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Truck Driver's Hours of Service Regulations
Revised to Include the "Final Regulations" of 12/27/2011
Brian W. Porter
NEARLY TEN YEARS IN THE MAKING! This sounds like a movie trailer, but it is the length of time the United States Government took to work out the new rules that Interstate Truck Drivers must follow. A committee began the work in 2002 with the goal to make trucking safer for all those on the road, and now at the end of 2011 the final version has been published. On the following pages I will attempt to explain these rules, and the reason they will not always work. First, some history. Back in the beginnings of time, 1829 to be exact, Martin Van Buren wrote to President Andrew Jackson: As you know, Mr. President, "railroad" carriages are pulled at an enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by "engines" which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed. This idea that railroads needed supervision became the Interstate Commerce Commission. In 1939, before President Eisenhower put together the National Network of Interstate Highways, Congress looked at a new way to move commodities from state to state and decided that truck drivers worked much too hard. Truck drivers fought the mud roads and bad pavement for many hours, just to work harder as they moved the goods off the truck. Congress decided that the interstate trucking industry also needed regulations to stop the unsafe practices of both drivers and trucking companies. Congress limited drivers to ten hours of driving through farmland, small towns, and cities, what we now call through the woods. This same driver could work up to fifteen hours a day, which did not include short breaks taken in the sleeper or Off Duty. During that fifteen hours a driver could do whatever the job entailed, after which he must take an eight hour break. This would ensure adequate sleep time, and satisfied Congress, for a while. A friend, fellow driver, and dispatcher, Robert Farmer, writes: During the mid 1970s, Congress decommissioned
the Interstate Commerce Commission and deregulated shipping prices, then formed the Department of Transportation. Way back yonder in the Stone Age, I studied for, and received, my Motor Traffic Management diploma/certificate. It took me about 2 1/2 or three years. Back in those days there was no Department of Transportation [DOT] or Illinois Department of Transportation [IDOT]. Every state, as well as the Federal Government, had completely different regulations for the trucking industry. A lot of these regulations were in conflict with one another. What was legal in one state would be illegal in another, and the Feds had a completely different idea of what the legalities would be. The regs were so complicated that trucking industry lawyers were tied in knots. It would take a driver, dispatcher, motor traffic manager, or even a lawyer many years of experience to figure out how to apply all these rules to their situation. The DOT was formed to do away with these conflicts and to regulate the trucking industry better. At first, it was a little better. However, as the years rolled by, more and more changes were made to DOT, making things more complicated again. It is true that, since their inception, the Department of Transportation has continuously added to the driver's book of rules. They started with a well intentioned but complex outline of how much a truck driver can work, what he must do as part of his job, and must not do, and included rules that governed his life. Over the years, these rules grew into legislation as confusing as the tax laws. During the late '70s, Congress "deregulated" the trucking industry. They removed the regulations that governed how much shippers paid carriers, a move that directly impacted truck driver's yearly wages, sending them in a
downward direction. At the same time they quietly added more regulations onto the drivers and made the job harder. In an effort to inform drivers about the rules and regulations, the Department of Transportation required trucking companies to supply every driver with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. This book, 497 pages of fine print, explained the basic regulations put out by the DOT. Included in the rules is the exact method a driver should use to report an accident, to whom he should report it, and what to do at the scene; how medical facilities should conduct a drug test and what constitutes illegal substance abuse; what a doctor must check during a driver's physical, which determines if a driver is healthy enough to work; and what the Government considers good physical shape. They even made rules that govern how to wire the truck and trailer lights. Most drivers just ignored the book, a book that is filled with hard to understand sentences and cross references. They throw it in their briefcase, and do what other drivers or dispatchers suggest. Because they do not read the book, drivers can miss the little things that cost them money, or possibly their license and their job. The rules state that, while you are in a truck, it is illegal to stop at the store and pick up a fifth of whiskey or a six-pack of beer for use at home, even if you keep it in its original closed and sealed container. You cannot haul a hazmat load or anything with a hazardous classification without a hazmat endorsement. The Hazmat Bill of Lading must follow proper forms and have designated wording for any hazardous material. The BoL must stay in your cab, in one of two places if you are away from the truck. The possible fines and costs if you ignore these rules can exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars. Because drivers do not read the book and other reference materials, they will sometimes slide the tandemsIllustration 1: A non-hazmat Bill of Lading
