Best Driver Jobs

January 2013

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 17 of 117

ViewPoint By Tom Kelley Mixed Signals Are Disaster Waivers For HOS Safe? I n late October, when Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast, the winds hadn't even died down, nor had the rain stopped falling, before the FMCSA had already declared a regional emergency on the East Coast. FMCSA's declaration waived Hours Of Service (HOS) regulations for those carriers hauling direct emergency relief. While quickly getting relief supplies into an area affected by a major disaster is a lofty, and necessary pursuit, the HOS waivers beg the question, how safe is it to deviate from the otherwise ironclad enforcement of the HOS regulations? Under non-disaster operating conditions, there is little tolerance for even minor deviations from the HOS rules. Even clerical errors in a driver's duty records are treated as a significant offense. This zero tolerance, absolutist interpretation of the concept behind HOS rules is typically justified under the pretense that even the smallest deviation from the letter of the law would present a major threat to safety. So why then, would it suddenly be okay to throw the HOS rules out the window, at a time when drivers are likely to be operating under the most extreme conditions they'll witness throughout their driving career? Take the recent hurricane for example; in addition to ongoing weather hazards such as wind and heavy rain, it's also quite likely that street lighting and traffic signals will be inoperable, that even Interstates will be covered with storm debris, and that roads will be 14 January 2013 Viewpoint 0113.indd 1 flooded or washed away. Aren't these conditions significantly worse than those a driver is exposed to during an average day's work? Wouldn't these conditions require a driver to be more alert than ever? Given that it's not uncommon for HOS rules to be waived in response to a major disaster, it would appear that there is a pretty wide margin of safety in both the letter and the spirit of the HOS regulations, negating the support for zero tolerance enforcement during non-disaster conditions. Anybody who has driven a truck for more than a few weeks knows that one can be dead tired with plenty of hours left, or 110% alert with no hours left, so following the letter of the HOS laws is no guarantee of safe operation. For the most part, professional drivers will not push themselves past their own physical limitations. This, combined with the ofteninvoked flexibility of convenience in HOS rules, makes a pretty strong case for building a fair degree of driver autonomy into the rules, without reducing safety, whether responding to a disaster or just completing a normal day's work. As a practical matter, monthly hours limits still need to be pretty finite, and weekly hours limits need to be kept within a reasonable margin. But the idea that a driver can't make the best judgment of whether to shift an hour or two from one day to the next is ludicrous, especially when those same HOS limitations can be entirely thrown out, arbitrarily, by a distant bureaucrat who likely has no experience at the wheel of a commercial truck. bdj BestDriverJOBS 12/5/12 5:22 PM

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Best Driver Jobs - January 2013