Got some good news for a change this week when I passed through our terminal in Illinois: According to a bulletin posted by our Safety Department, the FMCSA came to our rescue, as I was hoping they would, and the 11-hour rule and the 34-hour reset of our 70 weekly hours will not expire on the 27th of this month after all. I think all us drivers are breathing a little easier now and thanking FMCSA for the "Christmas present" they've given us. Thank God! I was sweating that out, dreading when that day would come, as were most other OTR drivers out there.
The federal appellate court had actually smacked FMCSA down on a legal technicality, as I reported in an earlier entry. The two rules were overturned because the truck regulatory agency hadn't allowed an adequate comment period before passing their Final Rule, thus attempting to slam-dunk the Teamster's Union and several driver fatigue-happy activist groups. The new regs had already been delayed three years and they were weary of safety being held hostage for so long. So, earlier this month, FMCSA instituted an Interim Final Rule (IFR), which will keep all the current HOS regulations as-is temporarily and allow a new comment period before they issue another Final Rule.
So now they can argue back and forth for another two years, probably, and we'll just have to see what happens in the end. FMCSA is fighting to make it permanent, citing dozens of studies which have shown that the 11th drive hour decidedly HAS NOT resulted in more fatigue among drivers and an increase in major truck accidents. In fact, in that first year of 2004, there was only one (1) major car/truck accident and it was found that fatigue wasn't a factor in that one at all. Car/truck accidents have actually steadily declined since the new regs went into effect. Studies have also shown that the 34-hour reset has made things better as well, providing drivers with the weekly hours they need and eliminating the former less-than-safe tendency to run like a bat out of hell near the end of a workweek in order to get loads delivered and picked up, get home, etc., before a driver's 70 hours run out.
Something needs to be done about that ridiculous, unstoppable 14-hour clock. which counts every hour we spend waiting against us, unless it's 8 hours long, and means that we can't stop and take a 2-hour nap without running the risk of it robbing us of the precious drive hours we need to get a load delivered on time. So, we just have to make ourselves keep going, sleepy as hell at 3 A.M., and try to stay alert. How much is that helping with safety??!!! Yet the crashes have declined in spite of that misguided rule.
I'm not holding my breath on that one, since the activist-types like that part of the HOS rules. They like anything that points us toward the bunk and keeps us back there for as long as possible, instead of being on the road, doing the job we're paid for. That bunch of overzealous do-gooders wants to rest us to death! Is this just a clever dodge they're using to keep trucks off the road because they hate trucks??!!! Sure sounds like it to me! And sure smells like it too. You know what they say about an animal that looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and smells like a duck -- hmmmmm??
PATT & Co. won't quit until we're driving an 8-hour day, then parking till the next morning. The fact that such an hourly scheme won't work, especially with the OTR sector I work in, doesn't impress those people in the least. Their attitude seems to be, "that's your problem; YOU deal with it!" Uncaring and infinitely unknowing, focused single-mindedly on their far over-hyped agenda, ignoring every fact that's thrown at them. Don't confuse us with the facts. Right. I'm nowhere near being a big fan of the government, but I do pity FMCSA, having to deal with this bunch! I wouldn't want Director John Hill's job, that's for sure. But they are trying to save a part of the HOS which actually does drivers a favor, so I'm on Uncle Sam's side in this one, all the way.
I'll keep y'all posted on things, as they happen, as usual.