The Pros and Cons of a 14-Hour Clock
Occasionally, to promote safety on the road, legislators pass laws that don’t always pan out as intended, and the trucking industry’s 14-hour clock rule is one of them. Part of the reason the hours of service rules have become points of contention in the trucking industry is because many truckers do not operate on a consistent schedule. In many cases, a truck driver’s schedule may change from week to week and adhering to these hours of service rules is not realistic in some cases.
With the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) compliance deadline just a few months away, many truckers continue to speak out about the issues with current drive time laws. Hours of service laws seem to interfere with truck drivers’ rest periods, restrict their scheduling flexibility, and add stress onto an already stressful job.
Problems With the 14-Hour Clock
Lawmakers have altered the trucking industry’s hours of service regulations many times in an effort to curb accidents. Accidents involving tractor-trailers tend to be far more expensive than other crashes and are inherently more dangerous than crashes involving smaller passenger vehicles. Driver fatigue, driving under the influence, and appropriate hours of service are certainly major issues in the trucking industry, but some of the new rules appear to do more harm than good.
The 14-Hour “On Duty Shift” rule states that as soon as a driver clocks in as “On Duty,” the 14-hour workday clock starts ticking. The clock does not stop for any reason. If a driver sleeps in the truck’s sleeping area, goes off duty, or takes a break, that time counts toward the 14-hour limit. Once the 14 hours are up, the truck driver must take a ten-hour rest period before continuing. Pickups and deliveries can happen on consistent schedules, or they may be more sporadic. This 14-hour limit basically forces truck drivers to carefully plan each and every trip, leaving very little room for error. A truck driver who pushes him or herself too far to meet a deadline is a serious safety risk. A driver who goes too slowly may need to sleep before the 14 hours are up and will then need to wait an additional ten hours before resuming the drive.
Other Time Limit Laws
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented a rule in 2013 that also causes frustration among truck drivers. The new rule requires every driver to take a mandatory 30-minute break within their first eight hours behind the wheel. Another rule states that drivers can drive for no more than 11 hours in a day, further restricting their scheduling options. Truck drivers argue that ELD regulations and these overly complex hours of service requirements make it harder to do their job and may be deterring new drivers from the industry.
The FMCSA expects all trucking companies to have full ELD implementation ready in a few months, but they are also considering a change to the existing hours of service rules. Many industry supporters and special interest groups believe more flexibility with hours of service would benefit drivers who already face tighter restrictions with the new ELD requirements.