of a fifty-three feet long trailer farther back than is legal. Some drivers will perform a Safety Sensitive Function within four hours of having a beer or two. What is a Safety Sensitive Function? The book describes it this way. Safety-sensitive function is any of those duties set forth in part 395.2 On-duty Time, paragraphs one (1) through six (6) of this chapter. All drivers, whether they have a hazmat endorsement or not, are also required to carry the Hazardous Materials Pocket Guide (HMPG),a 596 page guide that explains what the United States of America considers hazardous cargo. We must also carry the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG), a 394 page book about what to do if you have an accident that involves one of the myriad hazardous substances. In my opinion, everyone should carry these two books in their car. For example, the HMPG says that diesel fuel, the liquid that fuels most trucks and some cars, is hazardous. The listing in the book shows the exact wording for diesel fuel that must be shown on a BoL, the United Nation's designation number, the hazard class diesel belongs to, and the class of packaging that must contain it. The ERG advises that if you spill diesel fuel you must isolate the spill, keep everyone upwind, keep unauthorized people away, stay out of low areas, and ventilate the area if you are in a closed room. The ERG also states that diesel fumes are highly flammable, that the vapors may float on a slight breeze, or they may travel downhill since they are heavier than air and then flash back to the source, or they can explode. Finally, if a tank truck or rail car is on fire you must isolate an area one half mile from the scene, and possibly evacuate that area. This is just diesel fuel, heating oil with more additives and taxes added. Gasoline, what most people use in their car, what is known to flash and burn people with one spark of static electricity, is even more likely to explode. If a driver is involved in an accident, while he performs all the necessary actions listed in the ERG, he must also call the police, the fire department, one of the databases for chemical emergencies, and notify the EPA. Calling the dispatcher, the only contact a driver has with the company that owns the truck, and the person responsible for sending him out with that load, is just an afterthought.
The Department of Transportation requires a driver to fill out a log as he goes through the day. Most drivers will run a day or two, or possibly more, as they hurry to complete all the tasks their dispatcher gave them, and then catch up on the logs when they have time. Many will fudge here or there to stay legal when they run overtime to reach a destination or a safe place to stop for a break. Some companies or dispatchers coerce the driver into doing more work than is legal; therefore, the driver needs to cheat. Two ways to cheat are not to log some runs or to use two logs. However, if you are behind on your logs by more than a few hours and your paperwork is checked at a State Scale, or if a DOT officer stops you and he discovers the discrepancy, you can pay a healthy fine. Let me give you a quick tour of this piece of paper. On the Daily Log form, in the upper left corner, there is a space for the date. If the date is wrong, it is considered an improperly filled out legal form, with a healthy fine for that infraction. How many times in January do you put the wrong year Illustration 2: Driver's Log on your checks? In one of the upper corners, there is a space for the tractor and trailer numbers. As you change trailers, the regulations tell you to add the new numbers. Like many government forms, there is not enough room. There is a line so you can tell the DOT who you are, and who your co-driver is if you have one. There are places for your company's name and mailing address, and what town is your base of operations. Most companies supply logs with this information printed directly on the page, which makes life easier. Then there is the graph. The graph is the part of the log the DOT looks at the most, and the part that can cost drivers the most
money. It is at a minimum one inch tall and six inches long, and in that small space you must accurately track everything you do from one midnight to the next. According to the regulations you must use the local standard time of your home terminal. You have to show whether you are Off Duty, in the Sleeper Berth, On Duty Driving, or On Duty Not Driving, and you must show every time during that twenty-four hour period you change status. To show this you draw a line along the appropriate part of the graph to the closest fifteen minute increment. The DOT says you should show whether the time was before or after the fifteen minute increment by drawing your line before or after the mark. I find my lines on one side or the other of the mark whether I plan it or not. Under the graph is a small space to list the town you are in when you change duties, and what special duties you perform. When a driver fills out this log, he says he is drawing lines, or drawing in his coloring book. At the end of the day, you count the hours you spent in each of the four categories, and the sum must equal twenty-four since there are twenty-four hours in a day. Lines one and two, the Off Duty and Sleeper Berth lines, can add up to a full day if you have not worked for your company, done anything to earn money, or passed time by cleaning or fixing