Observations from a ‘fatigue connoisseur’

By Robert Esler, OOIDA Life Member, Taylor, Mich.

One of the items that dominated the world of trucking in 2013 is the FMCSA’s new hours-of-service rules that went into effect July 1.

I noticed with interest a comment attributed to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro regarding the studies that were done that said this was a good idea. She was quoted 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 that FMCSA folks make will ever change that.

This rule supposedly was done in the guise of public safety. All it’s done is make 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.

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. The rule also poses potential problems for drivers with oversize loads. We work in a just-in-time delivery world. This is especially true in the automotive industry. Car plants may have to adjust their production schedules. Did FMCSA consider that cost in their “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 applies not only to the driver but to 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. LL