Is it fair to place the welfare of the cargo above the welfare of the driver? That is the riddle posed by new exemption that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has just granted to part of its hours-of-service (HOS) rule. And, like all good riddles, the answer depends on the reading of the question.
The exemption applies to interstate haulers carrying live animals, generally livestock or bees; the drivers no longer have to take a 30 minute break in their first eight hours of driving. The issue is that the animals depend on the airflow generated by the moving truck to keep cool. Extended stops could sicken or even kill them, especially given that long-distance travel or shipping is already very stressful for livestock. And stopping for 30 minutes can be too long for these livestock and bees to sit idle.
But the purpose of the 30 minute break is to give drivers a chance to rest and stretch their legs in the middle of an extremely long, extremely demanding shift. Without that break, their risk of health problems and traffic accidents increase—and that is true no matter what type of cargo they are carrying. Is it really fair to the drivers to deny them such an important protection of their health and safety?
And, perhaps just as important, do we really want to risk drivers falling asleep at the wheel of a truck that is full of hundreds of bees?
But there is a practical issue here that renders all questions about human and animal rights debates; the point of these hauls is to transport live animals from Point A to Point B. And driver versus cargo welfare is, in fact, the wrong question.
HOS regulations were implemented to improve safety on the road and reduce driver fatigue. Drivers have a tough job. And staying healthy and well-rested while out on the road can be a challenge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported high rates of obesity among long-haul truck drivers. To help monitor driver behavior, GPS fleet tracking solutions offer fleet managers insight into their vehicle and driver activity. Fleet managers can use the data to implement efficient driver training programs and coaching. With these solutions, managers can view metrics including, speeding, harsh braking, sudden acceleration, and stop sign violations, further alerting manger to particular drivers who need help.
But, with the 30 minute exemption granted through June 19, 2017, we’ll have to wait and see how drivers and livestock travel together under the exemption.