those moneybags who eats in restaurants all the time, you can check into apps like Yelp or Google Maps to see if there’s any little eateries within walking distance. You never know. You might find a gem! Or you can always go the easy route and grab an extra sandwich at the ever-present Subway shoppe. Honestly, all drivers should be keeping a little bit of food on hand anyway. Peanut butter and cans of soup have a seemingly endless shelf life, you know. One of the perks of me being such a cheapskate is that I always have food in my truck, so this is never an issue.

Now when I say “sleeping at a customer,” that’s exactly what I mean. I’m not talking about hanging out there for 24 hours or anything. Although this super-efficient trucker has done exactly that many times if that’s what it takes to squeeze in a 34-hour break.

Even if you’ve only got six hours before you deliver, you should still park onsite if you can. Again we’re trying to save your clock here. I see two major benefits in doing this:

1. You might get into the dock early.

Let’s say you arrive at 2:00 AM and your appointment is not till 10:00 AM. But they open at 7:00 AM. If you don’t mind interrupting your beauty sleep, it never hurts to check in at 7:00 AM to see if they will take you early. You’re probably thinking “Why the heck do I want to get in the dock at 7:00 AM if my 10-hour break isn’t over until noon anyway?” That’s reason number two.

2. Because you never know how long it’s going to take to load or unload.

If I were to take a poll of truckers on the biggest problems in the trucking industry, I’d be willing to bet that one of the top five answers would be shipper/receivers wasting our driving hours. Not a day goes by when you don’t hear some trucker whining about how the shippers/receivers don’t value our time. Well this is one way to mitigate it. If they want to take six hours to get me unloaded, then at least they’re doing it while my ELD shows me Off-Duty or Sleeper Berth. If it only takes two hours, great! Stay up and get started planning your next load. Or you can always try to go back to bed to finish that sweet dream you were having about Farrah Fawcett.

Now let’s look at you drivers who refuse to sleep at a customer overnight

You have a 10:00 AM appointment so you wake up full of piss and vinegar, eager to utilize the 11 hours of driving you have available. You start your pre-trip inspection at 9:00 AM, roll into the customer at 9:30 AM, and bump the dock at 10:00 AM. I love it when a plan comes together! Uh huh. You silly little optimistic trucker.

In reality, six hours later you’re finally ready to roll, but thanks to the cursed 14-hour rule you only have 7 hours left to drive. Who’s to blame; you or the customer? Well both, but you could’ve prevented this if you had slept at the customer overnight. So those 4 hours of driving you lost are ultimately on your head. Remember, we can’t control everything, so we have to control the things we can.

But hey, let’s be realistic. Not every customer takes six hours to unload. Even if it only takes two hours, you’ve left yourself very little extra time to do anything else except for drive like a madman all day. You can kiss that workout and shower goodbye. Yeah, right! Like truckers exercise or bathe.

Now I know this “sleeping at a customer” thing is an unpopular choice that many of you will refuse to budge on

So be it. If you want to continue to be an inefficient trucker, that’s up to you. I would just suggest that you try it for a while and see if you don’t notice that you’re making better use of your hours of service. And that usually transfers to better paychecks.

Oh, and there’s one other benefit from sleeping at customer locations. You have less chance of sleeping with your head right next to someone’s screaming reefer unit. Unless of course you are pulling a reefer, which in that case you’re just screwed.

Efficient trucker tip #3: Keep your ETA/PTA updated

But first, you need to make sure you know what the terms ETA and PTA means to your company. At most of the carriers I’ve worked for, ETA means Estimated Time of Arrival and PTA stands for Projected Time of Availability. But I have also worked for a couple of companies who used ETA as Estimated Time of Availability instead of PTA. Yes, it was just as confusing then as it is now. These two versions of ETA (or ETA and PTA) are vastly different things. Let me explain.

My Estimated Time of Arrival might be 9:00 AM, but if I know the customer usually takes two hours to unload, that would make my Estimated Time of Availability at 11:00 AM. This could be even worse. Take for example our earlier scenario where my Estimated Time of Arrival was 2:00 AM because I was going to get there early, but my appointment was not until 10:00 AM. So figure 1 hour to unload and my Estimated Time of Availability is actually 11:00 AM. That’s nine hours difference between an ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) and an ETA (Estimated Time of Availability)!

Keep your dispatcher as up-to-date as possible about your available working hours

While it’s true that most modern dispatching software will keep track of that, I’ve never had a dispatcher who didn’t appreciate not having to look it up. As an added bonus, I believe that staying on top of your available working hours makes you look a bit more professional than your fellow drivers.

My last suggestion to be the most efficient trucker you can be is…

Efficient trucker tip #4: Don’t keep a steady schedule

I fully accept that with the way your particular circadian rhythms work, some of you simply cannot physically do what I’m about to ask, but if you can, or even if you think you can, you should try it for a while.

We all know those drivers who get up at 7:00 AM and drive their 11 hours. Worst case scenario the 14 hour clock is up at 9:00 PM. They’re back up and rolling at 7:00 AM. They do this every day. Obviously, the start time can vary. I suppose there is nothing wrong with this if you know exactly what your freight is every day and you have complete control over it. More power to you if that’s your situation. If that is the case, I have to admit that I kind of hate your guts.

But for the vast majority of over-the-road drivers, we have no idea when or even if we are going to get a load to run on any given day. So by not keeping a steady schedule, you’re working as hard and as fast as you can when you have freight so that when those inevitable down times come along, they don’t hurt nearly as much.

Let’s do a little math. To keep things simple, let’s assume two things that aren’t exactly true unless you’ve entered the land of fairy dust and unicorn farts. First, that it’s possible to run 11 hours straight, take a 10-hour break, and then run your 11 hours again for multiple days in a row. And secondly, let’s assume that we have competing truckers; one loosey-goosey driver who likes to run hard and one steady schedule driver who likes to start his day at midnight. Probably not very realistic, but for the sake of easy math, you’ll see what I mean.

The case for not driving a steady schedule

In this magical world where everything always runs smoothly, let’s say both drivers start their day at midnight and are done driving by 11:00 AM. They both take a mandatory 10-hour break. When the break is over, the loosey-goosey driver starts running again at 9:00 PM, while the steady schedule guy is waiting around for midnight to start his day like he does every day.

You can see that the loosey-goosey driver has 14 hours of driving already finished in that first 24 hours (11 on the first driving shift + 3 on the second), while the steady schedule driver only has 11 hours under his belt.

