"…you have to call Dallas to let them know you're stepping out a few minutes to get a haircut."
Those words, spoken by a driver for Greyhound, put a very human face on implementing the new hours of service rules proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
FMCSA's public hearing in Ontario, Calif., this week was peppered with the usual objections from trucking company executives, owner-operators, industry associations, etc. Most say the proposal is unworkable; economically they expect it will cut most drivers' wages 25% or more while requiring the hiring of 20% more drivers. Driver and bus run changes anticipated by Greyhound management prompted the public comments by their driver.
With an eerie similarity to Morgan Freeman, playing Hoke Colburn in the 1989 movie "Driving Miss Daisy," this Greyhound driver's comment came as he recounted how he had spent more than six years working the Greyhound "extra board" out of Los Angeles before he had enough seniority to win a regular run.
Greyhound's driver force is divided into two groups: drivers who have been around long enough (usually more than six years) who work regular routes and know what they'll be doing and where they're going each day; and extra drivers who work on an as-needed basis. The extra drivers can be called to work at literally a moment's notice and can be sent on any run -- lasting from a few hours to a few days. Being "on call" 24 hours a day, extra drivers must constantly keep dispatchers at Greyhound's Dallas headquarters informed of their whereabouts and availability status.
"I can't go back to the extra board," the testifying driver said. "You can't have a family life that way."
"I know what I'm doing every day now, and I like that," the Greyhound driver said quietly to the panel of six somber-faced, Washington bureaucrats. "I worked too hard to get here, and it's not fair for the government to take it away."
For those who have never seen the movie "Driving Miss Daisy," Morgan Freeman plays an older black man hired to chauffer an older, wealthy white woman around the pre-civil-rights era South. Their relationship comes to a head when he finally refuses to ask her for permission to stop so he can go to the bathroom.