Good drivers leaving in droves; new HOS hurting safety, carriers say

By Kevin Jones on

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part 2 of the CCJ coverage from the “All About the Driver” panel discussion Oct. 22 at the American Trucking Associations Management Conference and Exhibition in Orlando. Part 1, featuring a debate on hourly pay for drivers, is here. Part 3, on driver recruiting and retention, is here.)

Recent changes in the hours-of-service rule have delivered yet another regulatory blow to the trucking industry’s overall operating efficiency and its ability to retain qualified drivers, a panel of fleet executives concluded this week. And, most critically, the changes could have a negative impact on truck safety.TruckerTim0095 - sleeper - sleep

“It absolutely will negatively impact our driver wages and productivity at a time when we can least afford it,” said Derek Leathers, president and COO of Werner Enterprises. “It absolutely limits driver flexibility at a time when we can least afford to make the job more restrictive.”

Leathers was responding to a recent survey in which 44 percent of carriers said the July changes to HOS have hurt the ability of fleets to find and keep good drivers. The discussion was part of a driver-focused session Tuesday at the annual American Trucking Associations Management Conference and Exhibition in Orlando.

And while the panelists each said that, three months in, the hard data was still being developed, all had anecdotal examples and intuitive expectations.

At Werner, as Leathers explained, the number of drivers in the 60-67 age group had held steady for “a long, long time,” as a few would retire and about an equal number would move up.

In the 90 days leading up to the hours-of-service change, that number fell by half.

“It’s my belief that’s a representative sample across the industry of drivers who just said, ‘I’m out. I’m done. Thanks, but I’m moving on,’” Leathers said. “That’s been the silent victim of these changes: The drivers that are probably some of the most-qualified we have are saying, ‘I’ve had enough and I’m not going to do it.’ That’s concerning.”

Steve Gordon, COO of Gordon Trucking Inc., offered a similar take.

“The thing that’s most unfortunate is we’ve worked very hard to build a better lifestyle for our drivers – more out-for-a-week, home-for-a-weekend opportunities. The new restart has been most painful for those folks,” Gordon said. “They can’t leave the house until after 5 a.m. If they get hung up somewhere, they lose that time the next week. So the very people we’re trying to tell, ‘we’re going to do right by you, we’re going to get you home to see your family,’ they’re the ones paying the price.”

Jeff Flackler, vice president of transportation for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., likened the situation to tuning a carburetor: “You get it just right and runs really well. But if you go just a little bit further, it starts choking,” he said. “Drivers do get frustrated by this and say, ‘I’ve had enough.’ It is frustrating.”

Driving the most experienced professionals out of the industry can’t be an effective way to improve safety, suggested moderator Dave Osiecki, ATA senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs. And though the numbers aren’t in, the changes don’t make safety sense in several ways, according to the discussion.

“The facts of the matter are that if you look at accidents in your fleet, right turns are the most common, but entrance and exits from onramps and merging into traffic is always in the top five,” Leathers said. “We simply are requiring drivers to enter and exit more than they did before July 1, period. I have a hard time believing that’s safer.”

Leathers refers to the newly mandated 30-minute rest breaks during the driver workday, and the added risk of added stops. But the entire panel also rejected FMCSA’s claim of driver-health benefits as a rationale for the rule changes.

“We’re simply making drivers sit around for 30 minutes and not do anything because some bureaucrat thought that was somehow healthier,” Leathers said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When you take a family vacation and you take a break just because the kids needed one, and you get back in the car and need to make up time, you’re usually a little frustrated – or maybe that’s just me.”

And there’s another level of driver frustration.

“That’s ludicrous,” Gordon said of driver health improvement. “Especially psychologically, because it’s taking money of the driver’s pocket.”

The bottom line is important for the company as well. The industry anticipated some impact on productivity because of the HOS changes, but the complicated nature of the business made pinpoint predictions difficult.

“We’ve definitely felt the impact, though we’re still not quite to ready to quantify it,” Gordon said. “We’ve seen an impact with our teams and with our higher work content applications.”

