Oops: Appropriations bill may have done away with 34-hour restart entirely

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Todd Dills|February 12, 2016

Turns out the 34-hour restart-related item inthe late-2015 Congressional appropriations bill may have done a little more than was intended. The intent of the item was to reinforce the stay of enforcement of limitations on use of the 34-hour restart that were implemented in 2013 and which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrationcontinues to study as to their effectiveness, as required by law.

But read what the appropriations bill actually states relative to the restart, and it becomes clear that not only did it extend that stay and put limitations on FMCSA’s ability to reinstate the restrictions — once-per-week use of the restart and inclusion of two 1-5 a.m. periods — it essentially nullified the restart entirely.

None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act or any other Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce sections 395.3(c) and 395.3(d) of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, and such section shall have no force or effect on submission of the final report issued by the Secretary…

 

RELATED

 

Required 34-hour restart study finished, advances to next step, says FMCSA boss

That’s the key part of this, and what exactly does 395.3(c) and 395.3(d) refer to? Those are, essentially, everything in the regulations pertaining to the restart. And since the appropriations bill’s language doesn’t specify an alternative to those regulations, as the Truckload Carriers Association noted this afternoon in a message to members…

 

…then there is no restart provision to abide by.

 

That’s DOT’s recent interpretation at least, according to TCA. Now, before you go back to recapping entirely, take note of the rest of that message from TCA:

 

As discussions around this issue remain fluid, we are instructing our carrier members to keep their fleets operating as they have always been as members of Congress seek to reach an agreement on the best way to proceed. In an email to its Executive Committee, of which TCA is part, ATA has put forth options which they can use to negotiate with lawmakers. Of those options, the parties involved, including TCA representatives, have selected what ATA perceives to be the most flexible option on the table. The selected option consists of the following:

 

Total weekly cap of 75 hours in any 7 calendar days Retains 60/7, 70/8 rules.Taking an off-duty period of 34 consecutive hours or more allows the driver to exceed the 60/7 & 70/8 limits, up to the 75-hour, 7-calendar-day cap.

We’ll update more when we have word of any final solution, as changes wouldn’t go into effect until certified by DOT in concert with lawmakers. As TCA noted, “as of today, we are continuing to operate as we did yesterday.”

At once, reminds me of Tom Strese‘s sage words from about a year ago as the exemptions to the milk-and-cookie break really started to pile up: If we’re not careful, Strese said, “pretty soon our HOS rules are going to look like the tax code.”

Can you live without the restart? Keep it simple, so to speak — or as simple as recapping can be? Stay tuned for more…

Rollback of 34-hour restart regs further entrenched by Congressional budget deal.

FMCSA will have to prove its 2013-implemented rules are better for driver fatigue and highway safety than previous hours rules before they can go back …

 

‘Semi terrified’? How about ‘Hell on Four Wheels’ instead …

Friday, March 7, 2014
Landlinemag.com
Posted by Greg Grisolano

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

’Twas a dark and stormy night, and an unsuspecting motorist is menaced by an “antisocial bully driving an 18-wheel death wagon.”

Sounds a lot like the plot for “Duel” Steven Spielberg’s 1971 film in which Dennis Weaver is stalked by a mysterious trucker. While originally a made-for-TV feature, the film’s success prompted a theatrical release. The plot devices were so effective, Spielberg would go on to crib them for his landmark blockbuster “Jaws” in 1975.

While “Duel” went on to become a commercial success and launch the career of one of Hollywood’s most famous directors, it also did for the public perception of truck drivers what “Jaws” did for Great White sharks – turned them into objects of fear and derision.

However, the scenario I’ve laid out isn’t expressly from “Duel,” but rather comes to us from a recent column in The Ashville Citizen-Times, under the byline of columnist/aspiring novelist Ted Alexander.

Alexander recounts a recent encounter he had on an icy stretch of (presumably) North Carolina highway, with what he describes as “an outlaw who balanced his life on the edge of a razor.”

Although he doesn’t specify a date or location of the incident, Alexander says he was attempting to pass other vehicles in freezing rain conditions late one night, when “a rapidly approaching 18-wheeler” appeared in his rear view mirror. Despite gunning his engine up to speeds of 75 mph on those icy roads, Alexander said he was unable to make his way back into the right lane for some time, drawing the ire of the trucker, who, according to Alexander, executes the “Duel” sequence of speeding around his vehicle and then slowing down almost to a crawl, before refusing to allow him to pass.

Alexander said he eventually pulled over to the shoulder and tried to call 911, but couldn’t get a connection. Then things start to get really weird.

About a half-hour after the initial encounter, Alexander’s back to driving down the road, when he sees the same trucker exiting to a nearby truck stop. He decides to follow the guy into the parking lot “to get close enough to see what the driver looked like and write down his plate number.”

