Ask any truck driver how they manage to avoid rush hour traffic and you’ll likely get a sarcastic answer or a chuckle in response. This may be due to the fact that rush hour, in some locations, never really ends. Instead, the heavy flow of traffic continues night and day without really ever ceasing. A few examples of cities like this include Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Dallas.
Meet the 14-Hour Clock
While some truckers respond to the humor that there is never an end to rush hour, others may react with a surprising level of frustration. Instead of talking about frustrating traffic, you may find yourself in a bizarre conversation about a 14-hour clock and forced bedtimes. Those not familiar with the ever-tightening driving laws in the trucking industry need only ask a driver to understand the startling level of frustration many professional drivers are experiencing.
Basically, the 14-hour “On Duty Shift” law was put into effect in July of 2013. Groups lobbying for safer highways and roadways frequently come up with ideas to help ensure drivers get enough sleep and are not a danger to other motorists because they are driving drowsy. This law states that a driver cannot legally work more than 14 hours out of 24 and no more than 11 of those hours can be spent driving.
Unfortunately, work, in this law, is defined as being on duty. And for a trucker, being on duty can mean being stopped in a traffic jam, waiting to have your trailer loaded, completing a pre-trip inspection, even taking time off to use the restroom. This ungainly law creates some truly bizarre timeframes as drivers are completely controlled by a button that starts the clock and a different button that says when their day must be complete.
The 14-Hour Clock and Rush Hour
Before drivers were forced to comply with a clock that was seemingly counting down the minutes before they must stop for the day, many drivers chose to avoid rush hour like the plague. Today, drivers with only a certain amount of time remaining on that clock no longer have the option of pulling into a rest area and sleeping or resting for a few hours while they wait for traffic to lighten. Instead, they must contribute to the traffic problem hoping that commuters in a hurry will leave enough room in front of them and behind them that they will not be involved in an accident.
Methods for Coping with Rush Hour
There are a few tips for professional drivers who simply cannot avoid driving in rush hour. They certainly do not take the stress out of the drive but may help to lighten the load just a little. A few of these tips include:
- Know when rush hour hits – Each major city seems to have a life ad traffic pattern of its own. Keep a record of what the typical times of day rush hour occurs and do your best to avoid them.
- Take a break beforehand – In cases where rush hour cannot be avoided, try to take a quick break beforehand. Even a 10-minute stop to walk around and eat a high-protein snack may help a driver to be at his or her best.
- Complete focus on the road – Make sure your truck is well organized and things are put away correctly. This way you can make sure nothing starts rolling around in the cab of your truck and your entire focus can be on the road. Also, avoid snacking, changing the radio stations or using the CB radio in rush hour traffic as any distraction can lead to an unfortunate accident.
- Check Google Maps – Before entering a city where there is sure to be rush hour traffic, take a break and check Google Maps. Quite frequently it will show where the worst traffic spots are and even show different routes that may save time and frustration.
- Maintain recommended spacing – Maintaining the correct spacing between your rig and the cars around you is easier said than done, especially as some drivers see a truck as the perfect opportunity for a lane change. Be ready for automobiles to pull in front of you, or to pull to close to the back of your trailer and respond appropriately.
- Pay attention to blind spots – It can be difficult to pay attention to where each car is in relation to your semi, especially in rush hour traffic, but practice can make perfect. Some drivers talk to themselves about which cars are where. This helps them notice when one vehicle disappears into one of their many blind spots.
A New House Bill
A new bill has been proposed in the House of Representatives that many drivers are rooting for. This bill would let truck drivers take a break of up to 3 hours that would not count as part of their 14-hour limit. Should this new bill pass, drivers would once again be able to stop and rest before hitting (and contributing to) rush hour traffic.