Feature Articles - Weekly Feature

With all the recent focus on driver fatigue, it appears that everyone is getting into the act. The latest bit of news that we hear is a Minnesota state trooper who has developed a "Driver Fatigue Evaluation Checklist" that is being used as a measure in both Minnesota and Indiana to put drivers out of service supposedly due to fatigue.


Though little was heard about this checklist, even though it has been used in both states for approximately three years, it exploded into trucker's attention when an OOIDA owner-operator was put out of service in Minnesota recently. This driver was running team with his wife and had just started his 11-hour shift. He reported the questions he was asked from the checklist and a few that were not on the list, to OOIDA and they reported it on OOIDA's radio show "Landline Now." Since then, the uproar has been loud and furious.


This list <http://img408.imageshack.us/img408/5065/59680684.gif>  features the following items troopers use to gauge a driver's state:


Overall Truck Condition: Exterior Dirty/Unkempt, Vehicle Maintenance Not Performed, Trailer Interior Dirty/Unkempt, Obvious Lack of Overall Care.


Condition of Sleeper: No Bed clothing and Blanket, No Mattress, Berth Does Not Qualify as Sleeper Berth 393.76, Items/Debris/Tools on Mattress, Berth Obviously Not Used, Television in Berth-DVDs and Videos, Clothing in Berth, Video Game System, Reading Material-books, magazines, papers.


Condition of Cab: Debris in Cab, Wastebasket Full/Overflowing, Food or Food Wrappers in Cab, Urine Bottle Present, Clothing in Cab, Empty soda/Caffeinated Drink Cans/Bottles, Pets in Vehicle, Cell phone, Computer.


Driving Behaviors: Speed-Change Speed/No Apparent Reason, Lane Position-Weaving, Missed Turn, Missed Red Light/Stop Sign/Etc., Fail to Respond to Traffic Situations, Tailgating, Unnecessary Braking, Fail to Use Turn Signals, Crash, HOS Violation, Log not Current, No Log Book Present, False Log.


Driver Medical Condition: Snoring, Diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, CPAP Machine, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), Acid Reflux Condition, Dental Problems, Grinding of Teeth (Bruxism), Active Dreams, Sleepwalking.


Driver Physical Condition: Driver Dirty/Disheveled, Unshaven, Lack of Attention/Unable to maintain focus, Eyes bloodshot; watery/tearing, Yawns during interview, Clothing dirty/disheveled, Driver Ill, Head Bobbing, Droopy Eyelids, Distant Stare, Use of OTC Medications, Use of Prescription Meds, Use of Contraband Substances, Alcohol Detected, Job/Home Related Stress, Appears Irritable, Allergies, Use of Caffeine or Stimulants, Noticeable Body Odor, Money Concerns, Physical movements/rubbing head, face or eyes, Easily confused or slow to respond, Overly agreeable/Overly quick to agree.


Additional questions on the checklist: Total hours of last sleep period, Total hours of sleep last 24 hours, Hours since last sleep period. Hours since last rest stop/bathroom break. Driver's height, weight, neck size.


The owner-operator who initially reported this checklist to OOIDA also said that he was asked how often he got up in the night to use the bathroom. This is not the only extra question drivers are reporting since OOIDA asked for all drivers who have been put out of service due to the checklist to call them. Another driver reported that he had been asked how often he got home, whether he and his wife were intimate each time he went home and if, while he was on the road, he self-gratified himself and how often! The driver reporting the salacious questions was put out of service even though he had 20 minutes left on his 11/14 and was only five miles to his terminal.


The FMCSA has regulations <http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/fmcsr/fmcsrruletext.asp?chunkkey=09016334800238d0>  regarding driver fatigue. Though these regulations are in place, the authors of this checklist are trying to get CVSA and the FMCSA to add the questions on the checklist to the out-of-service criteria. At this time, the Minnesota state trooper and the Minnesota Trucking Association have been scheduling and selling telephone seminars <http://www.mntruck.org/pdf/fatigueflier.pdf>   touting the usefulness of this checklist.


While some drivers are reporting that they are asked to partake in a "voluntary" survey about fatigue by law enforcement officers, many drivers are not aware that they are participating in any checklist that could result in big fines or being placed out of service even though they have available hours to work. One driver, who had only been driving 45 minutes from a 10-hour break was put out of service and lost his job. He was making a just-in-time delivery and was only minutes from his delivery point when he ran afoul of the checklist and was put out of service for 10 hours.


While highway safety is foremost in all of our minds, it is our lives at stake, too. This "Driver Fatigue Evaluation Checklist" may not be racial profiling, but it is "profession" profiling at its worst. It is also unfair, unjust, and intrusive not to say a violation of privacy. As I wrote to Senator Clare McCaskill (D-MO) in a letter regarding this subject, "since when did getting a CDL make it so that truck drivers are denied their Constitutional rights to privacy?" I urge you to also contact your state representatives on this matter.


There are laws on the books that drivers must follow, and have been following for some time, and which serve the purpose of keeping our roads safe. It is still possible, however, for well-meaning individuals to cross the line with burdensome rules and seemingly arbitrary requirements. Whether the Minnesota "checklist" or, as it is sometimes described, "survey" is voluntary or mandatory is a moot point. If you cheerfully go along with it and answer the questions agreeably, you may be considered "Overly agreeable/Overly quick to agree." If you refuse, you may be considered to "Appear Irritable," and still get put out of service over things unrelated to fatigue. Once again, truck drivers are caught in a catch-22 situation, damned if you do, damned if you don't.


If you have been caught in this latest catch-22 situation and have been put out of service because of it, contact OOIDA's compliance department at 1-800-444-5791.