His description of the driver – “a rotund little man – an attack muffin; the Wizard of Oz in a baseball cap, quilted vest and plaid shirt” – reads like something straight out of central casting for the part of “Truck Driver.” (Also, if you know what the phrase “attack muffin” means, please email me – Urban Dictionary doesn’t even have a definition …)

Alexander then breathlessly recounts how this “attack muffin” starts savagely kicking the tires of his own trailer, before he looks up and makes eye-contact with the author. After the driver bellows and starts walking toward him with a wrench, Alexander makes tracks. He then concludes his tale with a warning that this blood-lusting trucker is still out on the prowl.

When I first read it, I had more than a few questions, so I reached out to Alexander at the email address provided with his article. I wanted to ask him about the encounter (Where, exactly, were you? When, exactly, did it happen? Has anything like this ever happened to you before?) I also wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I was taught early on that you ought to make every effort to ensure the other side has a chance to have their say in print. He’s yet to respond to my request.

There are bad actors and bad drivers out there, in both 18-wheel and four-wheel vehicles. But in that spirit of giving the other side a chance to be heard, I present to you a little “creative non-fiction” of my own – Mr. Alexander’s encounter with the menacing trucker, told from the truck driver’s perspective.

“It was 10 o’clock at night. The temperature was holding steady at the freeze line, and the rain was turning to sleet. I was making my way through the Blue Ridge in North Carolina, trying to find a place to park before I hit my 11 hours for the day.

Luckily, I know there’s a little truck stop not more than an hour up this state road, and with the weather turning bad, it’s liable to be pretty crowded on a night like tonight. Knew I had to find a (relatively) safe place to get to, and soon. Since I don’t have an APU, I can only idle for five minutes every hour to keep my sleeper warm. Gonna be a cold night when I finally get to stop.

Fortunately, the roads haven’t gotten bad yet and I’m able to drive the speed limit. But I guess the mere mention of looming weather conditions has a lot of folks out here driving scared. Lots of slow traffic making driving tricky. I’m trying to pass a few slow-moving four-wheelers, when one of them suddenly cut right in front of me in the left-hand lane.

I flashed my high beams to let him know I was coming up behind him, because it seemed obvious to me he didn’t look too close before changing lanes. So here we are, in less than ideal driving conditions, with a gaggle of slow-moving geese hemming me in on the right, and a wannabe Dale Jr. directly ahead of me.

So this four-wheeler pulls into the passing lane, and now he won’t get back over. He’s just sitting in the left lane slowing me and everyone behind me down. We’re barely matching pace with the cars in the right-hand lane. Now I’m stuck playing the world’s worst game of Follow-The-Leader. First he’s slowing down, now he’s speeding up. Still doesn’t get over.

After a few miles of this chicken dance, I drop back behind him, flash my lights and hit the air horn, hoping he’ll pick up the pace and break us free from this bottleneck. Finally, the driver makes a move to the right lane. I’m able to build up enough steam to pass him, but almost immediately have to slow down because the road conditions are worsening. The speedometer drops to 50, then 40, then 30. I glanced in my mirrors and saw Hot Wheels pull over to the side of the road. Conditions must have been too much for him.

About a half hour later, I’ve finally made my exit. I saw the white lights of the truck stop and pulled into the fuel island. I get out to do a walk-around and check my truck and trailer. The snow and ice is caked in the wheel wells and hanging from my trailer. It didn’t look like the truck stop had any parking spaces left, and I was right up against my hours, so I started venting, kicking the hell out of my tires.

Here’s where things got kind of creepy. We’ve all had that feeling of being watched, and as I was messing with the tire, I was overcome by a sense of foreboding. The hairs on the back of my neck started standing up, and it wasn’t from the cold. You spend enough time on the road, and you’ll develop a sense of when danger is near. I’ve had too many buddies and fellow truckers get accosted at truck stops and restaurants not to be at least a little cautious about some situations, particularly after dark on a night like that.

I looked over my shoulder and I saw that same four-wheeler, ol’ Dale Jr., from earlier. He was just sitting behind the wheel, staring at me. It got my dander up. Especially when he knew I’d spotted him and recognized him.

I didn’t know what this guy wanted, but it was obvious to me that this jack-wagon wasn’t there for fuel or coffee, so I hollered at him, and made for my cab. I keep a wrench there, mostly for repairs. But I’ve had to grab it a time or two in the past to make some rowdy punk think twice about trying to roll me for my wallet. I started toward the the car, because I wanted to get close enough to see if I could a plate number off this guy, just in case he decided to go psycho.

When he saw me coming closer, he hit the gas and tore out of there. The dirt and salt was covering his plate so I couldn’t get a read on it. It shook me up pretty bad. I probably should have called the cops and told them there’s a maniac out there, driving crazy and stalking people coming off the highways.