up the truck. As mentioned earlier, the regulations that ruled how a driver worked were changed in 2004. In 2002, Congress mandated that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration consult experts on sleep, driver's health, and other trucking related issues, "experts" who knew nothing about working the road. They were to take those studies and write rules that would reflect the needs of today's trucking, and so drivers could get what they called "adequate rest." On January 4, 2004 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration changed those rules. Since then drivers have struggled to follow those rules that stated exact maximums and left no flexibility, rules that are so complicated the DOT has pages of logbook examples to keep drivers on the straight and narrow. What follows is a short explanation of those rules. After ten consecutive hours of combined Off Duty and Sleeper time, without an On Duty break for anything, you may log up to eleven hours of On Duty Driving time. Until February 27, 2012, the DOT considers On Duty Driving time any time spent behind the controls of the truck, no matter what you are doing. You may be On Duty Driving and On Duty Not Driving for a total of fourteen hours between Ten Hour Breaks. Fourteen hours after you
start your day, no matter what you’ve done or not done, or whether you worked the whole time or rested for seven of those hours, you must stop driving, although you may continue to unload or fix the truck, or do paperwork. There are no exceptions to the Fourteen Hour Rule, and only one exception to the Ten Hour Break. You may grab up to two hours in the Sleeper Berth or Off Duty, and then drive however many hours you have available up to the fourteen hour limit. Once you reach the Fourteen Hour Limit you must stop driving, even if you only need fifteen more minutes to reach your destination. For that reason, most drivers cannot stop during their fourteen-hour day even if they are about to fall asleep or feel sick, a limit the FMCSA thought about changing but did not. Another limit is that you are never to be On Duty for more than seventy hours in an eight-day period, although if you are Off Duty or in the Sleeper Berth for thirty-four consecutive hours, the seventy hour clock resets to zero. A consultant my company hired once, a former DOT officer, described the Seventy Hour Limit as "sacrosanct," and to him the DOT Regulations may be a religion of sorts. If you pass any of these limits, and a Department of Transportation officer finds you, you receive a healthy fine and the Inspecting Officer will put you Out of Service for ten hours. Therefore you will miss your appointment time and may have to sit under the load for hours or days. When you are Out of Service for any reason, you may not drive the truck. You may walk to get something to eat, but you best not unhook and drive the tractor. If you are Out of Service for an infraction of the On Duty Driving or On Duty rules, someone else with the proper license and endorsements may drive the truck, as long as they are not out of hours. However, while you are Out of Service you may not drive or perform any compensated duties. Sound complicated? Confusing? Look at the tax laws. They both came from the United States Government. Let us go through that a little slower. First some definitions. According to our consultant, Off Duty is what it says, you are home and doing nothing to earn money or better yourself. You can read, watch TV, work around the house, or flip burgers on the backyard grill, as long as no one pays you in any way, even with a beer. I read that section as saying that you may work for yourself, but not for compensation, but then I am
only a driver. If you are lucky enough to have more than one day of Off Duty break, you can combine those days onto one page of the logbook. Sleeper Berth is exactly what it suggests, time spent in the sleeper, a place behind the driver's seat where you can sleep. The Department of Transportation controls the minimum dimensions of the Sleeper Berth, which means the small shelf behind the seat in some six-wheelers does not count. All sleepers must have blackout curtains that block the light, which helps you sleep during the day. Some newer trucks also have curtains that cover the side windows and windshield. When you pull these curtains across the windshield, the DOT considers the entire inside of the truck the sleeper. When the rules were published in 2002, On Duty Driving was considered any time spent in the driver's seat. If you drove, waited in traffic, did your paperwork, read a book, played on the computer, or just smoked a cigarette while you sat in the driver's seat, that was considered On Duty Driving, unless you had those extra curtains drawn across the windshield. Day cab drivers would have to sit in a break room or stand outside no matter what the weather to legally log Off Duty. On Duty Driving time now includes any time a driver is in the driver's seat. As of February 27, 2012 under the new rules, if a truck is parked, the the time is not counted as On Duty Driving even if the driver sits in the driver's seat, which is good since I sit in the driver's seat to play with my computer. The DOT allows you eleven hours of On Duty Driving after a Ten Hour Break, and no more. If fifteen more minutes will get you home, or somewhere safe such as a rest area or a truck stop, the Federal Government says you must wait ten hours. Officers will check toll receipts, fuel receipts, scale records, the satellite report, or the electronic log if you're lucky enough to have one. It's possible that in the future a little black box will record exactly what the truck does to make sure the driver waited that ten hours to get home. Eleven hours of On Duty Driving after a Ten Hour Break does not mean you may only drive eleven hours between midnight and midnight. If you start to drive at midnight, and drive straight through until eleven in the morning, you may do a fifteen minute pretrip at nine that evening and drive eleven more hours. That action will destroy the twenty-four hour sleep cycle that the Government said was so important when they wrote the
