I wanted to first say that I am sorry to hear about your dad. I am no stranger to death, as my wife had lost 3 brothers and her mother all in a 7 year period. It practically destroyed her and she is only now coming out of the depressed shell that she withdrew into 5 years ago. I pray that God will bring comfort and piece of mind daily to you and others who have lost a loved one.
I understand your concern regarding my 12 hour proposal for the hours of service rules, but I ask that you let me explain. If after, you still feel that you do not agree, I will completely understand and respect that opinion.
There is a common misconception that if we reduce the number of hours that a driver is allowed to drive, the roads will be safer. On the contrary, it is my opinion that it is not the amount of time that a driver drives that makes him or her an unsafe driver, but rather the amount of time that they are not allowed to rest.
I am not sure what you do for a living, but if you have ever held a desk job you have probably had days where you had so much energy that you could have stayed an extra 4 hours to do some more work. Likewise, you have probably had days where 1pm came along and you couldnít keep your eyes open and had no idea how you were ever going to make it to 5pm and you canít understand why you are so tired because you slept the same amount of time the night before as you normally do. Well driving trucks is a lot like that only in a much more extreme way. And when we become tired we canít lay our head on the desk for a while to close our eyes.
Drivers are a strange breed that cannot necessarily turn the energy (or sleep) on or off on demand. We have days where we have so much energy that we could go 18 hours without any problem, but we also have days that we cannot go longer than 6 hours. This is not so much the result of a lack of sleep, but rather the result of very erratic demands placed on us due to how the shipping industry operates. Every day is different from the next.
Now if I could offer you a scenario that we go through daily and ask you to place yourself in the driverís shoes for a moment. Letís say that you were given a load to deliver that was going to take you 20 hours to get from point A to point B. No matter how you cut it, that run is going to take you 2 days. Now I ask you, based on the information above, would you prefer to run 12 hours the first day and 8 hours the second and be wide awake for both days OR would you prefer to drive 10 hours the first day being wide awake and 10 hours the second day being completely tired for 2 of those hours, unable to keep your eyes open? Obviously you would choose the option to drive both days while wide awake if you could, even though the first is longer than the second. This is why I propose extending the drive hours to 12 hours. It is not to allow drivers to drive more, but rather to allow drivers to rest more on the days that they need it. I hope you can understand where I am coming from.
As drivers we do our best to pace ourselves by trying to drive as many hours as we can safely the first day because we donít know how the second day is going to go. The thing is that the hours of service do not offer us the flexibility to maximize our alert driving and thus we are forced to drive longer on days where we find ourselves tired much of the day. Furthermore, the rules have really eliminated the ability for a driver to take a break in their driving shift to get highly needed rest. One might think that 11 hours of driving in a 14 hour on-duty window would result in 3 hours of rest time that a driver could take, but things almost never work out that way. After pre-trip inspections, fueling time, loading and unloading time, and mandatory half hour breaks, that 11 hours will consume that 14 hour window with no rest at all.
It used to be that we could split our drive time so that we could drive for a while and rest for a while (which would essentially stop the on-duty clock) then resume our driving again, but the current hours of service, particularly the 14 hour window have abolished that. The result is that drivers are driving as many hours as possible before that 14 hour window closes and often they are exhausted and might only need a few hours of rest, but they know they cannot stop, even though their logbook says that they should not need sleep. How ridiculous is this?
These rules have been created by bureaucrats that have no experience with this industry. The data that they use to create law is seriously flawed and the result is that the driver and everyone around the driver are placed in danger. These people think that they can determine better when a driver is tired or not than the driver himself. There is no one who can tell when a driver is tired better than the driver and drivers are driving with their hands tied which often results is fatalities.
I was a driver long ago and have easily driven more than 500,000 miles. I went into IT for 15 years and when I return to driving a year ago, I found myself driving more tired now than I ever did 15 years ago. I talked with other drivers and found out that they were doing the same. This is what has moved me to start the HOS Overhaul initiative. There is a problem with the rules, but the problem is not a shortage of regulation, but rather a shortage of common sense flexibility for the very people handling 80,000 pounds of vehicle and product on our highways. The more restrictive regulations become and are imposed on our drivers, the worse the situation will become for everyone.
There is a driver shortage in this industry of about 150,000 drivers. Good drivers are fleeing the industry and discouraging others from joining it. They are being replaced with student drivers that have no experience behind the wheel and have no idea that there once was flexibility. These drivers think that being tired is just part of the job and will not voice an opinion. My hope is to raise awareness of the situation before the experience drivers fade away completely and hopefully bring wisdom to the inexperienced driver so that they will be safer drivers as well.
Anyway, this is my view of the matter. I really apologize for digressing so much, but I felt it was important to offer a detailed explanation of the situation as I and many drivers see it. They know that things needs to change, but many feel that it is a lost cause and that the FMCSA will never budge. It is important to me to give everyone something to coalesce around and I hope that enough people will rally with me so that we can send a clear message to Washington and let the government know how serious we are about changing these rules. Is my proposal a perfect solution? No itís not, but it will accommodate most of the drivers on our highways. There will always be a small percentage of drivers that decide that rules donít apply to them, but turning the whole industry upside down to try and box them in is not the solution. They will never follow rules. These drivers probably need to be rooted out and removed from driving altogether on a case by case basis that will not affect good drivers in a negative way.