During the fifth and final public listening session about possible hours-of-service reform, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association maintained its stance that professional drivers need more flexibility within the rules.
“We feel that drivers pretty much know when they sleep and when they need to rest,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh during the FMCSA’s public listening session on Wednesday, Oct. 10 in Washington, D.C. “It’s a little ironic to me that when we’re having an hours of service discussion, approximately eight states have lifted hours of service, and they actually trust the American truck driver to make his mind up of when to get rest and when not so he can get emergency supplies to those people.”
In August, FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking regarding possible changes to the hours-of-service rules. Since then, the agency has hosted listening sessions in Dallas; Reno, Nev.; Joplin, Mo.; Orlando, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.
FMCSA was accepting comments through Oct. 10 and had received about 4,600 as of Wednesday afternoon.
“This has been an honest effort by this agency to make sure the communication is clear to all interested stakeholders,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said. “This is a pattern we intend to keep. This is a process. There is no magic wand to make this go quicker, but we are going to move as quickly as we can.
“We are going to try to make sure that safety is preserved and improved on our roadways, but – to the extent possible – improve the efficiency and flexibility for the regulated community.”
OOIDA helped spur the discussion on hours-of-service reform as it submitted a petition to FMCSA in February.
The petition asked for regulations to allow drivers to take a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for three consecutive hours if the driver is off-duty. OOIDA also asked for the agency to eliminate the 30-minute rest break requirement.
Pugh told FMCSA leaders that a mandatory 30-minute break doesn’t improve safety.
“Our members hate it,” Pugh said. “I hated it when I drove truck. It was cumbersome. There were times when it got in my way. There were times when I was trying to get away from a storm. There were times when I was trying to beat traffic, and I didn’t want to take a 30-minute break. We understand why it was put in there. People were asking for a break, but there’s no flexibility with this 30-minute break. And it becomes a ‘gotcha’ thing for enforcement.”
The Association also spoke in favor of a return to the split sleeper berth.
“We’ve been an advocate for split sleeper berth since they took it away,” Pugh said. “I drove truck under the old original hours of service of eight and 10. I used the split sleeper berth. It did give you flexibility for weather, for time, for traffic. As someone who went into New York City a lot, I used split sleeper berth a lot to play the traffic game to come in at night and come back out.”
Mike Broaddus, an OOIDA life member, told the agency that drivers will operate more safely if they have the flexibility to make such choices as avoiding rush-hour traffic in big cities like Washington, D.C.
“We used to be able to pull over, sit in a truck stop, take a shower, relax, take a nap, use one of the nice rest areas out here, and then pull out a barbecue, throw a slab of dead cow on there, and enjoy that,” Broaddus said. “But we can’t do that anymore. Now, we have to drive 10 mph faster to make up the time that we lost going through the Beltway while our clock was running. That is the biggest problem.”
Pugh said the agency’s proposed changes are a good first step to providing drivers the flexibility they need.
“We hope you push these proposals through quickly,” he said. “We’d also like to remind you, as this comes to a close, that we don’t think any of these proposals are a complete silver bullet that is going to fix everything. I hope and I feel that you are committed to continuing this discussion. We at OOIDA are very interested, and we want to work with you to make this better and get real hours-of-service reform for drivers that we can all live with.”
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