Gordon Trucking has had to reschedule some dedicated work, while some drivers “that run closer to the governor” have lost turns in high-velocity lanes.

“With all the different applications that we have, it’s a hand-fight trying to figure out where it’s going to have an impact,” Gordon said. “Unfortunately, sometimes we’re not getting feedback from drivers until they walk. We’re trying to dump water on those fires as they pop up.”

At Werner, Leathers said the impact on team operations “caught us most off-guard,” so management didn’t have a plan in place on July 1 to mitigate the impact of the HOS change. Specifically, it’s the high-velocity routes that are no longer feasible.

“In some of those applications we’ve seen a 6 percent loss in productivity; in most, it’s probably closer to 4 percent,” Leathers said. “Fleet-wide, it’s come in as we’ve said along: at 2 to 3 percent. In dedicated, there’s everything from 0 to 9 percent impact on the company.”

Flackler says Wal-Mart is not seeing any “significant degradation of productivity” from its contract carriers. For Wal-Mart drivers, the HOS change “was not a big deal, because of the way we run.”

“On a shorter work week, we don’t always get the full work week from the driver,” Flackler said. “That’s yet to be determined.”

Leathers cautions fleet executives not to lose sight of the individual driver in the corporate-level math.

“In every case, the driver is impacted. Somebody’s working longer, somebody’s taking a lot longer to drive that truck and finish that turn or finish that route,” he said. “They may be making the same amount of money, but they’re spending more time to do it.”

Gordon was more direct.

“It’s cost our drivers money, and that’s certainly helping to drive turnover,” Gordon said.

Ultimately, whether someone says the HOS changes are having very little impact or a significant one, they could very well be using the same data to support the claim, Leathers pointed out.

“When we meet with shippers they say it hasn’t really made a big impact, or there’s just a little weekend effect, or it’s on the edges and it’s not as big an issue as you’re making it,” Leather said. “We say it’s 2 or 3 percent and it’s killing us. We’re not really disagreeing – we’re just disagreeing on what the impact of 2 percent is.”

He suggested there could be an internal misunderstanding as well: One end of the building might not appreciate that the 2 percent is “a real pain point” for certain fleet operations, especially after years of declining productivity in trucking.

“We as an industry don’t have the 2 percent to give,” Leathers said. “We’ve got to make sure we talk in an intelligent way, with data. We can’t be alarmist because we lose credibility.”

To better make the industry’s case, Osiecki encouraged carriers to fill out the ATRI survey on the impact of hours-of-service.

Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones is Senior Editor, Trucking Media, and writes from his home in Little Rock, Ark. His Fleet Street blog features whatever strikes his fancy and has at least a little connection to trucks, or drivers, or highways. Or David Allan Coe. (Google "the perfect country and western song" if you're not nearly as old as Kevin is.) You can also keep up with Kevin by following his Twitter feed (@KevinJonesCCJ) or just drop him a line: kevin.jones@randallreilly.com.

31 comments
peaveypro
peaveypro

Speaking of Licenses and Training, what do you have to have to be a Congressman, the ability to look rich donors in the eye and sell them the lie that your going to make there life easier, or sales better all the while lying as you drop the money down the rabbit hole. So Lying, accepting Bribes, telling the people your working hard to remedy the situation while what you mean is youll do nothing because the PAC, LOBBY etc paid you to do nothing, Lawmakers, Legislators, how are they licensed, what qualification do they need, to be a lawyer, or to be a Lair....maybe one in the same.....be highly paid while lying and doing the opposite and get paid for it, from both sides.....ah Government....where laws are invented for no reason other then to sell a system that doesnt serve those it was created about.....

safetygirl
safetygirl

Yup, FMC hours of service rule makers should have a background in commercial transportation, and a certain number should be retired drivers.  Voters should be taxpaying citizens, and a prerequisite to running for or being appointed to any office should be experience working in the private sector as well as being a voting citizen who pays income tax. 

Term limits should send a politician back to the private sector not to another appointed or elected position.  

