Hours of service (HOS) rules have been part of the trucking industry for decades. They are troublesome to flatbed truckers because time spent on cargo control counts against the total amount of work time the driver is allowed in a single day. And now that the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate is the law of the land, time spent on cargo control is an even bigger factor.
Mytee Products, an Ohio company that supplies the trucking industry with cargo control equipment and supplies, explains that flatbed operators are at a distinct disadvantage due to the time spent loading and securing cargo. As such, drivers have to make maximum use of every minute of the work day.
Loading and Securing Take Time
Mytee Products says that a dry van operator can generally back up his or her tractor, hook the trailer, do the pre-trip inspection, and go. Within 10 or 15 minutes of signing off on paperwork, the trucker can be on the road. That means maximum drive time and more miles turn. Things are not so easy for the flatbed driver.
Some jobs involve shippers loading their trailers long before drivers arrive to pick them up. But that’s not the norm. More often than not, drivers supervise trailer loading in the shipping yard. It is time spent working, so it counts against a driver’s daily limit.
Once the trailer is loaded, the driver must then spend time securing it. Some loads require blocks and heavy chains to keep cargo in place. Other loads can be tied down with webbing straps spanning the cargo. Most flatbed loads have to be covered with tarps after being secured.
Driver experience, weather conditions, and the type of load being carried all determine how much time it takes to load and secure cargo. One job might be doable in half-hour, even while another driver spends an hour on a more complicated job. Every minute spent on cargo control is another minute that cannot be spent driving.
Miles Equals Money
The time it takes to load and secure a flatbed trailer would not be an issue for a lot of truck drivers if they were paid by the hour. But they aren’t. Your average truck driver is paid based on the number of miles driven. When the wheels are not moving, the paycheck isn’t growing.
So how does the ELD mandate play into all of this? It requires drivers to keep track of their hours using an electronic device that is physically attached to their trucks. These devices make it nearly impossible to under-report the number of hours a driver has spent driving. Furthermore, shippers and receivers document loading and unloading times, so it is not hard for the authorities to determine if driver data is accurate.
For right or wrong, drivers used to be able to adjust their paper logs to account for cargo control time without significantly impacting driving time. That’s no longer possible. Strict HOS rules now keep track of every minute of the work day, whether a driver is driving, working on cargo control, or taking a mandatory rest break.
Room for Compromise
The trucking industry is now pretty much on board with the ELD mandate. They also agree that HOS regulations are needed – up to a point anyway. But industry representatives say there is room for compromise. They want regulators to look at time spent loading and securing cargo a bit differently than it is currently looked at. Flatbed drivers shouldn’t have less time to drive and earn because of cargo control time they don’t get paid for.