Come midnight, the steady schedule guy runs another 11 hours for 22 hours total driving over the two days. But loosey-goosy driver drove from 9:00 PM the night before to 8:00 AM the next morning, took another 10 hour break, and started driving again at 6:00 PM, meaning he now has 28 hours of driving in the same time frame. That’s six more hours over two days!

I will spare you the math, but at the end of three days, the loosey-goosey driver has driven nine more hours than the steady driver!

Now I can hear some of you saying, “Yeah, but that ain’t the way trucking works in the real world!” You’re correct. There will be days when you don’t get a full 11 hours of running. There might even be days that you don’t get to run at all. And that’s my point.

Run it when you got it

Here’s my philosophy. When you have freight, run it as hard and as fast as you legally can, utilizing all three previous tips to make the use best use of your hours. That way when you do have the inevitable downtime, then at least you have been as efficient as you can possibly be up until that point where things are out now out of your control.

A side benefit is doing a 34-hour break

Often times, these steady drivers don’t even run a full 11 hours. Their idea is that if they work 8.75 hours maximum per day (both Driving and On-Duty time combined) for 8 days (70 hours in 8 days rule), that they will never run out of their 70 working hours. Okay. Good theory. That means you will get a maximum of 70 working hours under perfect conditions.

Now let’s look at loosey-goosey driver who hammers down. Again, I won’t bore you with the math, but if this driver runs as soon as possible after each 10-hour break, they can easily hit their 70 hours maximum in 5 days. If they then take a 34-hour break to restart their 70-hours, they can now expand their available working hours to over 80 hours in the same amount of time that the steady driver has only worked 70 hours. That could add up to about 10% more money!

Be a more efficient trucker

To sum up, my belief is that to be the most efficient trucker you can be, you need to work as hard as you can while you have loads to run so you can maximize your potential.

Every hour of your available 70 counts in trucking, so be conscience of every one of them. If a customer will take a load as soon as you can get it there, don’t screw around. Deliver it ASAP!

You could have mechanical problems that cause delays.You could be delayed by a lazy loader. You could hit a patch of bad weather. If you’ve dilly-dallied when you could’ve been running hard, you may even find yourself delivering late if something unexpected happens.

I always run as hard as I can to get where I’m going, even if I can’t deliver early. I can’t count how many times I’ve been able to rescue a load from a driver who’s low on hours while he sits under my load to get those hours back. That’s a win-win-win situation. The company is getting their rescued load delivered on time. The other driver is in no rush now so he’s getting back the hours he needs while he’s sitting under may old load. And best of all, I’m making more miles!

So my advice is to step out of your comfort zone and try some of these tips

Don’t automatically accept loads that don’t make good use of your time. Argue your point with a cool head. If nothing can be done about the delivery time, ask if you can drop the load someplace to keep moving.

Try sleeping at the customer to maximize your driving hours. You’ll be surprised how less-stressed you’ll be when that slow forklift dude isn’t eating into your driving hours.

Get off your steady schedule and run hard when you have freight. Save your loafing time for those times when you’re stuck without a load. And if you can do a 70-hour reset, do it.

And lastly, keep your ETA/PTA updated so your dispatcher can find your next good load that maximizes your earning potential. And if that load sucks, get on the phone and start the process all over again. Ain’t truckin’ fun?

Podcast show notes:

In today’s podcast, I present four ideas that could help you become a more efficient trucker. I also cover a crapload of news stories, ranging from new ways to tackle truck parking, new proposed hours-of-service legislation, Electronic Logging Devices (ELD), a lost trucker, some surprises about driver pay, and possibly one of the most insane verdicts I’ve ever heard. I also tell you how social media can help you in a way that you might not have thought of before.

In the Feedback section, we hear from from Goat Bob, Driver Dave, DriverChrisMc, and Dan on subjects such as trucking podcasts, to axle weights, to cancer, to beef liver, and finally being pissed off at truckers.

View the article and show notes on AboutTruckDriving.com.

Get free audio and text samples of Trucking Life and a text sample of How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job.

Check out new Trucker Dump merchandise at TeePublic.com, including tee shirts, hoodies, mugs, stickers, tote bags, and even kid’s clothes!

This episode of Trucker Dump is sponsored by:

  • Citadel Fleet Safety– Call 800-269-5905 or click the link for a special discount for Trucker Dump listeners. Click on [Customer Login] in the upper-right corner, click on the Trucker Dump logo, and use password: truckerdump.
  • Classic Truck Insurance– Call 888-498-0255 for your free quote today.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

TD128: Interview With Make-A-Wish Mother’s Day Truck Convoy

International Roadcheck safety blitz is June 5-7, 2018

“Top 3 Trucker Podcasts” from Hot Shot Warriors

My guest spot on the Systematic Podcast with Brett Terpstra

New bill tries to exempt small trucking companies from ELDs

Push to reform the FMCSA Hours-Of-Service

Midwest States Team Up For Truck Parking

Truck Driver Goes Missing For 4 Days After Putting Wrong Address In GPS

TD54: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Giving Directions

Maximum Commercial Trailer Length – State By State from Verduyn Tarps

Comchek Mobile App

OverdriveOnline.com Driver Compensation Preference Poll
Survey Says Driver Pay Is Going Up!

Werner will appeal $90 verdict in crash lawsuit

Trucker Grub features Ted’s Montana Grill in Northwest Indianapolis.

Links in the feedback section:

Talk CDL Podcast

TD127: Why Podcasts Are The Perfect Media For Truckers

Patreon

Apple Podcasts app

Podcast Addict app for Android

TD97: A Trucker’s Worst Nemisis – Complacency

TD104: Complacency Strikes

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?

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Trucker Comments Requested For New Personal Conveyance Rules

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.

TD125: Reserved Truck Parking: Convenience or Exploitation?

We’ve all heard that there is a shortage of truck parking. Truckers deal with it every day. The public can see it as we’re lined up on interstate on and off ramps and crammed into Walmart parking lots. The government has done the research to prove the problem is real.

And of course, the truck stop owners know it. So what’s their answer to the problem? Hey, I have an idea! Let’s charge truckers money for these coveted parking spaces! Enter; reserved truck parking.

[box]Listen to the audio version above and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or Google Play. Or search for Trucker Dump in your favorite podcast app.
Download the intro/outro songs for free! courtesy of Walking On Einstein.
Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you? [/box]

For you non-truckers out there, some of the large truck stop chains have decided to block off some of their premium spots for those willing to pay. As a world-class cheapskate, you can imagine how I feel about it.

