Driver issuesNewsTrucking Regulation

With drivers feeling constrained by ELDs, industry needs solutions to solve growing “flexibility crunch”

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It’s time to take a look at alternative methods for regulating hours and paying drivers


Imagine the worst boss you’ve ever had looking over your shoulder all day and telling you what to do, and then once 14 hours have elapsed since you drove to work, you have to drop everything, stop work and take a 10-hour break regardless of the time of day. Oh…and by the way, you’re only getting paid for 80% of the hours you work because your company gives away 20% of your time to customers for free.

On top of that you can’t drive home and have to sleep in your vehicle in a parking lot where there are no rest facilities and cameras watching you to make sure you don’t take a bio-break (but your dog can if he/she has the urge). Sounds ludicrous – right? Well, that is something many commercial truck drivers have to live by every day with prescriptive regulations that dictate when they can and can’t work, and to verify compliance, they have to wear the equivalent of an ankle monitor to make sure they’re not trying to drive home even though home is only 30 minutes down the road. Truckers tell FreightWaves that the situation is akin to being under house arrest – or rather “truck arrest” – even when they haven’t done anything wrong.

That is the new reality that drivers face now as the FMCSA’s ELD Mandate is in full effect and the reason why the trucking industry is facing a flexibility crunch of unprecedented proportions. There has been much talk about a “capacity crunch” but the reality is there is a flexibility crunch that is contributing to both the driver turnover and driver shortage crisis. Most over-the-truckers only get paid for the miles they drive within an 11-hour window but generally don’t get paid for the 3 hours allowed for unloading, loading and fueling – a typical 24-hour workday is made up of 11 hours on-duty driving, 3 hours on-duty non-driving (loading, unloading, fueling etc.) and 10 hours off duty. The fact that most truckers’ workday is regulated at 14 hours is alarming, after all, that is 60% longer than the average American worker who works 8.8 hours per day.

On top of this, the long-haul trucking industry still vacillates about how to solve the driver turnover and alleged driver shortage problem yet wonders why drivers quit in great numbers around the 90-day mark after being sleep deprived day in and day out, forced to work long hours and not be paid for at least 20% of the work they do every day. Some of the smarter fleets have already figured this and switched to hourly pay or annual salaries as is the case in Europe.

The “flexibility crunch” arises in part because drivers no longer have the flexibility to go off-duty at docks because the ELD Mandate now requires drivers to record dock time as on-duty despite the fact most don’t get paid for it. Prior to the ELD Mandate, drivers would simply go off-duty, rest in their trucks and catch up on some sleep while their truck is being loaded or unloaded.

At the end of the workday, the flexibility that paper logs afforded drivers meant their hours always added up to 11, 3 and 10 – they would just put them together differently which helps dispel the other big industry myth about drivers cheating on their logs to run more miles and/or hours. Whilst that’s true for the 1% who bend the rules no matter what the industry, the reality is that drivers want the option to put their workday together based on how alert or tired they feel and how the freight is running on any given day of the week. This includes stopping for a nap when tired, without fear of running out of hours at the end of the day – as is the case now with the 14-hour rule enforced by ELD’s, or waiting for traffic to ease off before heading into a city to drop and hook the next load.

This “flexibility” has come at a cost because for far too long, motor carriers have absorbed the inefficiencies in the supply chain where trucks are held at docks for long periods of time generating little to no revenue.  Now that we have the ELD mandate in place, every minute of every hour spent on a dock becomes quantifiable in terms of both the opportunity cost to drivers and carriers, but the actual cost of supply chain inefficiencies in rates shippers are charged to haul loads. The flexibility crunch is very real with some shippers seeking to lock in capacity by becoming a “Shipper of Choice” and work with carriers who are beginning to use objective ELD data to demonstrate opportunities for improvements (and establish more accurate rates in the process).

A driver’s weekly work time allotment is linear – the clock keeps ticking until you hit your maximum number of work hours then you stop. Unfortunately, the freight task isn’t linear and oscillates over the course of a week and year, driving the need for flexible regulations that are economically affordable.

