In the final days or maybe hours until FMCSA's latest hours of service proposal is revealed, I'm more than a little taken aback by comments I'm hearing from some drivers.
More than a few drivers think that an eight-hour driving day would be fine.
How many hours at the wheel does it take to tire out a trucker? (Photo by Jim Park)
While I think that suggestion (being pushed by some safety advocacy groups) is preposterous -- and frankly I can't imagine it happening -- I can understand why it appeals to some. They say truckers shouldn't have to work longer hours than most of the rest of civilization. So be it, but say goodbye to longhaul trucking, forget 500-mile workdays, and don't bother planning to get home any more often than about once a month. It'll take you that long to get anywhere and back again.
It would be grand if we could cover the same miles and accomplish the same amount of work in eight hours that now takes us 11 to 14 hours, but that's not going to happen. Nor will driver pay change to accommodate the shorter workday. It would be nice to get paid for 14 hours if you only work eight, but there's little likelihood of that.
So where does an eight-hour workday leave us? Stuck in third gear, I figure.
Trucking could not function on an eight-hour day. And don't say the railroads would pick up the slack. It can take several hours to get in and out of an Intermodal terminal at the best of times. Imagine taking two days to make a cross-town delivery with a rail container -- and that would be before you tripled the time it would take to pick up a container because of the increased volume at the Intermodal yard. The supply chain would collapse under it's own weight.
And to those who think eight hours behind the wheel would be appropriate, have you stopped to consider what you'd do holed-up at a truckstop in the middle of Nebraska for 16 hours out of 24?
Time will tell what we'll be saddled with (conventional wisdom at the moment is predicting 10 hours of driving time), but I really don't think the eight-hour crowd have thought this one all the way through. Yeah, it would be nice, but none too practical.
For the record, what I'd like to see is an HOS plan that leaves the workday up to the driver, within limits. I'd like to see regulatory framework based on fatigue management (where drivers manage their personal sleep needs) rather than prescriptive work/sleep cycles. I think a workable HOS rule could be summed up in three sentences:
* In any 24-hour period, you may work a maximum of 14 hours, and you must rest for a minimum of 10 hours.
* You may work no more than 70 hours in a 7-day period.
* Your accumulated hours would be reset to zero following any 36-hour period of consecutive off-duty time.
Check back here after the new proposal is finally made public. I've got a feeling I'll have more to say about it.