    My Dad looked carefully at candidates for office to see if they had ever run any private for-profit endeavor successfully.  I always thought he was wise but never so completely as I do now.  Every year that passes brings shock and amazement at the foolishness of those making the decisions.

tomcat1986
tomcat1986

Does anybody out there remember when driving a truck used to be fun? I've been around trucks and the trucking business my entire life and have had the pleasure of meeting some of the most wonderful people in the world. A lot of the people that mentored me in my early years of the business have since changed occupations and left because of the rule changes and harassment from state regulators. The funny thing about the rules the FMCSA keeps making is that they only apply to truck drivers. Has anybody been to a driver's education class in the last 20 years? Whether it be a defensive driving class or a new driver education class, there is never a word spoken about how to drive a car in the presence of truck traffic. There is a 1 hr. mandatory session about crossing a railroad track and how terrible trains are to cars, but NOTHING said about driving around a truck. We have to realize, at some point, that a lot of what these new regulations mean is a source of revenue generation to the government for rule-breakers and also a sense of feeling like "they accomplished something" at the end of the day. My suggestion is that before you are qualified to write legislation on my industry/life, come and work/live my life for a bout 6 months and then tell me what you think needs to be changed. Just sayin... 

safetygirl
safetygirl

CJHJR you are so right.  This is a big dollar factor which is going to become more apparent over time.   According to the explanation given for the once a week restart rule by the FMC, it was written soley for people who "abused" the 34 hour restart by getting a 34 off mid week which enabled them to get more hours out of the week than the 60 or 70.  FMC should not be writing rules to punish all of trucking for the sins of a few .

 

I imagine the drivers themselves could come up with a suggestion to control that loophole without instituting a once per week restart.  I am surprised that all of the folks at FMC could not.  It seems as if they have been disingenuous about the reason behind the rule change.  It is hard to believe that intelligent people could not see the effect the once a week restart would have on any honest driver or company who experienced a lack of work or delay mid week. 

 

This is big for construction related trucking since it has slow seasons.  Company dispatchers already work around  weather and construction delays while trying to juggle drivers in such a way that drivers can draw some unemployement during a week off and get a full week of work when they do work.  Companies struggle to keep their trained drivers through the winter, sometimes just turning wheels to keep the crew at cost so they have a crew come spring.  A couple of days off for inclement weather will mean unavailability and a short week...and one more unmeasured hit to driver income.

CJHJR
CJHJR

We need to get rid of the once a week restart. If we are down for a day and a half we should be able to restart our 70 hrs I've already had several cases where I was almost at the end of my 70 hrs miss loading because I wouldn't have enough time on my logs to make the run yet I'd just spent 36-40 hrs setting this is COSTING ME A LOT OF MONEY AND ALOT OF UNDUE STRESS

10_4goodbuddy
10_4goodbuddy

I have been hearing this way too much lately...

"I am from the government...and I am here to help you".

SftyBidnz
SftyBidnz

Simple- every additional "clock" you start running on a driver is one more stressor that interferes with driving. Totally counter productive.  Can you imagine how safe the driving is as he attempts to make it to a home terminal by 1:00 am so he doesn't have to waste an additional turn of the clock (24 hrs). Also, now you have the 30 minute break/8 hours along with the huge parking issue.  It is the same in every rule set and ELD's only MAKE IT WORSE SINCE THERE IS NO LEEWAY IN THE DIGITAL WORLD!  No compliance person will refer to the quarter hour allowance as if on paper logs. They are non committal, I don't think even training manuals for auditors on ELD's and I know first hand in some cases after thorough due diligence the vendor is not ready with and maintain their products.  This is just way too much too fast!  A very good concept, ELD's and we use early.  Now, Sleep Apnea. In my opinion a huge scam may be avoided by good actual regulations with I hope choices!  Don't start it off with a $1000 test after 2 measurements and answering a couple ambiguous questions wrong. Don't get me wrong either, CPAP changed my life but this can be a deal breaker for the industry now.        

bo
bo

Hmmm.The large carriers are complaining that drivers are now less productive? AND these are the same carriers that are pushing for electronic logs? Which absolutely cause a driver to be less productive. You ask the government to come up with more regulations that's exactly what they will do.Stop complaining.You asked for this.