Performance-Based Regulations

At the heart of the flexibility crunch is the FMCSA’s desire to design regulations that cater for every possible scenario i.e. the lowest common denominator in the industry. The problem with this approach is that by default all of the good operators get treated as if they were the worst with no ability to differentiate themselves beyond regulatory exemptions to HOS (hours-of-services) regulations. Performance-Based Regulations (PBR) in countries like Australia have already demonstrated that if regulations are both flexible and economically affordable with financial incentives to comply, industry will not only comply in great numbers, it will lift the overall standard of the industry itself. The FMCSA needs to create an environment whereby good operators can benefit from their higher operating standards and receive regulatory benefits in the process such as multi-tiered HOS framework where the more flexibility required to haul freight, the higher the standards carriers have to meet.

For example, in exchange for exemptions from HOS rules, including the 10-hour continuous off-duty rest break period, split-sleeper and 14-hour rules, carriers would also have to meet higher operating standards ranked in order of priority. They include:

  • A minimum of 6-hour continuous sleep every 24 hours at a time of the drivers own choosing
  • 2 periods of consecutive night sleep every 7 days (no work between 10pm and 8am)
  • Bio-compatible scheduling of drivers start and load appointment times (such that their work and rest hours align with their personal sleep preferences), and
  • Sleep education classes for all employees.

PBRs are also a perfect blockchain application and using technology like Blockcerts developed by Learning Machines and MIT via the Universal Driver Passport, drivers and fleets can demonstrate their compliance and qualifications whether it be via roadside enforcement and mobile apps or in-office audits. PBRs are highly dependent on trust between all parties and with that being the foundation of blockchain technologies, Blockcerts would independently verify driver qualifications, compliance to regulations and higher voluntary standards at the click of a button.  

The benefit for the FMCSA is that PBRs allow for better use of limited resources. Instead of trying to regulate every single motor carrier, most of whom don’t need to be regulated, those who choose not to voluntarily participate in PBRs and up their game, are by default outside the tent and the focus of targeted enforcement.


Regulation Sleep Instead of Hours Worked

If you were to throw away regulations that focus on hours worked in the vain hope that a driver will be well-rested for the next shift, and instead focused on regulating minimum sleep requirements, what you would end up with are well-rested drivers who run 10% more miles per tractor-week, 30% less likely to quit, have a 30% lower DOT Recordable accident rate and a 60% lower accident severity cost. After all, isn’t this the goal of the HOS regulations – to keep tired drivers off the road and make our roads safer?

On top of all of this, there are dozens of sleep personalities (morning larks, night owls, long and short nappers, no nappers, short sleepers, long sleeper plus many more) which all determine the best time of day to work and rest. Add to this the aging process where the amount of sleep not only declines as we age, but the quality of sleep diminishes also – by the time we hit 50 we’re getting 50% less deep sleep than we did when we were 20.

Take aging body clocks, sleep at different times of the day, sleep disorders, varying sleep personalities and then a one-size-fits-all HOS regulation and ELD Mandate on top, and you end up with a perfect storm resulting in high driver turnover, higher accident rates, low driver productivity levels and an inefficient supply chain.

All of this adds up to the flexibility crunch now facing the global supply chain – as it is that very flexibility that is required to drive supply chain efficiency and road safety, not prescriptive regulations enforced by the ELD Mandate.

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One Comment

  1. Criminals have more rights than I do, this is a clear violation of fourth amendment rights. An ankle bracelet because I might break the law. Thought you had one of these if you were on probation for crime already committed.

  2. 5 million miles of drinking and I’ve never fallen asleep as much as I have in the past 6 month. The HOS must be addressed sooner than later and the parking is out of control. Tell me how you can get a restful nights sleep on an on or off ramp with cars driving past at 80 and trucks going by at 70. Not to mention there aren’t any facilities. Nobody’s address these issues. I’ve also seen more truck in the bush in recent months. ELD can’t be working for safety. Big money for big business.
    I hate to say it but it’s time to strike. I want safe roads. I want earnings to reflects the job we do. Unfortunately the government is working against the truckdrivers. Time to strike. Watch when the beautiful people can’t get the goods they want.

