The Unforgiving Clock

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August 24, 2016

Orlando, Florida

There are lots of regulations for the trucking industry, but only two of them are relevant to the following story.  They are the fourteen-hour rule and the eleven-hour rule.  The fourteen hour rule says that I can drive and do the free work (inspections coupling/uncoupling, planning, etc. or drive  during the day, but all that driving and free work has to be accomplished in a 14 hour span of time.  After that I can do the free work and call it a break, but I cannot drive the truck, which does pay.  The eleven-hour rule says I can only drive for eleven hours in that fourteen hour period.  After that, I need to be “on break” for ten hours continuously to restore my 14 hours.  I can do planning or clean the truck or other free work and call it a break, but I cannot drive and call it a break.  Figures, since they  pay me only to drive.

Here is how those rules effected my first trip after my home-break:

I get to the Peterbilt Store and claim my truck.  It is in two pieces because they don’t have much room in their lot for complete vehicles and have to chop them up to store them.  So, I log in as on-duty (not driving) and drive the tractor over to the trailer and couple to it. I am not really driving, just yet because this  is not a public street.  Then I inspect  the whole thing and when I drive off and exceed 20 miles per hour, the log computer automatically starts counting down my driving time.

I drive the empty trailer from Baltimore to Richmond, Virginia where I arrive at the “Shipper”.   I said before that there are two kinds of pick up that might happen at a shipper.  There is the “Live Load” where I back the trailer with its cargo doors open, into a “loading” door and wait for it to be loaded.  When that is complete, I pull out and close the cargo doors and leave the scene.

Then there is the “Drop-and-Hook”.  Where I uncouple from an empty trailer and go couple with a full one.  You might think that would be more efficient, but you can be waiting many hours for them to fill that full trailer. But, when it is done, I couple with the new trailer and depart.

This current shipper has a hybrid of these two methods, whereby, I arrive with my empty, and uncouple from it.  This one particular time, though,  I must reverse the process and couple with the trailer once more because I forgot to “slide the trolley”.  That is, I have to lock the trailer wheels and use the tractor to pull the trailer body forward so that the wheels are all the way to the rear.    That is way “Yard Tractors” like the wheels.  I drop the trailer again and park in my tractor over in a corner, with a nice view of the next steps.  Then  the Yard Tractor couples to the trailer and puts it “in the door” to be loaded. When it is full, the same yard tractor couples again and pulls the trailer back out and parks it where I can back up to it and couple with it again.  Then I slide the trolley to a “road worthy” position and leave the scene.

As complicated as it sounds, this is actually more efficient than a “Live Load”.  The result is that I have the same trailer, but did not have to back it in.  That’s good because backing is hard (but, I’m getting better at it).  Backing with an Over-the-Road tractor is generally  harder because I have the living quarters behind me and that limits the turning radius I can accomplish.   Yard tractors are small and agile and their operators do this all day long and are really good at it.

But, all that activity took about three and one half hours.  By now however, my driving time was “ticking down” because regardless of the fact that I was “on break” the remainder of the fourteen hour period (that started back in Baltimore) is now shorter than my remaining drive time. Incidentally, I qualified for the last three of my eleven driving hours in the first thirty minutes of the break. That is not really important, but I threw it in just to make it more complicated.  All of those three hours were eaten up by the fourteen  hour clock before I could leave the shipper.  I had only four hours left.  I used three of them to drive to a place called Kenly, North Carolina and I burned the last hour of driving by being on duty (not driving) to fuel and inspect the vehicle.

This made the next day a challenge.  I still had 599 miles to go and  after ten hours of break, I had eleven newly created hours of drive time to get there.  But remember that my truck is limited to 62 miles per hour.  When you throw in road construction, off/on ramps, hills and stop-lights, I am lucky to average sixty unless most of the trip is an interstate highway, which it was.  I accomplished those  600 miles in ten hours and twenty eight minutes.  I got to the receiver, where another variation of “Live Load” is practiced.  This time I back the open trailer into the loading door, then lock its brakes, but chocks under the wheels and uncouple and drive the tractor forward about five feet. They really don’t want me to move the trailer while they are unloading.

While that was happening. My remaining 32 minutes of drive time evaporated into the 14 hour rule.  Technically, I cannot drive the truck, but I can move it around in the shipper’s property.  Fortunately, the street in front of the shipper’s establishment is “honorary” receiver property. And, if I “creep” my truck out to the curb there, I have not really “driven” unless I drive for more than a mile and a half or exceed 20 miles per hour.  I was careful not to do that but, I have to remain there at the curb for ten hours.  Another rule called the “eight hour split” revived those 32 minutes that the 14 hour rule ate the night before – dutifully, eight hours later.  Two hours after that I had a full eight hours of drive time and could get three more with a thirty minute break once I had driven three hours.

After all that effort and complicated hour counting, my next load will not pick up until tomorrow at 10 AM.  So of my hard won eight hours of drive time, only one and a half are used to relocate from the curb outside the shipper to a roadside rest area on Interstate 4 – about 18 miles away.  I don’t want to go far because the new shipper is only 12 miles from the old receiver.  Why move at all?  Because these “Outside-the-Receiver-Curbside parking areas do not come with bathrooms.TenHourTruckStop

Above:  The ten-hour-truck-stop.  I named it “Necessity”.

Over The Road,

Steve

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