Though difficult to regulate without the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), truck drivers are required by new Hours-Of-Service laws to drive no more than eleven hours or work more than fourteen hours without a ten-hour break. Some disregard the law by choosing to put more miles in their day and thus generate more revenue.
Studies indicate that since the 11th hour of drive time has been added, the number of drivers who admit falling asleep at the wheel in the last 30 days has risen to one-out-of-five. It is crucial that we not only use electronic logging devices to ensure that excessive drive time is not occurring, but also require sleep apnea screening as part of the medical exam for truck drivers.
This issue of fatigued drivers goes to the heart of Road Safe America’s efforts to improve the lifestyle of the men and women who deliver the goods America needs every day. We believe every trucker wants to be a safe driver.
ELECTRONIC LOGGING DEVICES
Almost all truckers use a log book to track their time behind the wheel. When tractor-trailers are stopped by law enforcement officials, or when pulling into a weigh station, this log book is commonly reviewed to assure that the driver is not driving or working longer than the legally allowed hours of service. It is difficult, however, to think of any serious business measure that is not tracked electronically in technologically-advanced countries. Unfortunately, this is the case for a large portion of the trucking industry despite the fact that tracking things electronically is less expensive than manual tracking and it is more accurate. This antiquated manual “honor system” causes a number of serious problems.
With compensation methods that encourage more miles driven (pay by the mile), the temptation to falsify a log book is difficult for some to resist. Consequently, many drivers fraudulently keep duplicate log books. One book is true for compensation purposes, and the other is to show the police to avoid being taken out-of-service or fined. According to a nationally representative survey of more than 1,000 long-haul truck drivers (LHTDs) conducted by the National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH), 73 percent of LHTDs perceived their delivery schedules unrealistically tight and 37 percent of LHTDs reported being noncompliant with hours-of-service rules. This abuse of the law leads to very unsafe driving as truckers become fatigued and inattentive.
Decades after most leading nations required their use, our country has finally done so too. But until December, 2017, truck drivers will still be able to use a paper and pencil log book to track their time behind the wheel and total hours worked. When tractor-trailers are stopped by the police, or when pulling into a weigh station, this log book is commonly reviewed to assure that the driver is not driving longer than the legally allowed hours of service.
The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is a logical solution. These devices, already used by numerous fleets, can track hours, location, speed and other vital statistics automatically. Police officials will be able to easily review an ELD electronically to determine the vital driving stats of any truck they inspect. In addition, most drivers are in favor of the ELD rule since they eliminate the daily drudgery of keeping the complicated paper log book (which they must complete without pay since they only get paid while moving).
Studies show that a disproportionately high percentage of truck drivers suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. This not only prevents them from resting properly, it also makes them subject to numerous medical ailments, including a much higher risk of heart attack. We MUST have healthy, well-rested truck drivers in this country if we expect to have improved safety in this area. Schneider National and other large, safe fleets are tackling this issue using innovative approaches. Driver testing, sleep studies and diet programs are ways that these fleets are working to improve the safety of their employees.
Exacerbating this problem is the fact that, sadly, truck drivers often have NO PLACE TO STOP AND REST. Truck stops fill up early; rest areas are being closed for budget reasons, and, too often, there is literally no place to stop to sleep. Take notice of the trucks illegally parked on the shoulders of the exit ramps next time you drive our interstates at night. These drivers are attempting to rest, but have no other place to park. Often, these same sleepy drivers are wakened by the highway patrol and required to move their rig, forcing a sleepy driver to illegally drive his/her 80,000 lb. truck later into the night looking for a place to rest.