  3. When is President Trump going to listen to the ones that supply this " Make a America great again " Country with the everyday things that they can not live without and not the ones that are just a different part of the "Swamp ". Listen to the real experienced drivers and not the pencil pushers who have never even seen the inside of a truck before you end with a true crisis on your hands.

  4. All I see is faceless alphabet soup agencies trying to control how much money I make by dictating the hours of when I can work, not only on a day to day basis, but on a weekly basis as well.

    There are very few industries that are so heavily regulated. There are very few industries where they tell you how many hours a day and week, or, as the case is, per 8 day period, where you can work a maximum of 70 hours in 8 days.

    The having to be On Duty at docks on ELD is erroneous. We can and do go into Off Duty or Sleeper Berth if we aren’t required to load, unload, monitor, or in some other manner do a job related task during those times, and any driver who does, is only cutting off his own paycheck by wasting On Duty time, which ultimately counts against his total allotment of 70 hours worked in an 8 day cycle.

    One of the biggest issues that I have seen becoming even more of a problem in the past few months is inefficiency of shippers and receivers. When my appt to pick up a load is at 2100, it’s no longer just 2 or 3 hours to be loaded. I have shown up for an appt to pick up scheduled for 2100, where I actually arrived at 2030, only to not even be called into a dock door until 0400, and not released with paperwork until 1300 the following afternoon. Naturally, I was in constant contact with my dispatcher and the broker, and I was not a happy camper. Neither were they, when I made it abundantly clear that this load would not be where they wanted it to be by 0600 the following morning due to the unbelievable amount of time that I was detained at the shipper. On the receiving end of that same load, they proceeded to take 4 hours to get me into a dock, and another 3.5 hours to unload me. People refused to sign my times in and out on the bills at both facilities in an attempt to screw me out of my detention pay. The one that took the cake and will remain forever burned into my brain is the series of shippers and receivers that I had to endure this sort of treatment from while working my way from Lubbock, TX to Chicago, IL, while trying like hell to get back to our terminal in Chicago, so that I could hurry up and get home to Upstate NY, because the doctors gave my mother a week to live, and I was in Texas when I got the news. I was stuck in Springfield, MO when my brother called to tell me she passed…and every shipper and receiver between Lubbock, TX and Chicago, IL KNEW what the deal was.

    I don’t know if those working on the loading and unloading end are just lazy, incompetent, or milking the clock, but it’s hurting people like me and my trucking brethren. Being held up at shippers and receivers adds to the unsafe driving the alphabet agencies fear. With a schedule to keep, a shrinking number of hours to keep the schedule, and having our time thoughtlessly frittered away by others, our feet get heavy fast. Factor in the number of careless driving four wheelers that obviously suffer from chronic and incurable Mefirstitis and Beat the Truck Syndrome, coumpounded by the chronic, yet curable Beat the Clock Syndrome truckers suffer, and you have the perfect recipe for disaster.

    I have a slightly different suggestion on how our HOS should be. Give us 16 hours a day, with a maximum of 12 hours Driving and 4 hours On Duty, with 2 half hour and 1 full hour mandatory breaks, with the 1 full hour occuring no later than 8 hours after starting the work day, a mandatory 8 hour sleeper break (splitting 6/2 being acceptable), and a 7 day cycle. Do away with the 2 days rest, 34 hour rule, or anything resembling such, but give the driver the choice to enforce it if he wants it, so that dispatchers and other company personnel can’t compel him against his will. In addition, add a clause that after giving a total of 8 hours on the drive line, companies can’t compel the driver to give more. They got 8 for the day, that should be good enough, but it gives the owner operators or motivated drivers a little wiggle room without sacrificing safety.

