There is a shortage of safe parking spots for trucks, especially many carrying oversized loads. Drivers will push the limits of HOS compliance because they cannot find a safe place to park for their mandated downtime. Drivers will even drive beyond their HOS limits searching for a safe place to park. Many feel stressed out watching the clock ticking the final countdown of their legal driving time when they are unable to find a good or safe place to park. So many drivers will not sleep on the side of the road because they do not feel safe. But when push comes to shove and the scarcity of parking spaces, many drivers will park on the side of the road due to no better alternative.
A vast majority of surveyed drivers report the difficultly to find parking to comply with the HOS mandate. But, ELDs are not the only cause of the parking shortage, which has existing for a number of years along most major trucking corridors. Drivers cannot shift hours in the ELD mandate in order to position themselves to be in an area with a larger number of safe places to park. More time than not a driver reaches his maximum driving hours and find himself in areas with no parking, which is usually the case in high-demand and heavily trafficked areas. The HOS regulation sometimes gives drivers no choice and forces them to park for as much as 10 hours in risky and unsafe areas.
In our previous article, we talked about one of the many unforeseen consequences of the ELD mandate: the pressure for drivers to race against the clock and make risky decisions to complete shipments on time. Today, we’ll be discussing the effect that both HOS regulations and the ELD mandate have on a driver’s sleep schedule.
After a quick read through the HOS regulations on the FCMSA’s own site, you’ll notice that the law not only dictates when a driver can work but also when they can sleep. For example, a driver is forced to take 10 hours off-duty to rest or sleep after they have spent 14 consecutive hours officially on duty and just 11 of those hours spent driving.
Drivers with a sleeper berth in their vehicle only have to take 8 consecutive hours of rest inside but also have to spend an additional 2 hours off-duty or sleeping at another time in the day, still forcing them to take 10 hours of time off.
Even with the most well-planned schedule, it’s impossible to predict setbacks like traffic, slow loading times, or missed turns. Unfortunately, any time lost by the driver is still counted against them and subtracted from their working/driving hours.
So, what happens when a driver is racing to complete a shipment and they either hit the maximum driving hours of 11 or maximum working hours of 14 for the day? They have to stop and sleep—right where they are.
And once a driver has used all of their working/driving hours for the day, they are unable to legally move the vehicle. This often means that drivers have to park on the side of the road or at the nearest parking lot. With an ELD measuring every mile and minute, drivers simply aren’t able to drive around and search for parking “off-the-clock.” Combine this with parking shortages that have plagued truckers for years and you have a real recipe for disaster.
Many drivers report that it’s nearly impossible to find parking when complying with HOS regulations. Once they’ve run out of hours for the day and the nearest parking spot is full, they’re unable to shift hours on the ELD to allow them to search for another one. To comply with the law, truck drivers sometimes find themselves having to park their vehicles in unsafe areas for as long as 10 hours.
Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that trucking is already one of the most deadly occupations in America, coming in 8th place right behind power line workers. Sadly, with new pressures to speed and station vehicles in crime-ridden areas, we may see this job move up in the ranking.