 

peaveypro
peaveypro

Regulations heaped upon Regulations in the name of safety is finally starting to wear thin, at both the companys and the Drivers, Between the Medical Issues and Sleep Apnea they want to force on everyone due to some magic statistics and BMI, To the HOS and the mess thats created, The At Fault accidents indicators, Inspections, CSA Points, DAC/PSP and on and on...Look we want to drive a truck for a living, many of us can do it very well and safely, we dont need BIG BROTHER sitting in the cab with us, Cams pointed at our face, breathing masks while we sleep, 2 30 MINUTE NAPS...What is this Kindergarden or are we Grownups here. If things dont change quickly YOU will lose the most experienced drivers and fast, were tired of it. The replacements well they wear there Pjs, and they need 30 minute time outs, and they wreck trucks because they try and drive thru the DRIVE THRU....and cant read the signs or blindly follow a GPS device and turn off into the ocean.....The Men that are leaving were better paid, better trained, and had better records, and dont need the regulations or the intrusions of some Non trucking, never drove a day in there lives Board of statistics to make better drivers out of the BEST. Now exiting daily......its time for some common sense, now whose gonna stand up and say ENOUGH, REPEAL THIS GARBAGE...

mmoore1
mmoore1

33 years in trucking, mostly as just a little ole safety man, and I have never seen such a mess. I do not claim to know it all, or even be considered an expert, cause as you know this industry presents unique challenges and scenarios on a daily basis that keep us grounded and humble. I would be most interested, however, to have access to the research, studies, data, etc that justifies these recent HOS revisions. If the same group conducted the research that has just advised our top level government that we can save over a billion dollars by not requiring drivers to complete a DVIR, I am even more concerned. Where is the data, where are the folks that are convincing the top powers to change these things??  I may buy in if the support data made sense, but as of yet I can't find it. As an industry we are just expected to comply, period. The theme of frustration many of you posted has permeated our fleet also, especially the old hands. In the words of many of our drivers the occupation of operating a CMV has slipped from a level of pride to one of helpless aggravation. And by the way, most of the guys and gals that have expressed these things have nice decals on the side of their tractor that boasts 1,000,000 miles....2,000,000 miles, etc ACCIDENT FREE. I mean no disrespect, but this younger generation entering the industry does not provide the level of confidence to me for a feeling of warm and fuzzy as we see the increase in senior drivers departing for other opportunities.

safetygirl
safetygirl

The FMC should work more toward aligning our hos rules with Canada.  Their rules require 24 hours off in a 7 day stretch.  The driver is free to use them to stop and see his sons ball game or take 4 potty breaks or pull over and take a nap.  It is a much more useful system than the one our FMC has been developing which highjacks the drivers life with a one-size must-fit-all daily schedule. 

safetygirl
safetygirl

It is very true and I am glad to see that the brass at the big companies finally feeling it.  It takes a while to really get a grasp of what it does to business if you dont work directly with customer needs and drivers every day.  I would estimate much larger percentages than they do. 

If you have 10 trucks making 10-11 hour runs out and home again every day the half hour makes the drivers day longer and night shorter without increasing pay. If  you have customers you have set up with delivery that comes in just under the hours of service limit each day they have moved over the top and are now an overnight trip with all of the additional costs.  They may drop you.  The new 34 off arrangement makes the dispatcher have to get creative with the drivers lives (runs with early morning starts)   If the driver steps up to work the maximum time he can work every week (If you have the work for him after raising prices) then he might make as much as he was making before.  And how does this add up to safety? 

mscathy
mscathy

I agree with you canhauler. I also want to point out that if you spend any time in a truck stop and people watch, the drivers are riding around in pajamas, sweat pants and Sandalls!!! This makes professional drivers who have been around a long time look bad to the rest of the world due to some peoples liberties with dress codes. And these people cant speak english and they sure dont' know how to drive!

canhauler
canhauler

what's amazing to me as an owner/op out here is most of the same junk & the garbage behind the wheel is still running the highway. look at port containers local and over the road. ninety percent are running illegal it's more than just hours. i'm not just talking paper work nor the hundreds of unsafe trucks. how about the hundreds of non-US citizens holding the steering wheel. the authorities do not even bother to enforce being able to fluently speak or read English before issued a CDL. what happened to those laws? that seems a little more important than a thirty minute break or this HOS fiasco! oh but that's OK because we can't be politically incorrect can we?

