When OOIDA member Steve House was stopped in May of 2008 at the Red River Weigh Station in Minnesota, he thought he was going to take a little survey.
The officials at the facility said, it was just a questionnaire, a conversation they were going to have. No harm here, they said, just a little talk.
“They just kept on going and asking me a bunch of goofy questions; it really didn’t make no sense to me,” House said. “They never really told me what they were doing.”
What they were doing was walking Steve through what officials in the state call the “Fatigued Driving Evaluation Checklist.”
The system was developed in Minnesota, and is now also used by some officers in Indiana. It’s a series of questions about the condition of the truck, the sleeper, the cab and the driver – a list that officers claim can determine whether a trucker is or is not fatigued.
In fact, that is the very conclusion they came to after they talked with Steve – that despite his 10 hours’ rest, and despite his feeling very alert, that he was unfit to operate the truck … that he was too tired to drive.
With an up-to-date logbook showing plenty of hours to drive, Steve House was put out of service for 10 hours.
When he challenged whether the questions – or the conclusion the officers reached – were valid, the response was quick:
“He says, we’ve been trained in this, and I feel we’re the professionals; so they put me out of service,” House said. “They said, if you drive that truck within 10 hours, and we catch you, it’ll be a $10,000 fine and some time in jail.”
OOIDA has received reports that the list is being used in both Minnesota and Indiana to determine whether drivers are fatigued, with an eye toward either putting them out of service, or in some cases, citing them for fatigued driving.
But are the checklist and the items on it a scientifically valid measure of fatigue’
Major Thomas Melville with the Indiana State Police told Land Line Now’s
Reed Black the answer is yes.
“The fatigued driving evaluation checklist that we put together in our commercial vehicle enforcement division goes out to law enforcement agencies that are interested in using it,” Melville said. “We use it for a checklist, or a tool to identify drivers that are fatigued to the point that they should not be driving.”
In Indiana, that checklist includes things like:
- Is your truck’s exterior dirty’
- Is your wastebasket full’
- Does the trucker have dental problems’
- Is the driver dirty or disheveled’
- Does the driver have a noticeable body odor’
- Does the driver have adult materials in the cab’
- Is there a television in the sleeper’
Not surprisingly, some truckers take issue with the inclusion of things like a television in the sleeper – a legal activity. But Melville says they are part of what he sees as a legitimate evaluation.
“These are indicators that help us identify if there is an issue with a driver,” he said. “You are correct: Having a television present in the sleeper in itself is not an issue.
“But if you have a television present, and you have six or eight other identifiers on this checklist, it gives us an idea that we maybe need to look at the driver just a little bit more closely and see if this driver is getting the kind of rest they should be, and are still fit to be able to drive.”
“The urine bottles in the cab give us an indication that they’re not stopping and taking proper care of themselves,” Melville added. “Messed up hair, not having showered for a few days, bloodshot eyes – there’s just a host of things that we have on the list that we look for.
“If you get to the point that you have six or eight of these