    For myself, I am 46 years old. I seldom sleep longer than 5 hours at a stretch, and I enjoy driving at night, because there are less four wheelers out there trying to kill me in the wee hours. My truck is ungoverned, but I seldom push more than 5 over the limit. I don’t play around in work zones and often shake my head at the drivers flying past me in those work zones pushing 10 over. I might be running late, but my thought is that I am already so late that pushing over the limit isn’t going to get me there on time anyway, so why risk the ticket, or getting someone, especially maybe me, killed? When I am tired, I am TIRED. I don’t give a rat’s ass what I am pulling. I am not about to wreck my rig for anyone’s benefit. There’s no load worth my life, and I happen to love me, so I’m going to make sure that I stick around a while.

    My HOS suggestion is partly based on what I know would work for me, and not too dissimilar from what we already have. It doesn’t necessarily cater to only owner operators, and it affords some protections to company drivers who refuse to operate a CMV in an unsafe fashion.

    Some other things that could help is to lean on the shippers and receivers with fines, mandatory detention and layover fees, exercising TONU fees after a certain amount of time at the driver’s discretion, and paying loading/unloading personnel a fair and equitable per truck rate on a uniform scale. Nothing compels people to move faster than money. If you pay a guy $12/hr to unload trucks for an 8 hr shift, he’s not going to give you a lot of effort. He’s going to walk the dog all 8 hours and go home with his whole $96 minus taxes for the day. Give him $50/truck, and watch how fast your shit gets unloaded and counted and your paperwork signed. 3 trucks, and he will have slaughtered that $96 for the whole day.

    Companies should also start putting cameras inside their trailers to monitor the loading and unloading. Lots of places load and unload us as if they were using a fucking battering ram instead of a forklift. I’m pretty sure a lot of those damaged and missing cases would suddenly stop being damaged and missing, but of course, the driver isn’t allowed on the docks, for insurance reasons, so anything goes.

    It’s also likely that if drivers were able to take a nationally certified forktruck class so that they could use mechanical equipment instead of a hand operated pallet jack, and get off the insurance reasons for not allowing a driver to use mechanical equipment to unload their own trucks, things would go a lot faster.

  5. Extremely well written article. Much was said in very few words. I think the 14 hour rule is the worst regulation I had to deal with in 20 years and 2.3 million miles. Under the old 10/8 rule, we had flexibility with ability to split the break. During that time , I would take into consideration how I slept and how rested I felt. What cities I was going to pass through and at what time. The weather. During those years, I would sometimes park and lie down in my sleeper in the afternoon, even if I thought I MIGHT need a nap. I would do that because parking during the day is usually easier to find. That way I wouldn’t be tired and desperate for a parking space at night where it may be impossible find. Under the 14 hour, I became an unthinking robot who simply looked at a clock to determine when I should drive. In the past, I might drive in rush hour traffic a few times a year. With the 14 hour rule, I might drive in morning and evening rush hour traffic on the same day. Well, that is stressful and fatiguing. Based on my experience, avoiding congested traffic reduces close calls with motorists. It that type of traffic, people become impatient and aggressive. I want to avoid those situations. In summary: I like to drive at night. With the ability to take a partial break in the afternoon, that allowed me to have time to drive later and avoid heavier daytime traffic. For me, a restful nap is 3 hours. With flexibility, I can use my knowledge, based on 20 years experience , to pick the best times to drive to avoid congestion and reduce my chances of being involved in an accident. Furthermore, I can avoid the worst of the weather. Truck drivers don’t work in a warehouse. My environment can change by the minute. I want flexibility to have the ability to adapt and limit my risks of an accident while at the time using my time efficiently.
    Finally, I never bought an energy drink in my life until the 14 hour rule went into effect.
    The old rules allowed too much flexibility. Shippers,receivers, and dispatchers could be inefficient, and the truck driver was then expected to drive all night, possibly without sleeping, to get the load delivered on time and to make everyone happy and to avoid any repercussions.
    The solution: Limited flexibility. Allow a driver to split his break into two segments of his choice.