I went inside and let the manager of the truck stop know about it at least. Told them to keep an eye out for that guy and his vehicle. After hearing about my day, the manager ended up letting me park in an area that’s normally off-limits. I climbed in my sleeper and prayed he wouldn’t come back and mess with me or my rig. Thankfully, he didn’t come back, and I count myself lucky I haven’t come across him since.

Ask any driver and they’ll tell you one of the worst parts of the job is dealing with four-wheelers who don’t know how to drive, who change lanes at the drop of a hat, or drive too fast or too slow for conditions. But it’s even worse when you’re menaced by some yahoo who follows you for 30 miles when all you’re looking for is a safe port in the storm.”

SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA takes ‘de facto’ fatigue regulation to court: Land Line Magazine

SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA takes ‘de facto’ fatigue regulation to court: Land Line Magazine.

Truck Driver #2

My career as a truck driver started 18 years ago and I have learned a lot about the industry.  Mostly from a close friend that has been there the whole 18 years.  I started out as a company driver for a grocery warehouse.  For two years, I drove to nearby grocery stores and unloaded groceries, produce, and frozen foods, sometimes by hand.  I thought I had had enough of that and started pulling containers, 40′ trailers that come off ships at the pier.  I pulled these trailers as far away as Kentucky and back and in the general area for 8 years.  It paid pretty good but going in and out of the pier in Norfolk got to be too time consuming and I did not get paid for it.

I became an owner operator about 2 years into my career.  I my mentor that helped me learn all I could to be an owner operator.  He and I are still friends to this day!  I hung on every word and every piece of information he could give me.  In all those years as an owner operator, I have owned about 6 trucks, not all at once. 

The difference between a company driver and an owner operator is as a company driver you have no responsibility of the truck, maintenance or repairs, fuel, truck payment or insurance.  As an owner operator, you have to take care all of this.  In some cases, being a company driver is a good thing, but if you want to be in control of what loads you get and where you are going, then being an owner operator is the way to go.  I’ve enjoyed being an owner operator but now I work for one.  My truck is paid for and I pretty much work when I want.  I have someone in the family that works on it to keep it going.

Life as a truck driver has been good! I don’t run the road like I used to and every now and then I get the urge to run to California.  Then I look at the truck and decide, I can’t do that!  I guess I have about 5 more good years left before I will call it quits.  Who knows!

Whoop, whoop, trukkin’ up!

Truck Driver #1

When I was 12, I rode with my father in his propane truck to the western part of Virginia, around the Roanoke area, to deliver propane to homes.  I got hooked!  To watch him shift the gears on what they called back then a duplex shifter, because it was 2 sticks instead of 1.  One for the high side and one for the low side of the transmission.

I remember stopping at least 2 times on our way out there and maybe 3 times on the return trip.  My dad did make the comment on how my head was bobbing and weaving just about the whole trip.  I tried to stay awake but I couldn’t.  He said that if he had of known that I was going to be sleeping the whole way, he would have left me at home.  Then he laughed.  At that age, I would have followed my father anywhere!  I spent a lot of time with him, whether he was cutting grass, under the car, or in his shed, tinkering.  We often went fishing when my 3 brothers did not want to go.

During that time, there was a TV show called BJ and the Bear, a truck driver with a chimp as his co-driver.  Movies like Convoy and Smokey and the Bandit, also left an impression on me that made me want to hit the road then.  That diesel bug bit the hell out of me but I had to get over the fear of walking in front of a truck with the engine running.  I can blame the movie Duel for that!  I knew that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  I wanted to drive a truck like Greg Evigan in BJ and the Bear, a 1977 Kenworth K100E Cabover.

My aunt in Philadelphia was dating a man that was a truck driver and drove a cabover for a jellies and jams company.  Our house was located on a hill that our card had a problem climbing, especially after a good rain.  My uncle drove that cabover up that hill and I thought my heart would explode.  My mother kept yelling for me to calm down before I passed out.  I laugh at it now, but back then, there was nothing better than that!!

In my mind, trucking was just like it was on TV and the movies.  Didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t.  I set things in motion to make sure my career in trucking would be inevitable.  It took me some years, I was 34 when I got started, but I started!

2010 W900L

2010 W900L

Now this is what I’m talking about! With this truck, you could not tell me anything. I would be the big kahuna on the beach! This is what drivers that have been on the road for years dream about getting when their career is coming to an end or at least slowing down! This truck is what we called dressed up. The chrome shop where this is located, Iowa80 Truck Stop, Joplin, Mo., has the lights, pipes, wheels, and chrome fenders as well as the chrome on truck. Whoop, Whoop, truckin’ up!!