The idea behind reserved truck parking is that you can call ahead or go online and reserve your parking space early in the day so you know you’ll have a safe place to park for the night. Sounds like a great idea, right? We’ll come back to whether this works or not here in a bit.

My first (and only) experience with reserved truck parking

I had accepted a load from dispatch with the understanding that it was going to be really tight. The issue wasn’t my available hours; the issue was time. While that might sound like the same thing to you non-trucking folk, all you truckers know what I’m talking about.

I had an 8 AM delivery at the Costco warehouse in Morris, Illinois. I was going to get there about 11 PM, but the receiver didn’t have overnight parking available on site (despite their humongous, always half-full parking lot ?). Luckily there are two truck stops within a couple blocks of my delivery. This was important because if I had to park for the night even 5 miles away, I couldn’t have delivered on time.

You see, if I started my mandatory 10-hour break when I got there at 11 PM, my break would be up at 9 AM. Problems is, I’d be late for my 8 AM appointment. But if I could find parking within 1 mile of Costco, I could drive over to the delivery in the morning while I was still officially on break, thanks to the very little bit of leniency my e-logs afford where it doesn’t register me driving until I drive over one mile. So by the time they finished unloading me, my legal break would be over and I’d have another 11 hours to run that day. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Now I know some of you truckers out there are screaming at your phones right now, so let me explain to the non-truckers why you’re losing your ever-loving mind right now. Officially, I could have delivered the load on time in a legal way by utilizing the God-awful 8-hour split sleeper berth.

Again, let me explain to the non-truckers out there. Normally after driving 11 hours, we are required to take a 10-hour break. But there is also an option to only take an 8-hour break if you haven’t driven your full 11 yet. So if I had used 9 hours getting to the customer, I could take an 8-hour break (it must be all in the sleeper berth) and still have my other 2 hours to run (9 hours driving before break and 2 hours after equals 11 total). After that, I’d need to take a full 10-hour break before I could drive again. Correction: I was corrected by a reader. Check out the explanation below.

Yes, the 8/2 split sleeper berth is as complicated as it sounds, which I why I avoid doing it like a meth head shuns toothpaste. And it almost always screws up your day somehow. In this situation, I was pulling in at 11 PM, so I could move again at 7 AM (after 8 hours in the sleeper). So as long as I was parked within two hours of the delivery location, I would’ve been on time for delivery. You’re right, trucker. But you also know why I didn’t go this route. Let’s look at the bigger picture, non-truckers.

Being in the sleeper from 11 PM to 7 AM is 8 hours. I would then drive for 2 hours, deliver and then go back on break for another 10 hours before I could drive again. Do a little math and you can see that my mandatory 10-hour break has effectively turned into an 18-hour break! No thanks. If I want to screw myself, I’ll just sign up for a marathon or something. Correction: Reader Jeff Hardy wrote in to correctly state that I only needed to take a 2 hour break after my 8 hours of sleeper berth time. Oops. Told you the split sleeper berth is confusing!

This is why it was so important to me to get close to Costco. The issue was going to be finding parking at either of those truck stops. The Pilot is smaller than the TA, but they both fill up pretty fast because they’re some of the last truck stops on I-80 eastbound if you’re staging to head into Chicago the following morning.

Honestly, I wasn’t worried about finding parking. Obviously, I was hoping to find a free parking spot, but if all else failed I knew both locations had reserved truck parking. I drove through the Pilot lot. All full. No surprise.

I thought about parking along the side street, but the only thing worse than paying for parking is a police officer knocking on your door in the middle of your break and telling you to move your truck. Not only does it suck getting woken up, but depending on how far you have to drive, it also might screw up your break, effectively putting you right back with the possibility of doing that 18-hour break like I was trying to avoid in the first place. I saw a reserved parking space, but I didn’t give up just yet. I’m ever-hopeful when it comes to saving a buck.

Not only were the employees tired of hearing truckers gripe about it, but it was also a pain to monitor the area to see if someone was trying to park there without paying. They also had to deal with the reservations, which they said was a major pain-in-the-tookus.

I drove over to the TA and they were just as jam-packed. No place to even park illegally that wouldn’t have blocked another driver in. There are drivers who would do this, but I’m not one of them.

Reserved truck parking at nightGuess what? There was plenty of reserved truck parking at the TA. This is my point. There often is. Take a look at this photo I took at the TA in Greencastle, Pennsylvania the night of TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle. The rest of the lot was packed like a Casper mattress in it’s shipping box! Some drivers were even parked outside of legal spaces to avoid paying for a spot! Although honestly, that’s just par-for-the-course.

So anywho, since the Pilot was closer to Costco, I quickly drove back over, backed into a reserved parking space (with no pull-ups I might add – yes, I’m that awesome) and walked inside to pay. As I paid the $12, I told the cashier how much I hated it. Much to my surprise, the cashier and one of the managers told me they hated paid parking too!

Reserved parking receiptNot only were the employees tired of hearing truckers gripe about it, but it was also a pain to monitor the area to see if someone was trying to park there without paying. They also had to deal with the reservations, which they said was a major pain-in-the-tookus.

So to bring this seemingly never-ending story to a close, I stuck the receipt in the window so no one would bother me, grabbed some shuteye, and I delivered on time without my e-log screwing me over. Yeah! I win! Go me! Other than the fact that I had to pay to be victorious, which disturbs the innermost part of my being.

The problem with reserved truck parking

Listen, I’m all for capitalism. If the truck stops think they can make some extra money by having reserved truck parking, then who am I to say they shouldn’t do it? So with that, let me just say:

YOU SHOULDN’T DO IT!

I guess these truck stops have forgotten that there used to be paid parking at lots of their locations. And I’m not talking about some of the parking spots. I’m talking about paying for parking anywhere in their parking lot! But for some reason (that I honestly don’t understand), they decided to quit charging for parking.

There are still a few holdouts near big cities, like the Greater Chicago Truck Plaza in Bolingbrook, Illinois or a couple of TA’s near Baltimore, just to name a few. I haven’t been out west in quite a while, but I’d bet a full-nekid body massage from The Evil Overlord (wife and ex co-driver) that both the TA’s in Ontario, California still charge to park too. (I later found out one of them is a Petro now, but they both still charge for parking – good thing, because she’d have killed me dead if I’d lost that bet.)

