When I was younger I was in pretty good shape, as are most kids. I played soccer and was a pretty quick runner. I was also pretty flexible. I could actually do a split and not scream in pain. That flexibility helped me be a better player at the time, but taking that flexibility for granted came at a cost. I pushed myself without always warming up or stretching. I blew out my knee and I now have a bad knee that causes me discomfort every day, and prevents me from any type of running or even jogging. There is no way I would attempt a full split now. My momma didn’t raise a fool.

Once again FMCSA is looking to make changes to the Hours of Service (HOS) just after enacting changes. This time they are looking to make more changes to the Sleeper Berth provision. Currently, we can do an 8/2 or a 7/3 split and extend our 14 hour day. The proposal is to now allow 6/4 and 5/5 splits in addition to the previous changes, giving us more flexibility. Just what we asked for, right?

I was reading a thread about these proposed changes to the HOS when I read a comment by a driver that suggested we should not have any HOS regulations at all. That would allow the ultimate flexibility. As the thread continued though, this same driver commented about unscrupulous dispatchers and brokers taking advantage of drivers and pressuring them to drive when they shouldn’t. These two things seem to be in contradiction to each other, after all, if there are no HOS, wouldn’t those dispatchers and brokers take advantage of that added flexibility? How about less than friendly shippers and receivers?

Extending the Split

As we ask for more flexibility, and are given it, we are devaluing our time. Before professional drivers were given the ability to extend our day, our available time was limited and therefore more valuable. It’s no coincidence that when ELD’s were mandated, rates went up. So did pay for many drivers. Many shippers and receivers made changes that, at least in my experience, got me in and out faster. Brokers and dispatchers were unable to pressure drivers to “just do what you have to do” to get it there.

Extending our day by two or three hours has created more available hours for us to work in a day, but that also makes our time less valuable. Don’t get me wrong, I have used the split berth and extended days to my advantage, but there are folks who would use that added flexibility to push drivers to run past their comfort levels. Why should they care?  We can stretch our day to 16 or 17 hours now, right? 

When is Enough, Enough?

We keep asking for changes to make our jobs easier, but in asking for that, are we giving up value? A professional driver’s value comes in not only being able to safely pick up and deliver cargo, but in the limited amount of time we have to do that task. When will that flexibility end up costing more than the gains we may make by extending our day? I don’t know, but I do know that as we give time away for free, it can become expected of us instead of appreciated. 

So let’s be careful what we ask for. The flexibility we ask for may be the flexibility that hurts us. 

And the only splits I do now, are on my logs and only when needed. As I said before, my momma didn’t raise a fool.

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Clark W Reed

Clark Reed of Roscoe, Illinois is an OTR company driver and trainer for Nussbaum Transportation based out of Hudson, Illinois. He has been driving since 2005 and has driven van, reefer, and tanker. He currently hauls dry van to all lower 48 states. Clark is passionate about MPGs and how driver habits influence them. The lifetime average of his 2018 Cascadia is 9.75 mpg, with eyes on 10. Clark, along with Henry Albert, was one of the seven drivers in 2017's "Run on Less" by NACFE, a road show, demonstrating what fuel efficiency can be obtained with existing technologies.

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