rules. If a driver continued to do this, he would stay legal until he reached the Seventy Hours On Duty in Eight Days limit. When that limit is reached, the driver must wait until midnight to start any On Duty time. There are many aspects included in the bottom line of the logbook, On Duty Not Driving. If you wait for an assignment on company property and are not placed Off Duty by the company, you are On Duty. If you load or unload the truck, if you assist by sitting next to the dock, if you inspect or condition the truck, if you travel for any required testing and the time used to take the tests is included. A driver must also log the time used to do any required paperwork, or anything else done for compensation. All these are listed in Part 395.2 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The last phrase, "Performing any compensated work for any nonmotor carrier entity," is the tricky one. Our consultant said that you may relax in the garden on the weekends, or work with wood, or paint landscapes, or throw pots, or do any other hobby. However, if you sell the veggies, furniture, or artwork, you must log your relaxation time as On Duty time. You can also help a friend build his house, put in a new fence, or do any activity for which you do not receive pay of any kind, which some DOT Officers have said is a beer, and it is considered Off Duty. Legally, you can spend a day at hard labor, then immediately go to work and log fourteen hours of On Duty and On Duty Driving time. It seems as if many DOT Officers think drivers lie about everything. For many honest drivers, which includes this writer, that attitude not only insults us, it makes us feel as if we are second class citizens. Some officers act as if it is a game, that if they put a driver Out of Service so he cannot earn money and feed his family they have won. Many drivers have claimed the money collected from fines motivates the DOT more than making the roads safe, and a few of the times that I was inspected that appeared true. Even if we follow our dispatcher's instructions and carefully take a trailer to the repair shop, if the truck is stopped, the driver is punished and the violation goes on his record. The DOT and some companies supervise drivers closer than they did even twenty years ago. Satellite Communication, which includes Global Positioning, can track a truck to within fifty feet of its position, and usually closer. If you cheat a little and travel a few minutes more than eleven hours to reach somewhere safe to stop, for example a truck stop, rest area, or your home, someone is likely to notice. Many companies tell their drivers
they do not care, but if the DOT audits them, the fines can be outrageous. Most road drivers receive pay based on the amount of miles they drive, which the companies like since it makes it easy to calculate the bottom line of any load. Yet the Hours of Service Regulations are set up based on time, the hours one has driven or worked, not the mileage one drives. To get around that problem, many drivers will calculate where they must stop when their daily drive of six hundred to six hundred sixty miles is up. They will pick a good place to stop close to that point, and count that as their eleven hours of driving time. If they are stuck in traffic, they will say, "I'm just losing break time," which is the same as sleep time, and still only log eleven hours driving time. At the end of the day, after they have completed the log, the day is considered legal since they did not speed or show more than the legal amount of hours to complete their tasks. The DOT mandates that all drivers are subject to drug tests when they are first employed, or if they have a major accident. Most drivers are also subject to randoms, or drug tests that can occur at any time with only an hour or less notice. The DOT sets the standards specified in subpart 40, seventy pages filled with so much legal and medical jargon I cannot decipher the exact requirements to give you more than a general idea. The Legislature set the levels so any usage of any controlled substance, and some not very controlled, will show. In some cases, just the proximity to the drug is enough to cause you to fail. For example, if you go out with friends to have a few beers and they decide to share a joint, that puts you in jeopardy, not only because you're with them and it's illegal, but because the second hand smoke will cause you to fail a random drug test weeks later. You will then be labeled as a drug addict, even if you do not partake. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or marginally bad eyesight can stop a driver from legally running the road. All of those problems, usually found in older people, are limited by DOT rules. If a driver is above those limits, no matter how long he's been driving or what his financial status is, he can lose his commercial license. The possibility of failing the medical certification is enough to raise your blood pressure. Diabetes 2 can be controlled with pills, but insulin will put you Out of Service permanently. This is good since many older drivers have diabetes 2.