Still, the vast majority of the paid parking truck stops have gone to a totally free model. You’ll recognize them when you see the long-abandoned little booth that guards the parking lot from the outside world. Why is this?

Perhaps because truckers were avoiding them to find free parking elsewhere? I’ll bet if we could examine their books, we’d noticed an uptick in gross revenue when they axed the paid parking. I mean, if more drivers are parking there for free every night, they’re probably also buying fuel, eating in the restaurant, filling up their coffee thermos, and buying horrifically overpriced, decade-old DVDs. Just a guess, but why else would they quit charging for parking?

Give it up. It doesn’t work

I was talking to my friend @driverchrismc the other day and somehow reserved truck parking was brought up. He said he used to reserve spots when he thought there wouldn’t be any free parking by the time he got there, but he quit reserving in advance because he’d often arrive at the truck stop and still find free parking available. He now waits until he arrives before he pays.

So doesn’t that defeat the purpose of reserved truck parking? At that point, I feel like it’s more exploitation of drivers than it is convenience. Yes, I know exploitation is a pretty strong word, but look how the Google dictionary defines it.

ex·ploi·ta·tion

ˌekˌsploiˈtāSH(ə)n

  1. The action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.
  2. The action of making use of and benefiting from resources.
  3. The fact of making use of a situation to gain unfair advantage for oneself.

Okay, Definition 1 might be a stretch. Definition 2 is getting warmer though. The truck stop has a resource (a parking spot) and they’re charging for the privilege of using it. Definition 3 nails it right on the head though. They are making use of a situation (truckers not being able to find parking) to gain unfair advantage.

Whether all this is “unfair” or not is up for debate. But in my eyes it’s similar to that argument of “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Again, saying the act of charging for parking is “unfair” might be pushing it a tad. But in a sense, it is unfair because you have to pay for it simply because other drivers got there before you did. And if you paid in advance like Chris did, only to find there was still free parking available, now you’ve paid for a parking spot that you no longer need. That’s kind of unfair too, isn’t it?

I looked on the Pilot/FlyingJ website and apparently you can’t ask for a refund once you show up either. You have to do it 4 hours before your reservation starts. So there’s no backing out there. You’re just out the $12.

Whether all this is “unfair” or not is up for debate. But in my eyes it’s similar to that argument of “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Trucking companies and truckers keep these truck stops alive and kicking. And to thank us for that, they take advantage of us when we least need to take their crap; after a long day of driving when we just need  a warm meal, a hot shower, and a place to lay down and recharge so we can do it all again the next day. Is that so much to ask?

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that truck stops exist. Without them there’d be even fewer places to park and we’d probably start seeing truckers squatting behind bushes on the side of the highway. God, help us. But do they really need to charge us for the last few parking places when we’re at our most desperate? I mean, they’re already charging $8 for a tiny bottle of Pepto-Bismol. Isn’t that exploitation enough?

[box]What are your thoughts on reserved truck parking? Please leave your comments below.[/box]

Podcast show notes:

As you can tell from the title, today’s show is about this reserved truck parking that is popping up at all the truck stops. But before we get to that, listener Kevin wrote in to tell me I screwed up the Meritor jacket contest from the last podcast. He was right! We also have some gift ideas for truckers, which is handy right before Christmas. We also discuss Telsa’s fancy new electric truck and I share a mechanical tip I learned from listener Mike. But that’s not all! Connor Smith from the Big Rig Banter podcast shares his article on the Top 5 Issues In Commercial Driving.

In the feedback section, Renae shares her experience with her training and being a trainer herself, Tim points out a problem with one of my books, and Ryan thinks he couldn’t solved my overweight issue from the last podcast. And to wrap things up, Shannon lost a bet with me and had to send in an audio comment telling me how awesome I am!

Links mentioned in the intro:

The School of Podcasting podcast with host Dave Jackson

The Hindenburg Journalist Pro audio editing software that I want to purchase. Feel free to buy it for me. It’s pretty cheap. ?

The Audio-Technica ATR2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone I’m hoping to buy. (not an affiliate link)

You should buy my books so I can afford the two previous products! Free text samples available! (not affiliate links)

Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver
Free audiobook sample of Trucking Life
How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job

The good folks from Factor Finders supplied a handy-dandy article and infographic called Gift Ideas For Truckers. Just in time for the holidays!

This article from TheTruckersReport.com called Tesla Semi Promises 500 Mile Range, Safety, and More prompted me to talk about it on the show.

Links in Connor Smith’s article:

Connor Smith from the Big Rig Banter podcast and AllTruckJobs.com shares his article called 5 Top Issues in Commercial Truck Driving and mentions the following articles:

5 Benefits of ELDs
ATA Driver Shortage Report
Nikola One: Driving the Future of Trucking
MIT Technology Review article about Self-Driving Trucks

Links in the blog post section:

The Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, Study of Adequacy of Commercial Truck Parking Facilities

Late night photo I took of the reserved parking area at the TA in Greencastle, PA. NEED LINK

TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle

Unboxing of a Casper Mattress

Pilot/Flying J refund policy for reserved truck parking

Links mentioned in the feedback section:

Renae Savage talks about her training and her experience as a trainer at CR England.

Tim Rife tells me all the hyperlinks to the Trucking Company Questionnaire in my book How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job are broken. He’s right. So if you’ve had the same problem, try downloading the book again. They should be fixed by the time you’re listening to this.

Ryan Moede thinks he could’ve easily solved the overweight problem I talked about in TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle. Is he right? Guess you’ll have to listen to find out. I mention a free PDF called How To Axle Out A Load.

Shannon Holden lost a bet with me and had to send in an audio comment telling me how awesome I am. No way this wasn’t going to make it onto the podcast!

Horrid Genius left an awesome review of the podcast over on iTunes. Thanks, Mr. Genius!

Please consider joining the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group and take the poll.

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5 Top Issues In Commercial Driving

[box]↑WordPress lies!!↑ This is actually a guest post by Conner Smith of the Big Rig Banter Podcast and AllTruckJobs.com[/box]

Despite being one of the most ubiquitous industries in the United States, there are a diverse range of pressing issues facing just about everyone in the commercial driving business. Honestly, it’s hard to just sit back and let things take their course because, as many people in the industry will tell you, this isn’t exactly a profession where you can kick back and coast for most of your career. Beyond hiring quality drivers, it takes hard work from each link in the supply chain to keep the flow of goods, services, drivers, and logistics running smoothly.