Chales
Chales

 You people just don't get. I've been in this buiness sence 1969. I've been O/O,Company Driver. Log Mg.  Union and Nomn Union,So this what you don't get. You have people have maybe drive a U-haul some place now they think they

are truck drivers. Not evern close. Most of the people making the changes don't know the differene between sickem or

suckem about the buiness. Until they are gone it's only going to get worse. The ATA is te biggest problem of most of it. 

 Happy Trucking

DOTDoctor
DOTDoctor

The 34 hr restart has become a joke.  It is a good think it is optional because it consumes way too much time to actual use anymore.  The 30 min break cost a driver at least an hour that is running an ELD.  It only makes you tired, frustrated and miserable.  It is a ludicrous "union" rule.  Driver pay has been subpar for years basically due to the time consumption faced at shippers and receivers.  This is where-in the issue lies.  Fix the shipper/receiver issue and the other items would be on the mend.  Companies are so afraid to tell a s/r to NOT detain their driver that they have allowed them to walk all over their people and treat them like trash.  This must change!  To effectuate change; the system in which we do business much change.  It must evolve.   With all of today's technology; there is no excuse for a driver to sit for 5 hrs at dock uncompensated.  Either move to total hourly pay, guaranteed salary per week or super raise to the mileage rate.  Fix the wait times, get rid of the crazy 30 min break and let's get the wheels rolling again.

br213
br213

It just proves the current per mile rate drivers are getting paid is not enough....HOS changes are because drivers pushed by dispatchers violated some portion of the HOS the were currently in place.  Also law enforcement and legal litigation needs to stop automatically determining the truck driver is at fault for or caused an accident because he was in violation of HOS.  If a drunk driver runs a stop sign, and hits a truck...the drunk driver should be at fault regardless of whether the driver was stretching HOS or not. 

KathyFr
KathyFr

We have more equipment sitting in our yard than we have ever had.  Shortage of good, qualified drivers or with our current ones, we keep hearing, "I don't have the hours".  Can you spend 10 hours in a sleeper, make darn sure you get that 30 minute break & heaven forbid in your 34 hour restart you don't get those 2 times of 1 to 5 am off.  I agree, how can this make our drivers safer on the road.  We are messing with their sleep patterns.  Trying to encourage our drivers to go back to using their recap, but that isn't always the answer.  We try to get our drivers home as much as possible too, but keeps getting harder and harder.  Let people in our industry mandate the rules of HOS and see if we can't get something more suitable for these people that move America!  The government controls way too much in this industry, their answer is more taxes and more restrictions.  Hard to convince someone to be a truck driver anymore

wolfe69
wolfe69

I am new to trucking compared to you guys, I only have 6 years experience, but I keep hearing this old adage......"If I ain't broke, don't fix it."  Well, from what I saw, as far as this last round of regulatory changes are concerned, it wasn't broke. A combination of better training and companies holding drivers accountable would have made the roads far safer than any regulations the FMCSA could come up with. Just my 2 cents.

G w
G w

Like they say from us older drivers.there was once apond a time a truck driver was looked t as someone who make a good living ,now that everyone blame us for everything ,a wages have done nothing but go backward,a Owner/ operator .is a waist of time as old guys do it because that's all they know

Jeffzx9
Jeffzx9

FMCSA needs to "stop tweeking the carburetor."  There are other ways to improve the system without adding confusion to HOS and driver documentation.  The vast majority of drivers do an excellent job; day after day after day.  Leave them alone, please. 

