Hours-of-Service rules: Let’s not fix what isn’t broken
April 1, 2011
Every so often a load comes along that simply has to be looked after. The HoS (hours-of-service) rules must allow the flexibility for us to do that. Tinkering with the present HoS rules that exist south of the border seems to me like 'fixing...
Every so often a load comes along that simply has to be looked after. The HoS (hours-of-service) rules must allow the flexibility for us to do that. Tinkering with the present HoS rules that exist south of the border seems to me like ‘fixing something that ain’t broke.’ Take a look at one of my recent trips as an example.
I arrived at my home terminal at 6 a.m. on a Friday. I took a 34-hour reset which allowed me to leave between four and five on Saturday afternoon. I could now head back to Grand Rapids to deliver and reload for Winnipeg, arriving on Monday morning. I was able to reload in Minnesota on Tuesday morning and be home again by ten o’clock on Wednesday night.
Now I’ve got to be honest here. That was a 4,500-kilometre trip in a period of just over four days, so I had to squeeze every productive minute out of my days to make it work. I was challenged at the start due to snow and black ice on the way to the US border that added an hour to my trip.
I split my sleeper two-eight-two driving through the States arriving at the Canadian border with just minutes left in my US hours-of-service window.
I would not want to do this trip every week with such a tight delivery window, it would drain me. But at the same time I don’t want the flexibility of being able to run that hard taken away from me.
So what would the scenario be under the new rule changes? First of all the trip would never have taken place. With the new requirement of incorporating two periods between midnight and 6 a.m. into the 34-hour reset, I would not have been able to leave until Sunday morning, so I would never have made the Monday morning delivery in Winnipeg.
Second, if the shift driving time was reduced to 10 hours from 11 hours, I would have required an additional eight hours in the bunk to give me the necessary hours to complete the run.
The proposed minimum 30-minute rest break before exceeding seven hours driving would not have applied since I was splitting my sleeper berth taking two hours off-duty in the midst of each duty shift.
So what does this mean? Would the receiver have had to go without the freight for an extra 24 to 36 hours? No. Other arrangements would have been made to ensure the freight was picked up in a timely manner to meet the delivery deadline.
Would I lose money over this? Probably not. I’d still be working, just on a different load without such tight time constraints. I’m making assumptions that there would be a large enough driver pool available, shippers would have the freight ready in a timely manner, the roads would always be bare and dry with low volumes of traffic, and the weather would always co-operate.
Of course, this is not the reality of our world. In fact the driver pool is expected to contract, logistical problems arise for shippers just as they do for us, traffic volumes continue to grow with each passing year, and the weather is anyone’s guess.
Precisely why we need some flexibility within the rules and I think most folks are pretty happy with the way the present rules have been working.
Having said that, we have to recognize the rules set limits and not a quota of hours that drivers have to work every week.
Every driver needs to find their comfort zone within the rules. Fatigue results when you’re running like a dog week in and week out, maxing out your hours every day then just taking enough time to reset before starting all over again.
Experienced drivers don’t usually run this way, they would have burned out long ago.
Unfortunately it’s newer drivers that are being exploited by some of the bottom feeders out there and fall victim to this type of treatment.
There is no such thing as forced dispatch. If you have to work 70 hours every week to make ends meet or have the threat of dismissal held over your head at every turn then it’s time to move on.
No amount of legislation is ever going to fix the issue of driver fatigue. Removing the ability for a driver to go the extra mile for the customer when needed places a huge burden on the whole system. This has been well documented by the trucking media over the previous few months. It’s also a slap in the face to professional drivers that know when to push it and when to park it.
None of us are interested in bringing harm to ourselves or the travelling public. The rules work. Let’s improve safety and a driver’s quality of life through more training, education, and mentoring of new drivers.