Truck drivers detest a new law that forces them to take a 10-hour rest break - and they're getting support from an unlikely source
- The electronic-logging device (ELD) mandate has attracted ire from truck drivers since it went into effect in December 2017.
- However, the hours of service (HOS) law is what underpins the much-hated ELD mandate.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) is considering changes to HOS laws and would remove some of the most-disliked portions of the law.
- In a rare moment of agreement, both truck drivers and industry leaders told Business Insider they're in support of the changes.
When the electronic-logging device (ELD) mandate came into effect last December, long-time truckers like Bill Smith, who has been driving for 53 years, were vexed.
By requiring all drivers to have a digital tracker in their trucks, the ELD mandate enforces the hours of service (HOS) law. The HOS law limits truckers to driving 11 hours in a 14-hour window, followed by a consecutive 10-hour rest break. It also requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during their workday.
"No doubt the architects of this mandate thought they were doing the right thing," Smith told Business Insider. "But in practice, it is a disaster."
But, truck drivers like Smith are poised to benefit from proposed changes to the HOS law. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) is considering addressing two particularly disliked portions of the law.
One is eliminating the 30-minute break. The second major change would allow truck drivers who have a sleeper cabin to split up their 10-hour rest break.
While the proposed changes wouldn't change the ELD mandate, they would overhaul the HOS law that the ELDs enforce. The changes would ultimately allow drivers to have more control over their work and sleep schedules.
Raymond Martinez, the FMSCA administrator, recently said these reforms are on "a fast track." He opened up the proposed changes to public comment in August and September and received more than 5,000 comments from truck drivers. Many of these comments addressed the issues that the 14-hour workday gave them.
Why the ELD mandate is unpopular
Dozens of drivers have told Business Insider that the law has hampered their ability to work normally and make a living.
One key reason the mandate has frustrated drivers is that it doesn't take into account that drivers often have to spend hours at warehouses waiting for their shipments to be loaded or unloaded. Drivers, who are paid per mile, lose precious working hours waiting for shipments because they must fit all of their driving into the consecutive 14-hour period.
According to a study by KeepTruckin, a San Francisco-based ELD management company, 75% of drivers get stuck at warehouses for periods longer than two hours at least once a week. More than a third say they might be detained at a warehouse for more than six hours at least once a week.
Those detainments stress out drivers, who are losing money, and potentially make the roads less safe for everyone: Following lengthy detentions, drivers drive 3.5 miles an hour faster on average.
The law also enforces a 10-hour block for rest, which has hurt drivers who are used to designing their own sleep schedules that accommodate for waiting at warehouses, parking spots, or other conditions outside of their control.
It's a rare point of agreement among truck drivers and industry leaders
Typically, the industry viewpoints represented by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which represents the country's largest trucking companies, are in conflict with organizations like Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents independent truck drivers.
But both truckers and trucking company owners are in support of HOS reform. OOIDA and TruckerNation.org submitted the proposals on reforming the HOS law that the FMSCA is considering. Meanwhile, ATA president and CEO Chris Spear has spoken out in favor of a bill that hastens FMSCA's reforms.
"By loosening regulations, the industry will not only operate more productively but will reduce crashes and congestion on the roads," Jeremy Reymer, CEO and founder of Indianapolis-based trucking recruitment software DriverReach, told Business Insider.
"To me, allowing a little bit more operating time now that we're very stringently controlling that operating time is a logical path," Andrew Lynch, the cofounder and president of Columbus-based supply-chain company Zipline Logistics told Business Insider.
Truck drivers told Business Insider that they agree these reforms could help them.
"The changes will allow the driver to extend their days," Jason Poat, who owns a small trucking fleet in Wingo, Kentucky and runs trucking YouTube channel The Truckers Coach, previously told Business Insider. "It will get better if those rule changes go into effect."
"A lot of drivers say they're against ELDs, but I think they're more against the HOS law than the ELDs themselves," Poat added.
"Limiting a driver to 11 hours per day and 70 hours per week is fine," Larry Golbom, a truck driver based in Lakeland, Florida, told Business Insider, "but to dictate when they can sleep is ludicrous."
Are you a truck driver with a story to share about the industry? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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