So what top issues in commercial driving are still alive and well? Here we’ll take a look at what many people, both recruiters and drivers, are facing on a daily basis and some potential ways to move the industry forward for years to come.

1. ELDs and the Supreme Court

As a move that still has many owner-operators voicing their resistance, the Supreme Court’s decision to leave in place the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule makes it clear that these devices are here to stay. Essentially, this rule calls for the Secretary of Transportation to adopt the proper regulations requiring ELD use in commercial vehicles driving interstate. After a rejected appeal by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), companies must be compliant by December 18th, 2017. This means installing the appropriate ELDs in all commercial vehicles made after the year 2000.

Despite some obvious benefits to having ELDs in all commercial vehicles, critics have made voiced concerns over constant surveillance, strict hours of service tracking, and the initial concerns of installing hundreds of devices in a relatively short amount of time. In any case, the industry is poised to comply to this new law of the land whether they want to or not.

2. Hours of Service

Trailing behind the recent ELD ruling is perhaps one of the true underlying issues for commercial drivers in the industry — the hours of service regulations themselves. Now with mandatory compliance meaning an ELD in every commercial vehicle, drivers are no longer able to “fudge” their paper logs for very good reasons. It used to be that if drivers were just 30 minutes away from home after getting caught in traffic that they could just “adjust” their hours of service. With ELDs such things are nearly impossible.

Although, many argue that the issue is not with ELDs themselves but with these stringent regulations on hours of service and their corresponding rest times. It’s understood now that fighting the ELD rule is really just a veiled attempt to get adjustments made to laws regarding hours of service, which is sure to continue on as in issue at least for now.

3. CSA Scores

Launched by the FMCSA in December of 2010, the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) initiative was introduced as a way to improve the overall safety of commercial motor vehicles on the road. The intention was that the CSA program would put a more intense focus on companies that pose higher safety risks on the road than others. Still, many industry interests contend that the factors integrated into CSA scores are not always reliable predictors of safety.

Critics say that inconsistencies in the process of collecting CSA data in addition to issues about the accountability of crashes make it difficult to fully assess the commercial driving abilities of individuals. Even though the intention is to restrict lesser qualified drivers from being hired by companies that demand the highest degree of safety (which is most of them) CSA can haunt drivers for years to come for a variety of reasons they may or may not have had control over.

4. The Driver Shortage

Characterized by many as a matter of the quality of drivers rather than the quantity of people applying for jobs, the driver shortage continues to worsen with little sign of slowing based on reports from the ATA.

For almost two decades now, this shortage of drivers has made itself known to carriers struggling to find quality drivers to fill their trucks. At the time of the first report in 2005, the shortage was roughly 20,000 drivers but had since grown to a staggering 48,000 by the end of 2015. Should these trends hold, the shortage is projected to reach almost 175,000 by 2024.

As it stands, the driver shortage may actually feel much worse to motor carriers considering all of the previously mentioned issues — increasingly constrictive CSA scores, ELD mandates, and hours of services regulations. Pair this with high turnover rates and it’s as difficult as ever to get the quality drivers needed for the increasing volume of jobs out there — 890,000 over the next decade to be exact.

Now, many companies are looking to targeted demographics such as millennial drivers, female drivers, and drivers with military experience to pick up the torch!

5. The Autonomous Vehicle Revolution

Although it’s not quite the dawn of autonomous vehicles, these highly tech-laden trucks are just about to breach the horizon of the industry. Whether it’s Uber, Tesla, Google, or Nikola Motors, it’s quite obvious that we’re in for a heavily automated transportation industry as these vehicles clear their final hurdles to market. Just like many people were skeptical there’d ever be personal computers in every home, many companies are quietly bracing themselves for what seems like an impending disruption of incredible scale.

With a current 1.7 million trucking jobs in the U.S., it’s still unclear just how many people could be out of work once these self-driving vehicles hit the roads. Predictions by MIT’s Technology Review place this technology at 5-10 years before it’s fully available, however, it’s certain that it will forever alter the nature of the commercial driving industry.

Throw alternative energy sources like natural gas and hydrogen fuel cells into the mix and we’re bound to see a gigantic shift in the types of vehicles — and drivers — making their way across the United States and many countries throughout the world.

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…

TD94: Understanding The New Hours-Of-Service (HOS) Rules

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Confused over the Hours-of-Service rules

Photo by jonny goldstein via Flickr

Unless you’ve just beamed in from another planet (or you’re a non-trucker), you’re probably aware of the new Hours-of-Service rules that are looming. But do you understand them fully? From some of the feedback I’ve been getting on Twitter and the blog, I’d say there’s still some confusion out there. The Bible flat-out says that all Christians will be persecuted. Well, I’m pretty sure some Bible-thumper at my company has been Skyping with God on my behalf. You see, my company recently decided that I would be one of the lucky ones who got put on the new Hours-of-Service rules a few weeks early. You know, just to try it out. *sigh* Well, I guess this kind of persecution is better than being around when Nero was kabob-ing Christians to light his garden parties. So thanks for that, God.

But before we get into it, let me issue a warning to my non-trucking peeps. This post will likely only be understood by truckers, so feel free to beam yourself back up to your planet if you don’t mind missing out on my exquisite writing style and tasteful wit. And to the rest of you, like I said, the length of this couldn’t be avoided. When it comes to this technical stuff, if you don’t explain everything in full, you actually raise more questions than you answer.

So my first question was, “Is this even legal?” I mean, how could my employer make me adhere to rules that hadn’t even gone into effect yet? So of course, I called my safety department. I wound up talking to my least favorite safety person. For starters, she’s in charge of e-log training and new implementations such as this most recent one. So there’s strike one against her. Strike two, three, and four came at different times when I called in to question how the e-logs were set up. Each time, the conversation started fine, but ended badly after she basically said, “Well, this is how things are. If you don’t like them, I guess that’s too bad.” You can imagine how well this went over with me. It got to the point where the safety director told us not to speak anymore. If I called in and got her, I was to give her my name and she was to immediately transfer me to someone else. That worked fine up until this latest thing, because like I said, she’s the one who was implementing this new program.

Thankfully, she didn’t get snotty with me this time, even though I did question the legality of making me follow rules that weren’t even in effect yet. Well come to find out, all these new Hours-of-Service rules have actually been in effect since the beginning of the year. They just aren’t going to be enforced until July 1. She said there are quite a few small trucking companies that have been following the new rules since the beginning of the year. So there goes that beef with her. So for now, let’s get on with understanding these new rules. We’ll come back to Hitler’s granddaughter at the end where she’ll answer a few more questions I had.

