Monday Night Football and the World Series Exemption to the New Hours of Service Rule?

While looking for a job as an attorney this fall, I was able to keep myself busy hauling grain from Lincoln County Missouri to E. St. Louis IL.   Besides being an attorney, I am also a professional truck driver.

On Monday in late October of last year, as the local farmers were bringing in their harvest and jamming the streets for miles around the local grain elevator, I was dispatched to take a load through downtown St. Louis.  As luck would have it, the St. Louis Cardinals were playing Game 5 of the World Series and the mighty Rams were on the gridiron against what would later be the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks for a Monday Night Football  game.  Downtown St. Louis was electric with excitement.  But, it was also a parking lot with waves of sports fans cramming into downtown all at the same hour.

I was confronted with a dilemma.  It was about 5 pm when I started to leave the grain elevator and head to East St. Louis.  I had to go through the heart of downtown and fight the traffic.  I knew if I took the load into St. Louis I would have spend hours sitting in traffic trying to work my way through the crazy baseball and football fans making their way through downtown.  Instead of fighting traffic, getting frustrated and possibly finding myself in the middle of an accident waiting to happen, I called my wife and told her to pick me up at the local Walmart about an hour west of downtown.  Instead of fighting traffic, my wife and kids brought me home for dinner and play time.  I waited for rush hour traffic to die down and for the sports fans to get into the stadiums.

I then had my wife and kids take me back to the truck.  The problem was I was running up against the 14 hour rule.  Any delay would put me over 14 hours.  I hopped in my Kenworth, tuned the radio to the mighty KMOX, and listened to the Red Birds as I drove through downtown (sorry Rams).  It looked like a ghost town except for the MO HWY Patrol parked every few miles.  I could not believe how empty the roads were.  Apparently, those who were not lucky enough to get tickets were at home watching on television.  I was able to unload my grain in record time and take the truck back to the Yard (all within 14 hours, of course!).

As a professional driver, I should be allowed to make professional choices.  The new HOS rules prohibit professional drivers from being able to make decisions that benefit the driver, allow him time to spend with his family and yet drive while rested and roads not congested.    I am sure everyone on the road that evening with their minds on baseball and football were elated that my fully grossed out grain wagon was not plugging up the highway.  I was happy because I was able to spend some quality time with my family and still get make a day’s wages.  I was not tired or forced to drive fatigued.  In fact, I was more relaxed and refreshed than if I had spent 2 hours sitting in bumper to bumper traffic.  Not to mention coming home to a tired wife who had the kids alone all day.  Everyone wins when smart drivers make smart choices.  Unfortunately, the new hours of service rules do not have a Monday Night Football or World Series exemption.

Milan Berry

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