Current split sleeper berth rule doesn’t lead to good health
The following letter is in response to the article about 13 trucking companies’ views on the current Hours of Service found in the March 15-31 issue of The Trucker.
I have been driving truck for 13 years, most of which has been team driving, and I find that the current HOS are a significantly larger detriment to driver's health than what we had before, particularly with the split sleeper berth option gone. Of the 13 companies profiled regarding the HOS, several stated that driver health is improving and they seem to tie that directly to improved accident rates. I agree that if I have an accident, my health will probably decline. However, if I remain accident-free under the current HOS, I believe that my health is also declining.
Since 2004, my cholesterol and weight have both gone up. When the split sleeper berth option was removed, and I had to double my driving/sitting time from 5 to 10 hours and my legs started to swell up. How long do I have to wait before a blood clot forms and causes a pulmonary embolism (deep-vein thrombosis or DVT)? Did you know that doctors recommend that a person should not be immobile for periods longer than four hours?
Who is tracking and monitoring truck driver health? How many drivers have been forced out of the industry due to high blood pressure since the new rules have been put into effect? How many more drivers are taking blood pressure and/or cholesterol medications? What about diesel fumes and cancer rates? Obesity rates have risen and continue to rise.
Additionally, finding healthy food has gotten harder. Most of the "mom and pop" truck stops have been replaced with fast food options where a serving of vegetables cannot be found. How many sandwiches a day can one eat from the sandwich shops?
What happens when a driver's health declines and he can no longer work the steering wheel? He is shown the door and another driver is found to take his place. Who do you think cares about your health? The FMCSA? The DOT? Your company? Your truck?
The bottom line, the current "one size fits all" [theme] of the current HOS, does not provide the needed flexibility to stop and exercise, find decent meals to eat, or take a nap when tired with the 14-hour clock pushing us down the road. Teams should be able to run 8 on and 8 off. When the co-driver is driving for 10 hours, I cannot legally leave the bunk for 10 hours. Getting bounced and jostled around on the deteriorating roadways in the bunk for 10 hours is not more restful, but just the opposite. If the FMCSA can't figure it out, they should adopt Canada's HOS rules. They at least incorporated some common sense.