Assessing daily driving and working hours within the context of hours-of-service regulations

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Laura Farrell
Susan Soccolich
Richard J. Hanowski

Today’s truck drivers typically operate under a unique pay structure that interacts with their hour limits and lifestyles in a manner that some view as detrimental to driver safety, health, and well-being. Drivers’ current pay structures have developed along with the trucking industry’s unique history. Yet, while industry regulations have evolved and job tasks changed throughout the years, pay structure remains relatively the same, with up to 88% of drivers’ compensation received as pay-per-mile (Dupre, Leitner, & Rader, 2014; Braver et al., 1992; Apostolopolous, Sonmez, Shattell, Gonzales, & Fehrenbacher, 2013; Griffin & Rodriguez, 1992, as cited in Lafontaine & Masten, 2002). Detention time compensation, if available, generally does not begin until after two-hours of wait-time. Additionally, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, truck drivers have historically been excluded from the groups of workers who may receive overtime pay (U.S. Department of Labor, 2009).

The current study presents a description of commercial drivers’ working and driving hours, including the average and median driving and working hours per shift, using data collected in the Naturalistic Truck Driving Study and enriched in the Blanco et al. (2011) study. A total of 97 drivers and 1,938 shifts were included in the calculations. When excluding shifts with zero driving hours from the calculations, drivers had an average of 7.58 driving hours (SD = 2.69) and 11.25 working hours (SD = 3.50). A breakdown of the average workdays for line-haul and long-haul drivers showed a majority of the workday consisted of driving (68% and 60% of the workday for long-haul and line-haul drivers, respectively); however, both driver types spent a significant portion of their workday doing non-driving work. For long-haul drivers, 19% of their workday consisted of non-driving work (2% was heavy work) and line-haul drivers spent about 37% of their workday performing non-driving work (12% was heavy work). While long-haul drivers spent a larger percentage of their day driving than line-haul drivers, they also spent proportionally more time resting (13% and 3% of workday, respectively).

The naturalistic data analysis highlighted several potential implications for the pay-per-mile pay structure. The Hours-of-Service regulations specify that a driver can drive a maximum of 11 hours per shift, over a 14-hour window. The study findings indicate drivers are, on average, not driving the legal maximum available time, a finding with obvious pay implications for drivers paid per-mile driven. Furthermore, drivers are spending 32–40% of their workday performing non-driving work, for which they are unlikely to be compensated under a pay-per-mile structure. Pay structure can create pressure for drivers to complete work, even when facing legal or safety-related consequences, such as getting caught violating regulations or speeding, in order to maximize their pay within the confines of their allocated driving (and paid) time. Beyond contributing to unsafe driving behaviors, the pressure to complete work within the constraints of the compensation method may also affect drivers’ health and personal well-being. Therefore, a better understanding is needed of the implications, including unintended consequences that driver compensation approaches may have on safety, health, and well-being.

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