The rules I just described took effect January 4, 2004. At that time my yearly salary dropped by almost twenty percent, as did most other drivers' salaries. While the Bureaucrats worked out how to confuse us, they decided that a five-tier system was needed to describe the different types of trucking. They had it right. The proposal treated long haul trucking differently than regional trucking. They recognized that LTL, or delivery, had three styles. Unfortunately, Congress scrapped the five-tier system as they do so many good ideas because of special interests and lobbyists. Now trucking is the most regulated deregulated industry in America. In late December, 2011 the FMCSA published their "final changes" to the rules. The proposed two hour extension twice a week was limited to drivers who travel less than one hundred fifty miles from their home terminal, where they start and stop their day. If this included all drivers, as was proposed, this would have given a sick driver a way to take a break, the one change that I felt would make the roads safer if it went through. The length of the day or the amount of driving time was not changed. As the rules stand now, after thirty-four consecutive hours of sleeper or off duty time the week is reset with no limit to the number of resets you can use per week. The change that goes into effect on July 1, 2013 is that a driver can now only reset once a week, or 168 hours from the beginning of the last counted break as the FMCSA states. This break must include two periods between one and five in the morning, even if the driver normally works during the graveyard shift. The FMCSA claims that period of time is the body's normal down time, and even though some drivers will sleep when they are normally awake, it will either not affect them, or have a positive effect. A quick look at the calculator tells us that 168 hours is seven days, and since a reset can happen only 168 hours after the previous break's start, if one week had a late Friday finish and a start thirtyfour hours later, and the next week had an early Friday finish and started late on Saturday, the second break would not count. That would mean a driver could only take one reset during that two week period. The second week the driver would more than likely run from midnight to when his weekly time reached sixty hours for six day's work, or seventy hours for eight day's work. Again, there is no flexibility, and that lack of flexibility is detrimental to drivers. As I see it, this point will be contested in court. With the 2004 writing, each driver of a team, or two drivers who travel together so the truck rarely stops, must take a ten hour break in the
sleeper. On February 27, 2012, each driver may sit in the passenger seat while the co-driver operates the vehicle two hours before or after eight hours is spent in the sleeper. This leads to a twenty hour day, again contrary to what the rules changes were supposed to eliminate. Another change that happens on July 1, 2013 states that you may not drive unless you have been off duty for at least thirty minutes within the past eight hours. In other words, you may not drive for more than eight hours after coming on duty unless you take a half hour break, although you may do work that is not driving after that time. In the Final Rules, on page 13 under the title Comments on Economic Impacts for Drivers, The FMCSA states, A driver who is regularly working the longest hours will lose hours under the final rule; that is the intention of the rule changes. As I, and others, lose hours, so we lose pay. Many of the assumptions stated in the Finals Rules document do not pertain to me. I am paid for dock time, which the FMCSA claims drivers are not. Nor do they take into consideration the heavy traffic in many urban areas. They mention the long waits at shippers and receivers, but claim that there should be no ill effect. There is still a parking problem in many parts of the country. Remember that trucks carry everything that you see in stores, and many of the raw materials used in manufacturing. Drivers are not robots. We need to eat and sleep, and if we do not have a safe place to stop during our mandatory break periods, a place that is off the roadway away from travel lanes, we will have to park alongside the road, a dangerous situation at best. Pictures blurred to prevent copying. ***
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Author. Any and all rights and credit are held by Brian W. Porter. ***
The Regional Life
by Brian W. Porter
What is it like to drive a truck, to shepherd an eighty feet long monster around the Northeast United States of America, living in the truck for a week at a time? Why do truckers drive like they do? How can you avoid them? I drive a truck for a living, and write for a hobby. I tried to answer these questions, and through anecdotes lend a feel for what a regional driver does. Includes: I Love My Job/Life To Sleep, Perchance to Dream It Is a Bit More than Aim and Shoot Ice Skates are Not Standard Equipment They Were Going so Fast I Just had to Stop How to Make Your Truck a Convertible You Cannot Get There From Here Roads That Have Gone on a Diet It Used to be Fun / Comparisons of Ancient and New The First Time in a Big-truck
It is Only a Hurricane some viewable as unedited documents on Scribd, some new, and more not mentioned here.
*** Other short stories and essays from this author available at http://www.scribd.com/Brian%20W%20Porter.
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