Thursday, July 18, 2013

Observations on the new rest period rule from a true ‘fatigue connoiseur’

OOIDA Life Member Bob Esler of Taylor, Mich., wrote a letter this week to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro, regarding the 30-minute rest period rule that went into effect July 1, 2013, with the agency’s new hours-of-service rules. It’s a great letter and we are feeling the need to share it.

Dear Administrator Ferro,

I noticed with interest a comment that was attributed to you regarding the studies that were done that said this was a good idea. You were quoted as saying something to the effect of “we did the best lab studies available” before this rule was implemented. In medicine before new drugs are allowed there are lab tests and then it is tested on humans before final approval. Where was the human testing on this rule? I have not seen or heard any reports of such.

You might say I have been doing my own research since 1968 on driver fatigue. That is when I entered the industry as a driver. And I am still at it. My studies have concluded that when I get tired I take a nap or shut down for the night. Sometimes when I get up, I can go all day. Then there are days when I can only make it two hours. No rule you folks make will ever change that.

This rule supposedly was done in the guise of public safety. All you folks have succeeded in doing is making drivers more aggressive on the road. Remember the old TV game show called “Beat the Clock”? That is what trucking has become today, a game to “Beat the Clock.”

Drivers will do all they can to make up for lost time because that is their living. Lost time is lost wages.

Here are some more examples of potential problems.
  • Parking:  Drivers will run to the limit before trying to find a place to park for their 30-minute break. Off ramps, shoulders of the road, and rest areas (if you can find one open) will be prime targets.
  • Oversize loads: They need all the daylight they can get. This is especially critical in the winter months when daylight is short. Finding a safe place to park for their rest period could be tough. Plus short daylight hours in the winter do not give the driver a full 11 driving hour day and you want him to take 30 minutes of that for a break.
  • Law enforcement: This 30-minute rule gives them another excuse for probable cause to stop a driver to check for compliance. Plus write citations where drivers park on the shoulders and ramps.
  • Just-in-time delivery: This is especially crucial in automotive industry. Car plants may have to adjust their production schedules. Did you folks consider that cost in your “lab work?”

 There is something FMCSA has not figured out. The trucking industry has been trying to tell you this for years and for some reason it falls on deaf ears. Driver fatigue mainly comes from sitting around and doing nothing at docks waiting to be loaded or unloaded.

Nothing (this includes driving) fatigues a driver more than sitting around. A perfect example of this is how you feel after sitting for a period of time in a doctor’s waiting room. Ever notice the yawns and nodding heads? Drivers get the same way sitting and waiting. Until this issue is addressed by FMCSA, this 30-minute rule is a waste of time. This not only applies to the driver but the whole trucking industry as well.

Remember I mentioned the old game show “Beat the Clock”? The games have begun.

Meanwhile, back to my fatigue studies.

OOIDA Life Member Robert Esler
Taylor, Mich.