Road View | HOS off and running?
Earlier this month, the long-embattled, much-revised HOS rules went into effect. Even though the revision process was by no means rushed, barely more than a week passed before the first exception needed to be made. To be fair, there was actually one last-minute exception added in before the July 1st enforcement date, so the early July change can’t even lay claim to being the first revision.
Long In The Making
When revisions to the HOS rules were discussed in the mid-nineties, the existing rules had been in force for nearly six decades. Although long-haul trucking had evolved tremendously in the prior six decades, there was only one significant change in the HOS rules. About halfway through that 60 year period, the driver’s HOS clock was revised from 24 to 18 hours, without any relevant explanation.
So then, in 2003, nearly a decade after the HOS update haggling began, the trucking industry was presented with a set of rules concocted by the best and brightest minds in the activist and regulatory communities. The rules were unwieldy at best, and even though some explanations of the rules dwarfed the actual text of the rules, the trucking industry was prepared to do its best to turn lemons into lemonade.
But Wait, There’s More…
If only it had been that simple, to go ahead with the HOS rules as delivered in 2003. But no, it seems that the anti-truck activist groups that already had far too big a hand in the creation of the 2003 rules felt that they hadn’t yet done enough damage. “Lawfare” tactics gave them yet another heckler’s veto over a process in which they held no legitimate role.
From April 24, 2003, to July 1, 2013. That’s a total of 3,721 days. Or 89,304 hours. Or 5,358,240 minutes. To implement a rule that only encompasses eight days at its furthest extent. And that doesn’t account for a decade or so of wrangling leading up to the 2003 debut of the HOS revision.
By way of comparison, the Manhattan Project went from inception to the “Trinity” test in just 1,080 days, or just under three years. The Apollo space program went from Kennedy’s proposal to Armstrong and Aldrin landing on the moon in just 2,977 days, or a little more than eight years.
What a legacy this generation will leave. In the Forties, they harnessed the power of the atom; in the Sixties, they went to the moon; in the Twenty-Oughts, we scheduled a driver’s work-week. Wow. As Vice President Joe Biden would say, “That’s a big . . . deal.”
So Now It’s Done, Right?
That would be nice, BUT, even after three-quarters of a century of HOS rules, even after a decade in the re-making, and even after another decade in the re-re-making, guess what? The best and brightest in DC still didn’t get it right.
Maybe One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Just before the recent July 1st enforcement date, some DC rocket surgeon finally figured out that totally relieving a driver for responsibility for his truck and load during a mandatory 30-minute break in the middle of nowhere might not be such a wise idea if that load happened to contain radioactive material.
Never mind that the number of loads containing radioactive material is minute compared to loads with far greater terror potential, an exception to the 30-minute rest break rules was granted only to drivers hauling loads containing radioactive material.
Proving that the final HOS rules weren’t so final as of July 1st, yet another revision came less than two weeks after that date. It seems that somebody in the “Who-da-thunk” division discovered that it gets hot in the summer and that “livestock trailers bear an eery resemblance to a TV-dinner tray when left to bake in the hot sun.” Thus a 90-day summertime exemption to the rest break rules was granted for livestock haulers.
Reality? No, That Will Never Work
Unlike any of the activists and most of the bureaucrats, I’ve spent years behind the wheel. I know that it’s possible to be falling asleep with plenty of hours left or to be totally alert and out of hours. I also know that no amount of outside micro-management can have a positive effect on safety with regard to driver fatigue.
Sure, at the macro level there needs to be a pretty finite limit to total monthly hours and a reasonably tight margin on total weekly hours. However, only the driver can effectively manage his day-to-day schedule and fatigue levels.