The controversy over limiting truck driver hours has been ongoing for over a decade at this point - with many heated opinions on both sides of the fence. Continued restrictions on driver hours has been put into effect as a means to prevent truck accidents. Yet many argue that these restrictions - especially the 14-hour rule - have actually worked to increase big rig accidents - not decrease them. Because of the way in which the rule works, some drivers feel this increases their risk of big rig wrecks, so the implementation of the 14-hour rule needs to change.
What Is the 14-Hour Rule?
The Department of Transportation (DOT) 14-hour rule for commercial truck drivers states that drivers may not drive beyond 14 hours once they have clocked in for the day, so they will have 10 hours of uninterrupted rest between driving shifts. This ruling is in conjunction to the 11-hour rule, which states that no driver may drive more than 11 hours consecutively.
The Problem with the 14-Hour Rule
Although these guidelines seem reasonable to help ensure that drivers are not putting in too many hours behind the wheel without getting enough rest, drivers actually living by the rule state otherwise. As it is written, the 14-hour service rule states that from the moment a driver logs in, to the moment that driver logs out again - more than 14 hours cannot pass. The problem is in relation to the amount of time that drivers spend not actually driving, but waiting, and doing other things. During these 14 hours, most drivers are waiting at weigh stations, or for loading and unloading, and many other things - all of which eats into that 14-hour window. This time affects carrier schedules profitability, as well as the drivers.
Then, when a driver actually wants to get off the road to nap, many feel pressured to keep driving to make up time, which is a main concern that drivers have. When permitted rest periods are shortened, or even denied because drivers are continually trying to meet schedules within the 14-hour period, it is like penalizing a driver for wanting to stop for a rest. While this may seem like something that only affects drivers, in reality this problem creates a trickle effect that not only increases the chance of big rig accidents, but also reduces the efficiency of the entire commercial carrier industry.
Giving Control Back to the Drivers
Many drivers would like to see this 14-hour rule lifted, so that drivers themselves can regulate their schedules. Not every driver operates best on the same schedule. The idea that permitting drivers off time in the middle of their day, without penalty, suggests that safety would increase - not decrease, and big rig wrecks would be less likely. Drivers would still be abiding by driving hour limitations, but by not penalizing them for other delays - and yes, even rest breaks - there is strong agreement amongst drivers that this would be a much better solution in reducing truck accidents.
Essentially, drivers with this opinion are not looking for a way to buck the system, but just the means to control their own schedules, for their own preference and safety, and for greatest efficiency in doing their jobs. While federal rules currently oppose this, touting that the 14-hour rule helps to reduce the number of big rig wrecks, drivers actually trying to abide by the rule strongly oppose. With claims that drivers are in just as much danger of causing truck accidents as before the rule went into effect, along with financial penalties being seen by commercial carriers because of the rule, drivers would like to see its implementation changed. In either case, it seems that the controversy over which method will actually prevent the most big rig accidents, without negatively affecting drivers and the companies they work for, continues on!
Pearland, Pasadena, Webster, League City, Webser, Manvel, Alvin, Friendswood, La Marque, Texas City, and Galveston
Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Robert W. Hildebrand, Attorney at Law
J. Daniel Wilson, Attorney at Law
7830 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
Phone: (281) 408-2190