First, what Hours-of-Service rules are not changing?

The 11-hour rule – You’re still allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours before you’re required to take a 10-hour break. Be thankful for this one. The proposed rule was to take us back down to 10 hours of driving like it used to be. Whew! Dodged that roadkill!

The 14-hour rule – You still have a 14-hour window to work after the start of your day. Thank God they didn’t get the hard 14 passed that would’ve kept us from extending the work day with an 8-hour sleeper berth period. I don’t use this extension much, but it’s come in handy a few times. Any rule that takes away flexibility is a bad thing for a trucker.

The 70-hour rule – You can still work up to 70 hours in an 8 day period. I wish they’d raise this limit, but quite frankly, I’d have better luck getting my nephews to quit “nutting” each other. Yes, that’s precisely what you think it is.

10-hour breaks – You still need to get a minimum 10 hours of off-duty and/or sleeper berth time to reset your 11 and 14-hour rule. This can be all off-duty, all sleeper berth, or a combination of the two.

Split breaks – Although I hate having to do split breaks, it’s sometimes necessary to deliver your load on time. In order to split, you have to have a minimum of 8 hours in the sleeper berth. The other 2 hours can be all sleeper berth, all off-duty, or a combination of the two.

Over all, I’m happy that none of these rules changed. These five rules are the ones we deal with every day and are thereby, the most important. While I’m not entirely pleased with the new rules changes, at least the biggest changes aren’t something that will affect us every day. Well, one will, but it’s not too bad.

So what are the new changes/additions to the Hours-of-Service rules?

There are three new rules changes that will start being enforced on July 1, 2013. Let’s start with the easiest of the three.

The 30-minute rest break – This new rule states that a driver may only drive when less than 8 hours has passed since the end of your last off-duty and/or sleeper period of at least 30 minutes. My company even says that you cannot use personal conveyance during this 30-minute break. After all, the whole idea is for you to be taking a break from behind the wheel. As many of you know, my company has a reputation for being super-strict on this kind of stuff, so I’d be sure to ask your company about it. Luckily, my e-log unit is set up to warn me when my 30-minute break is due. It will warn you 1 hour before and then again 30 minutes before. Once the legal break is logged, it’ll start the count over. You can also find this countdown in the Driver Log section of the e-logs. Check out the picture below to see how this looks on my system.

A picture of how the PeopleNet e-log unit keeps track of the 30-minute rest break.

The PeopleNet e-log system keeps track of when your next 30-minute break is due. It issues a warning 1 hour and 30 minutes before.

So anyway… I have to admit that this rule is a bit more complicated than I originally thought. I thought, “8 hours of driving, take a 30-minute break, then finish your day.” Easy squeezy, right? Not so fast, Hot Rod. First, the 8-hour thing includes any on-duty, off-duty, or sleeper berth time under 30 minutes. So if you fueled for 15 minutes, that on-duty time counts towards the 8 hours. But what if you pull into a rest area and show 15 minutes in the sleeper berth while you make your cup of ramen? Yep. That counts towards the 8 hours too. But if you extend that for 15 more minutes, it counts as the 30-minute rest break. That’s great, right? Well, maybe. That all depends on when you took the break.

Did you know that if you aren’t careful as to when you take your 30-minute rest break, you may actually have to take two 30-minute breaks in one 14-hour day? This will be most likely to happen if you take your break before the 6th hour. Let’s walk through an example. Say you start your day at 10 AM and you take a 30-minute lunch break 6 hours later at 2 PM. This break qualifies as your 30-minute rest break. But it also restarts the 8-hour clock. So you go back to driving at 2:30 PM. At 10:30 PM (eight hours later and still within your 14-hour day), you need to take another rest break. So if you want to avoid wasting an extra 30 minutes per day, try to remember not to break the first 6 hours of your day!

1 AM to 5 AM requirements on 70-hour resets – This is exactly what it sounds like. In order to restart your 70-hour work week, your 34-hour break has to include two periods of 1 AM to 5 AM (home terminal time). For full details on how this rule has been affecting me, check out my blog post called, TD91: Bungling the 34-Hour Rule. And for the record, I’m aware that I got the time wrong in the article. I’ve gone back and fixed it, so don’t be buggin’ me. Anywho, the worst part about this specific time-of-day requirement is that we drivers usually can’t control when we start these breaks nor when we have to come off them. For instance, one of my breaks that I talk about in Bungling the 34-Hour Rule was 44 hours and it still didn’t count as a legal restart. I was so stunned I had to triple-check it to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. But it’s actually worse than that. If you start your break at 2 AM (just one hour after the 1 AM requirement), your break will have to be 51 hours to count. Yea. I see a lot of dispatchers working with us that. Not. But it gets even worse. Yes, another level of worse.

Only 1 restart per week (168 hours)- Self-explanatory, right? When I first heard this, I thought, “Well who cares? No one is going to be getting even one 34-hour restart; let alone two in one week.” I even said as much in TD82: Are All These Changes Good for the Trucking Industry? Once again, I was as wrong as a loogie milkshake. This new rule puts even more time restrictions on the already nearly-impossible new 34-hour rule. And I think it’s going to affect the regional drivers who are home every weekend even more than us peons who are stuck out here for weeks on end. How so?

Because the one restart per week is based on when you started your last 34-hour break. This is most easily explained in an example. Say you get home at 7 AM on Saturday morning and you get a legal 34-hour break in. Now say the following weekend you get home at 11 PM on Friday. Under the new rule, you can’t start counting your 34 hours until 168 hours after the start of your previous 34-hour break. So in this example, that would be last week at 7 AM on Saturday morning. So even though you got home the previous night at 11 PM, you can’t start counting until 7 AM the following morning. Screwy, huh? That’s 8 hours that can’t go towards a restart. And that 8 hours would’ve even met the 1 AM to 5 AM time restraints. Grrrrr.

Now if that isn’t already weirder than Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, there’s another aspect of this that seems even more bizarre. Now let me state right out front that I may be wrong about this. I spoke with my safety person about this, so if I get it wrong, blame her. And then write in and and tell me how this really works. Okay. Here we go.

