Most of us who drive long-haul have to deal with two competing hours-of-service rules.
For the past several years I have split my time fairly evenly between the Canadian and American jurisdictions. My opinion on the two different sets of rules, based on my experience, is that Canadian rules are pretty good but American rules are pretty awful.
For those of us who spend 60-70 hours in the driver’s seat every week, dealing with fatigue is not rocket science. The ability to be able to plan your time forward over a period of three to five days, the flexibility to deal with unplanned delays, the ability to start and finish your day at about the same time each day, and the ability to rest each day in a safe haven are the key ingredients to successfully coping with fatigue. The focus of dealing with fatigue is on the driver most of the time but the driver is completely dependent on the actions of shippers, receivers, dispatch and enforcement in order to get the rest he or she needs to remain productive and healthy.
The general consensus among sleep researchers is that most adults require seven to eight hours of sleep per day. But it is not uncommon to find people that require only five to six hours of sleep and others that require eight to nine.
Sleep research has shown that one of the key elements to preventing fatigue is to have a structured 24-hour cycle that allows you the ability to sleep at the same time each day to obtain that sleep. The Canadian rules accomplish this by allowing the driver to stick to a 24-hour clock with fewer obstacles and greater flexibility. By providing a 16-hour window each day in which you can take two hours of off-duty time in periods of 30 minutes or more, you are provided with a good deal of flexibility. Allowing up to 13 hours of driving time gives a driver some flexibility over the course of a three- to five-day planning period to meet tight deadlines that are often imposed upon the driver by forces beyond his control.
All in all I have found this to be a good system of time management for myself.
If I stay in Canada I don’t incur sleep debt on a daily basis and I’m able to eat regularly and get some daily exercise. When you add electronic logging to this mix, many drivers who drive exclusively in Canada are finding they are provided with a system that is protecting their right to regular rest while protecting their ability to earn a decent living.
In comparison, the US system is horrendous. It gives you a 14-hour working window with a forced 10-hour rest period.
For me, a driver who has consistently slept for about six hours per day for most of my adult life, that 10-hour rest period is incredibly burdensome. It forces me to cram all my personal off-duty time into one period and all my work time into another. By allowing two hours less per day of driving time, it encourages clock-watching and racing in order to meet my delivery obligations each day.
This is both a stress- and fatigue-inducer.
If you do want to take advantage of the eight and two split to make maximum use of your time, you will find yourself driving for extended periods so as not to waste your driving time. If you use this split method for more than two days it disturbs your 24-hour shift cycle and upsets your circadian rhythm, thereby inciting more fatigue.US legislators should be looking to the rules north of the border for solutions.
Unfortunately, the driver’s needs are lost in all the noise created by lobby groups for every special interest that can’t see past their own needs. For the past few months I have been sharing my thoughts on how technology is affecting drivers’ performance.
Our passion and experience, which has served this industry so well over the years, now often plays second fiddle to software solutions that reduce performance to a set of numbers that do not reflect the potential negative impacts on a driver’s quality of life in the seat.
I think the Canadian hours-of-service rules combined with e-logs are an example of how technology can provide a measure of improved safety while protecting a driver’s quality of life. It’s a combination that provides a level of accountability to all parties, based on sleep science research.
Drivers can continue to earn a decent living employing the current pay per mile model and carriers continue to benefit from the productivity this model provides them. We don’t have a perfect system – there is room for improvement – but it’s working well because the drivers’ needs are front and centre.
That’s what we need from technology.
Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at http://truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.