Is Quality Sleep For a Truck Driver Just a Dream?

by Andrew R. Young | June 4th, 2013

Andy-Young-RR-610x400Quality sleep for a trucker should be a right, not a luxury. My prior article asked safe truckers to take action to make our highways safer for all motorists by being vocal to wake up their tired colleagues. This article explores how a “rogue” motor carrier is a trucker’s worst nightmare. These companies make it near impossible for its leased-on owner/operators and/or employee drivers to drive well-rested and within regulatory compliance with hours-of-service laws.

Sleep awareness and fatigue management begin and end with a disciplined routine. Unfortunately, various factors integral to a trucking company’s culture play a role in disrupting a well-thought-out routine causing a trucker to nod off. This article focuses on how the trucker may be working for the wrong company preventing him or her from getting quality sleep. Knowing the law and taking a stand against a bad employer will keep a safe trucker awake, alert, and alive.

The Rogue Motor Carrier Is A Trucker’s Worst Nightmare

A rogue motor carrier has a pattern of unsafe behavior with a habit of regulatory violations in one or more of the new Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs). As most drivers know, roadside inspections can produce over 640 possible regulatory infractions. Under the new CSA, these violations no longer follow just the company, but follow the driver as well. Interestingly, the violations follow the company for only two (2) years, while these same violations stay on the driver’s record for three (3) years. Now more than ever, company drivers need to stand up against rogue trucking companies before their records become so tarnished that they are not able to be hired elsewhere.

For example, last year, D.A. Landis Trucking, Inc. was charged with conspiracy for ordering drivers to falsify their daily logbooks. This motor carrier knew it was requiring drivers to exceed hours-of-service requirements. It was brazen enough to instruct drivers to prepare two sets of driver’s logs, one which was false and the other intended for roadside inspectors. Drivers were asked to falsely certify the truthfulness and accuracy of the logbook entries. Dispatchers also knowingly dispatched drivers on trips that were certain to exceed hours-of-service requirements.

Arguably, employer / dispatcher / load planner problems go beyond this one example. Consider the following trucker tweets.

Tweets From Truckers Explaining Why They’re Tired

– “I have heard this from many dispatchers before. Come on we need you for one more.”

– “My dispatcher goes retarded when I tried to tell them I have only 1 hr left to drive.”

– “Dispatch was kind enough to plan my first load for 4am central time. My paperwork is invalid and dispatch won’t be in for another 3 hrs.”

– “When it comes to driving we have 65mph trks n 100mph dispatchers with 26 hrs in a day!”

Know The Law

If you are a professional driver or work in the trucking industry, then you should have the “Green Book” or a glove box edition of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). The following regulations should be memorized and recited to anyone who disrupts a trucker’s quality night’s sleep:

FMCSR 392.6 Schedules to conform with speed limits. “No motor carrier shall require a run nor permit nor require the operation of any commercial motor vehicle between points in such period of time as would necessitate the commercial vehicle being operated at speed greater than those prescribed by the jurisdictions in or through which the commercial motor vehicle is being operated.”

FMCSR 390.13 Aiding or abetting violations. “No person shall aid, abet, encourage, or require a motor carrier or its employees to violate the rules of this chapter.”

FMCSR 392.3 Ill or fatigued operator. “No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle.” (This regulation was mentioned in my prior article and worth repeating again here).

A good safety director will educate a driver about these regulations, rewarding and not penalizing a driver for declining to take a load if they are too fatigued. A good company with a pattern of safe behavior will give a trucker an opportunity to develop a disciplined sleep routine.

As all truckers know, it’s often the employer / load planner / dispatcher pushing the trucker beyond their limits. However, all truckers should take a stand and follow my friend, Trucker Mike’s “Mantra” – “I will NEVER let anyone ‘push’ me, instead I’ll be fired for being SAFE if need be!”

How To Check A Motor Carrier’s Safety Scores

If you are truck driver looking for a new job, check your potential future employer’s scores on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) website. Click here for the Motor Carrier Safety Measurement System and plug in the motor carrier’s USDOT# into the box to find a motor carrier / future employer’s safety scores. Aspire to work for motor carriers with a positive safety culture. This link will also allow drivers to access their own crash and inspection history via the FMCSA’s Pre-Employment Screening Program. At this website, you can learn more about the CSA program and how it affect a company’s and driver’s record. A safe trucking company will not only keep you alive, but will keep you “turning and earning.”

Dream No More About Quality Sleep

Well-rested truckers will arrive to their destination safe and sound. Truckers should encourage the company they work for to invest in a Fatigue Management Training Program that allows truckers to get enough rest, take breaks if needed, get paid, sleep well, and avoid driving while fatigued. A trucker has the right to sleep tight knowing that the motor carrier he or she is working for cares about safety.

My next article will focus on how shippers, receivers, and parking issues can also disrupt the trucker’s ultimate goal of being well-rested. When the work is finally done, everyone deserves a safe drive home.

Andrew R. Young, Chair of the Trucking Safety Section, Ohio Association for Justice / Truck Accident Attorney / Licensed Class A, Commercial Drivers License – Follow Andy on Twitter, @SafeDriveHome, for safe driving tips and more.