DavidMac
DavidMac

The new HOS rules typifies what is wrong with a bureacratic system.  Instead of setting a goal and working toward it, the administration merely adds another requirement into the complex set of rules that have been evolving since 1935.  Yes, the FMCSA is required by federal law to regulate carriers, drivers and commercial vehicles.  I get that.  it's the methodology that I have problems with.  The federal government (and states, too, to a lesser degree) insist that more patchwork regs (one size fits all) will solve the problem.  They never do.  Millions of taxpayer dollars are spent spinning wheels and never advancing the mission.  The US military functions well because the military is run by military people, not bureaucrats.  Sure, politicians meddle in military affairs but it's not regarding the mission (kill the enemy and destroy his supplies and equipment).  Instead, it's more "how can we make US Marines look unisex?"  Maybe the FMCSA should hire experienced drivers who simply know how to pick up and deliver freight on time, dafely.  That's what truckers do.  Duh!

BarbRRB
BarbRRB

When the first thoughts of changing the HOS. I have said this many years ago, more experience you have the better you become. Common sense, right? When it comes with harassment, not smart!    I have had enough too, almost 30 years, clean CSA, clean drivers license. I am sick of being looked at the "big problem" on the highways. I see every day what happens out there. 

gayleglass8
gayleglass8

 “They may be making the same amount of money, but they’re spending more time to do it.” And, when you cut loads so they have the same amount of home time, they lose a large percentage of their paycheck, plus we have to hire more drivers to take up the slack.  Lose/lose.  good article, Kevin.

BarbRRB
BarbRRB

 @peaveypro Somewhere along those lines, where is the "ethical values" ?  I believe it went down the rabbit hole along with honesty and doing right by"the people".  Now it is called "being politically correct".  

BarbRRB
BarbRRB

 @tomcat1986 Boy do I ever remember the days of having fun! 1985-1988 The best time of my life. Dispatcher would ask if I was ready to come home yet.... Not yet! Now I am married with almost grown children. I have also said that education is where the money needs to be. Stop the BIG head officers out there making a name for themselves, I mean ass of themselves. I also believe, with you, If you cannot do the job, how can you managi it OR make regulations on it!! No drivers ed course here....... I had my mentors too. Loved them all! I married one and still married today. 

BarbRRB
BarbRRB

 @mmoore1  I have 28 years in trucking,  I have driven OTR, Local, Regional and now I am into the safety aspect, keeping the books and driving. I also want to read the data gathered to support the regulations of the new 34 hour restart. The terrible part, FMCSA is still waiting too. Knowing how the past 10 years have been, the next 10 is going to destroy trucking how we know it. I also do not have the warm and fuzzy feeling either. I use to feel safe around trucks and now it scares me. I am at the point of helpless and hopeless of the future unless something changes. The government has no accountability to their actions, but expect us to be accountable at 100 %. I have always believed practice what you preach. I also believe this is not about safety, It is all about money. The fines are so high, there should never be a dollar amount of safety. Spend the money in education not on all these DOT check point's.

DavidMac
DavidMac

 @mscathy I agree.  When you look and act professional, people treat you as a professional.  I see too many drivers in shorts and flip flops (as though they were on vacation instead of at work).

Jordon
Jordon

 @DOTDoctor What regulatory agency would you have fix the shipper/receiver problem? The DOT/FMCSA doesn't have the power. Their only concern is vehicles and those that operate them. Trying to get all carriers together (or even a majority) in order to tell their customers they're going to enforce the billing of standby time, is a pipe dream.

DavidMac
DavidMac

Excellent points!  I agree that the US government is hypocritical in its requirements and as shown in the various scandals (Benghazi, Fast & Furious, IRS, NSA, etc.) it feels completely unaccountable to the citizens that it purports to serve.  The FMCSA just exempted carriers from the 30-minute break rule who haul Class 1 explosives for the military.  If those carriers are exempt, why isn't a carrier hauling paper towels allowed an exemption, too?  The arrogance of the federal government is appalling and very disturbing.



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