So back to your situation. We’ve established that this week’s restart doesn’t start counting until 7 AM on Saturday. So if you get home next weekend at 2 AM on Saturday, you still have to wait 5 hours until you can start counting towards your 34 hours. But what if you get home after 7 AM on Saturday? Let’s say you have to stay out to do one more load and you don’t get home until 10 PM on Sunday night. Great! You can start your 34 hours immediately because you’re well past the 168-hour mark.

But what about next weekend when you get home on Friday night again? Your last restart started at 10 PM on Sunday night, so now your 34 hours isn’t up until some time on Tuesday morning. So do you see what’s happening here? It seems to me that if you ever want to get another 34-hour break, you’re going to have to get home on Sunday night again. So much for the weekend. And what if dispatch is shooting to have you home Sunday night but you’re delayed until Monday morning?

I’m really hoping someone will tell me how wrong I am here. But the way I see it is that you can never move the 34-hour start time backward; it can only be moved forward. I don’t see how that can possibly be a good thing for you drivers who are supposed to get home on the weekends. Does that mean you’ll have to stay out for two weeks in order to set yourself up for weekend home time again? Some of you regional drivers write in and tell me how you think this will work in your situation. I’d love nothing more than for you to tell me I’m a moron.

A picture of how the PeopleNet e-log unit keeps track of the 34-hour break.

This shot was taken the morning of June 14. The 34-hour break start time shows a later time because my last 34-hour break started at 15:56 on June 7 (168 hours prior).

Again, thankfully those of us on e-logs don’t have to figure a lot of this stuff out. As you can see from the photos, the e-log system keeps track of all this for you. In the first photo, you can see it lists the earliest time I can start my 34-hour break and the time it will end. In this example, I took this snapshot the morning of the June 14. But notice the start time is listed as 15:56. That’s because the last 34-hour break I started was at 15:56 on June 7 (that’s 168 hours prior). Notice also that the end time is for the 16th at 0500. That’s because of the new 1 AM to 5 AM time constraints. So in this case, if I wanted to start my 34-hour break, I’d have to be down for just over 37 hours.

A picture of how the PeopleNet e-log unit keeps track of the 34-hour break.

This was taken at 22:30. Notice how the 34-hour break start time is the present time. Also the end time has changed from the previous picture.

This next shot was taken at 22:30, which just so happens to be the exact time the 34-hour start time shows. That’s because I’m now past the 168-hour window. This start time now moves with me as time passes. Notice the end time now shows 08:30. So if I were to start my 34-hour break right then, I’d only have to be down for 34-hours to get a legal restart. Sweet!

Time to wrap this puppy up. When I had Fräulein Hitler on the phone, I asked how she thought these new rules would affect drivers. She said there was actually some poor sods at our company who’ve been using the new rules since April. And I thought I was on the crap list! She said about half of the 34-hour attempts were registering as legal 70-hour resets. What she didn’t say is how many of those 34-hour restarts took longer than 34 hours. According to my unscientific tests, the number of acceptable restarts is more like 1/3, and remember, I wasn’t even taking into account the 168-hour limitations when I did my study.

Well, at least there is one ray of hope in all this. History has taught us that Nazis always think they’re right, but it’s been proven that they’re often wrong; big time. So maybe my safety lady and her fellow FMCSA Nazis will accept defeat and back the heck off. Then again, Hitler didn’t really give up did he? He more or less self-destructed. Great. That sounds like a lot of fun for our immediate future.

*Are you dreading the new HOS rules or do you think they won’t affect you much? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Yes, I realize you’ll have to do a little math to complete the task, but that’s what calculators are for, right? ;-)*

TD82: Are All These Changes Good For The Trucking Industry?

The new Hours-of-Service rules, texting and cell phone laws, the CSA, and my personal nemesis and eternal torturer of my soul, Electronic Logbooks, all claim to make the trucking industry safer. But do they? Let’s take a look at that. We’ll discuss the issues first, then sum it all up at the end. May as well tackle these puppies in order. And yes, tackling puppies is perfectly okay if they’re barking for no reason.

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So about these new Hours-of-Service rules. Well, truck accidents are at a 60-year low, so naturally, it’s time to change the rules. Oh boy. Where to start? I guess we really only need to focus on a few of the rules that will affect the majority of drivers. For a complete list of the Hours-of-Service changes, click here.

The 11-hour rule:

Well, for once we lucked out. The powers who know whats best for us had wanted to reduce our daily driving sessions to 10 hours. They lost. For now. Don’t expect this to go away though. They’ve already said they’re going after it again. Yay.

The current 34-hour restart rule:

The old rule said that if you took an uninterrupted 34-hour break, you got to reset your 70-hour work week. Why was this rule important to drivers? Because if you reset your 70 hours, you could squeeze in 82 hours of working within that week. Thanks to @TameraGeorge1 for pointing me to an article on this.

The new 34-hour restart rule:

Used to be, you could take your 34-hour break any time you wanted. Now it has to include two periods between 1:00 AM – 5:00 AM, home terminal time. Granted, they wanted the hours to be from 1:00 AM – 6:00 AM, but they relented. Bless their hearts. But why did they want specific times at all? Well, the divine rulers of all things sacred and righteous said that they wanted us to be sure to get two periods of “overnight” rest. How thoughtful of them. In reality though, these people know trucking about as well as I know the commodity market. They’re pretty sure that we need to sleep sometime and I’m pretty sure that you can sell a pig. That’s about the extend of our knowledge. The difference is, I’m not trying to tell them how to run the commodities game.

So what’s the problem with the new rule? Let me sum it up for you. The new 34-hour rule is as worthless as a drunk Harley rider in a motocross race. Why? Because we truckers don’t sleep when normal folks sleep. Sure, 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM might be prime sleeping time on one day, but two days later it’s the middle of your driving shift. They just can’t comprehend that not everyone has a 9 to 5 day job and not everyone sleeps at night. The concept truly is beyond them.

Now let’s be honest here. The current 34-hour rule is hard enough to do as is. The trucking industry simply moves to quick. The last thing anyone wants is to leave a driver sitting for 34 hours. I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten 30-32 hours into a 34-hour break, only to have to cut it short to pick up a load by a certain time. In other words, freight has to be really freakin’ slow to sit still for 34 hours. Kinda like right now. I’m writing this in the midst of what is looking to be a 42 hour shutdown. Still, that doesn’t happen all that often. Especially this marathon sit-a-thon I’m tolerating today.

