Recently, OOIDA member Charlie Thurman was pulling his rig down the road, entering the state of Minnesota on a run.
Charlie’s a unique guy. He has a medical condition – one that his doctor is treating, and that is well documented on his medical long form. It’s an extreme sensitivity to light, one so severe it requires him to wear extremely dark glasses at nearly all times.
Without his shades, the effect is quick and predictable. His eyes become red, irritated and watery.
And that’s what got Charlie into trouble with the Worthington, MN, weigh station.
The Long Beach, CA, trucker pulled into the scales an hour and a half after starting his day, his logbook clear for a full 14 hours on duty.
“The scalemaster has me pull over into the parking lot and come inside, and then he wants to do a survey,” Thurman said.
Being an honest man with nothing to hide, and a law-abiding citizen who wants to help law enforcement, Charlie said yes, sure. What could be wrong with taking a survey’
The questions, however, sounded odd – what is your neck size, do you have a TV inside the sleeper, and so on. As the scale house worker asked each question, he checked off an item on a paper list in front of him.
Then the inspector did something Charlie did not expect.
“You know, he asks me to take my glasses off,” Thurman said. “And I tell him, I wear them because I have light sensitive eyes. And he says, take ’em off anyway, you know, in a rather stern voice.”
The predictable happened. Within 15 minutes, Charlie’s highly sensitive eyes began to react to the bright light in the room, became irritated, red, watery … and painful.
And soon he was put out of service, the latest trucker to face the judgment of the Minnesota Fatigued Driving Evaluation Checklist. To bring the point home, the scalemaster took Charlie’s CDL, saying he would give it back only after the out-of-service period.
Charlie asked for a copy of the checklist he saw the officer filling out; his request was refused.
“He told me, I don’t have to give you nothing. You have to do what I say,” he said.
Despite being put out of service to 10 hours, Charlie didn’t face a fine. What he did face was a near complete loss of a day’s driving with his heavy haul.
Because he only had an hour and half of driving in at that point, and because he could only drive up to sunset with the heavy load, he was only able to make it to the nearest truck stop after he was back in service.
Initially created as part of a fatigue evaluation process by Capt. Ken Urquhart of the Minnesota State Patrol, the checklist has become a source of controversy in the trucking industry.
Urquhart says the purpose is to keep fatigued drivers off the road. And he says it’s used, in part, to determine whether truckers are actually sleeping while on rest periods – something the law doesn’t require them to do during the entire, full 10 hour off-duty period.
Tom Weakley, director of operations at the OOIDA Foundation, says it’s a level of government control that simply isn’t warranted. And he, like other truckers familiar with the checklist, reacts to it on almost an emotional level.
“It’s like they want to put you in a cell when you go back into your sleeper part,” he said. “The next thing is, why don’t we just put bars across it and we’ll have the local police from Minnesota and Indiana have the only key, and they lock you in for those 10 hours and you have to have nothing in there except the bed, and you will, maybe they can even inject you with sleeping medicines so you’ll sleep.”
Charlie Thurman’s case is a good example of what kind of impact the checklist can have on truckers.
Joe Rajkovacz, a 30-year veteran of the road, a former police officer and now a regulatory affairs specialist at OOIDA, sa