So now we’ve got a time restriction on top of all that. It’s not all that often that I get shut down for 34 hours. But now it has to be 34 hours starting and ending at a particular time. I’m sorry, but I really don’t see the shippers staying in touch with my dispatcher to find out if their shipping schedule works with my 34-hour restart.

You can only do one 34-restart per week:

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Although it really doesn’t matter, since we’ll be hard pressed to get even one restart per week. If you have enough time to get a second restart within a week, you’ve got bigger problems than it not being legal.

The 8-hour break rule:

Basically, you can’t drive more than 8 hours without taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Personally, I can’t wait until I have to refuse a load because the delivery is 9 hours away and a 30-minute break would make me late. Honestly though, for the vast majority of drivers this will have little effect, as most stop at some point in their day to eat. It probably will affect me as I typically eat my mid-shift meal on the run. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Speaking of distracted driving. . .

Distracted driving laws:

No texting for truckers. No cell phones for truckers. What’s next? No iPods for truckers? No CD players for truckers? No GPS for truckers? No CB’s for truckers? Okay. I admit. I’d be all right with that last one. But hey, why not get rid of the  gauges on my dashboard? I do look down at them ever now and then. Better get rid of all the billboards too. And while you’re at it, Corvettes are no longer allowed on the roadway. And that beautiful river? Better dam it up. I can’t be caught looking away from the road. And of course, my e-log unit needs to go. All that beeping is waaaaay too distracting.

The CSA, or Comprehensive Safety Analysis:

This fairly new system is the FMCSA’s attempt to get rid of bad drivers and bad carriers by assigning points for naughty behavior. If a driver gets too many points, they’re a hiring risk. And since those points transfer to the trucking company, they want to get rid of bad drivers. Problem is, you can be cited for all kinds of things that are out of your control. For instance, I recently got a warning for speeding (I actually wasn’t). Even though I didn’t get a ticket, I still got points on my CSA. Here’s that story and my complete thoughts on the CSA. Also, if a tail light burns out in mid trip, that’s considered unsafe and I get points. But the last time I checked, my eyeballs were restricted to my head. Now if I could just take them out and hang them 70 feet out my window I could’ve seen that burned out light. Oh wait. Can’t do that. That would be distracted driving.

The cursed E-logs, or Electronic Logs:

I have so many musing on e-logs that I’m not even going to link to them all here. Just go up to the handy-dandy search bar, type “e-logs,” and mark off a day-and-a-half on your calendar. Okay. It’s not that bad, but I have written extensively about them. My hatred is known far and wide. I’m pretty sure that even that rice farmer in rural China has heard about it by now.

Okay. So back to the question: Are all these changes good for the trucking industry?

Well I guess that all depends on which part of the trucking industry you’re talking about. In short, I think the changes will be good for the safety aspect, so-so for the trucking companies, and downright awful for the driver and their bank account. Gee. There’s a surprise.

First, I think when it comes to safety (which this is supposedly all about), adding time restraints to the 34-hour rule change won’t have near the effect that the trucking godheads believe it will, mainly because I don’t think drivers are going to get it very often, if ever. But this is not good news for the carriers and the drivers. You see, the whole point of the 34-hour rule is to reset your 70-hour work week, enabling you to work more hours, which in turn puts more money in yours and the carriers’ pockets. But if they’ve now limited the work week to 70 hours, what’s the point in having the rule at all? Is it just me, or am I totally missing something here? I guess it will make doing your paper logs easier with a reset, but other than that this rule is as pointless as a lead life jacket.

As for the 8-hour rule, I suppose the more breaks you take in a day, the more alert you’ll be. And if you have to be down for 30 minutes, maybe so many drivers won’t be eating while they’re driving. So I guess you can mark that as a plus for the safety side. As for the carriers, they may experience a few more late deliveries, but that probably won’t happen very often either. As for the drivers, maybe being forced to stop will allow them to quit eating so much fast food. Maybe. Okay, that’s a Mr. Fantastic-sized stretch.

Now for distracted driving laws. This one is probably good for safety. . . as long as they don’t take it too far. Although they may have already crossed that bridge. As bad as I hate to admit it though, distractions do cause us to take our eyes off the road for a brief moment. I think if we were all honest with ourselves, we’d admit this. How many times have you done something while talking on the phone or fiddling with your CB that you never would’ve done if you weren’t? I mean, that’s never happened to me, but maybe it has to you. But where does it all end? With nothing to listen to and nobody to talk to, how long will you be driving before your eyelids come crashing to the ground? Sorry, but the surrounding traffic is better off with me texting (not that I’m advising that) than me asleep behind the wheel. Hey, that’d be a good name for a band. Oh wait. . .

Next we tackle the puppies. I mean the CSA. We’ve already tackled the puppies. As bad I hate to admit it, I believe that the CSA is going to be good for safety. They’re trying to weed out the bad drivers and the carriers who turn a blind eye to safety issues that their drivers are pointing out. Unfortunately, some good drivers with bad luck, a bad day, or even bad timing are going to get caught up in this mess. One bad thing could screw up an otherwise excellent career. Still, I know from my own experience that the CSA has caused me to do some things I haven’t done in the past. That license plate light that’s burned out? Yea, I fixed that. That missing mudflap? Yep. Went to the shop for that too. Watching my speed more closely? Yep. So blame the CSA when you get behind me and I’m doing the speed limit. Yes. I’m now that annoying guy.

As for those hell-spawned e-logs, well, I’d really rather eat a turd casserole than admit what I’m about to say, but here goes. I think that e-logs are good for safety. Gosh, I feel like banging my head against a dresser drawer like Dobby for saying that. The fact is, there’s absolutely no way to cheat. I’ve heard drivers say they can cheat with e-logs, but I think they’re probably so used to lying on the CB that it’s spilled over into their e-logs. I’m sure most carriers love them because they don’t see as many log violations. But is this good for the driver? Well, it keeps them from cheating and it makes them run legal logs, but I stand by it when I say there needs to be more flexibility. Add more flexibility to the Hours-of-Service rules and e-logs won’t be such an issue. I won’t be holding my breath on that one though.

So where does that leave us drivers? Well, I don’t really care. The new Hours-of-Service rules don’t kick in until July 1, 2013 and I’ll be off the road and out of the trucking industry for good by then. Yea. Like I haven’t been saying that since 1997.

What do you think about all these changes? Let us all hear your thoughts by leaving a comment. And please give this post a rating and force it onto all your unsuspecting online friends. Thanks

Photo by johanohrling via Flickr