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[I was a guest on the Dave Nemo trucking radio show [davenemo.com] on SiriusXM Radio to discuss this article and related issues on July 2nd.]
UPDATE 11:00AM 6/10/13: Greetings to the Florida Dept. Of Law Enforcement (18.104.22.168), Florida Dept. Of Transportation (22.214.171.124) & Florida Department Of Management Services (126.96.36.199), you were quick to visit this article. [See ISP logs screenshot at the very bottom of this page.] I suggest you tell Jeff Frost's 'betters' to school him on the law and not to give such stupid answers to queries. Your agencies are just begging to be sued. You are hereby put on notice to immediately cease and desist all illegal searches and detainment of commercial drivers and other motorists. You may contact me here if you wish to issue a public statement on this matter.
In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, a case where a man in Texas refused to show police ID because there was no probable cause. The court noted "he was arrested for violation of Tex.Penal Code Ann., Tit. 8, Secton 38.02(a) (1974), which makes it a criminal act for a person to refuse to give his name and address to an officer "who has lawfully stopped him and requested the information." However, the court reversed his conviction:
"Held: The application of the Texas statute to detain appellant and require him to identify himself violated the Fourth Amendment because the officers lacked any reasonable suspicion to believe that appellant was engaged or had engaged in criminal conduct. Detaining appellant to require him to identify himself constituted a seizure of his person subject to the requirement of the Fourth Amendment that the seizure be "reasonable."... Absent any basis for suspecting appellant of misconduct, the balance between the public interest in crime prevention and appellant's right to personal security and privacy tilts in favor of freedom from police interference ... to detain appellant and require him to identify himself violated the Fourth Amendment because the officers lacked any reasonable suspicion to believe appellant was engaged or had engaged in criminal conduct. Accordingly, appellant may not be punished for refusing to identify himself, and the conviction is Reversed."
This all started when a reader sent LibertyFight.com a letter last week complaining that he was woken up by the Florida Highway Patrol on I-10 while he was off duty in the sleeper berth of his commercial vehicle. Truckers are required by federal law to sleep 10 hours between shifts, and are also required to keep strict logs maintaining records that they got that necessary sleep. To neglect to get the sleeep and to keep detailed records is a violation of law.
The trucker wrote:
"Three hours into my sleep cycle TRP.B. Simmons of the hwy patrol in Florida was working the weigh station On I-10 EB and pulled my co driver in for inspection and forced me out of my sleep cycle to show logs ID and medical card, putting me on duty for over an hour violating my logs. When I asked him since when did they wake up the non driving codriver interrupting their 10 hour sleep cycle he replied with every codriver is woken up when they come through here. A very tense situation indeed. What can I do in this situation? I was made to feel helpless, even though I know my rights."
After receiving this letter I wrote to the Florida Highway Patrol and asked for their response:
To: JeffFrost@flhsmv.gov (email@example.com); HSMV-Media@flhsmv.gov (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hello, I am a freelance writer doing a story on commercial trucking and the problems drivers encounter. I was recently contacted by a commercial team driver who claims that a Florida highway patrolman woke him up when he was off duty in the sleeper berth. His partner, who was on duty and driving, pulled into a comercial weigh station where this occurred. I understand you cannot comment on specific incidents but can you state for the record what your official policy is regarding waking up and demanding ID/logbooks etc from an off-duty commercial driver who is on his 10 hour sleeper berth time? Also, I do not see a link on your website where motorists can file an official complaint against an officer, or an explanation of that process. A 'Praise a DHSMV Employee' section, however, is easily visible on your main contact page.
The next day I recieved a response from Lt. Jeff Frost, Florida Highway Patrol Public Affairs Officer Commercial Vehicle Enforcement. Frost claimed something that even the most flagrant violators of liberties would be ashamed to admit- he claimed that not only is it their policy to wake up every sleeping truck driver who goes through the scale to check their ID, but that they also perform mandatory logbook checks on all team operations. For anyone out there who might be confused, that is insane lunacy and 100% illegal according to both state and federal law, and is a blatant violation of the 4th Amendment and the sleeping driver's civil rights. There is no city, county, state or federal law which allows cops to demand warrantless wake-ups, ID checks, or logbooks checks of off duty truckers. But wait, this gets better.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Hours of service of drivers Section 395.1 Scope of rules very plainly points out that "a driver who operates a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle equipped with a sleeper berth Must, before driving, accumulate (1) At least 10 consecutive hours off duty; (2) At least 10 consecutive hours of sleeper-berth time" between their shifts. Being forced out of the sleeper at the demand of some cop is not only an illegal demand, but would interupt your ten hours, forcing you to start all over again. A driver's shift can last 14 hours, eleven of it driving. As a matter of fact, starting July 1st, even more restrictive federal rules are going into place for drivers under the guise of 'safety,' forcing them to take a 30 minute break after only 8 hours of driving. [Or as FMCSA puts it, "After June 30, 2013, however, driving is permitted only if 8 hours or fewer have passed since the end of the driver's last off-duty break or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes."] Do you see how insane these cops are, always insisting that they can wake truckers up with impunity whenever they want, while the very agencies that govern sleep laws are putting more rules into place so that drivers arent tired.
The Florida Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Page has a link to this Trucking Manual which acknowledges on page 37 that commercial drivers must have "at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty before returning to duty." Another link on their site regarding hours of service is here.
Note that when I asked about their complaint process, Frost only gave a vague reference to a 'list of contact numbers." As I stated in my query, on their contact page there is a clearly marked Praise a DHSMV Employee section, very prominent on the page, but no where on the site is any mention of a complaint form, or even instructions on where one would begin if they wanted to file a complaint. Are these revenue agents there to 'receive praise,' or are they public servants?
Here is what Frost wrote:
Question re: Dept. Policy
Frost, Jeff (JeffFrost@flhsmv.gov)
Sent: Thu 6/06/13 12:17 PM
Cc: Rasmussen, Nancy (NancyRasmussen@flhsmv.gov)
As part of a commercial vehicle inspection when the drivers log book indicates a co-driver we do verify that there is a properly licensed co-driver whose logged driving times corresponds with the drivers log book. This brief interruption would not constitute an interruption of sleeper berth time to obtain required rest. If someone wishes to make a complaint a list of contact numbers is available at the FHP website. http://www.flhsmv.gov/fhp/
Lt. Jeff Frost
Florida Highway Patrol
Public Affairs Officer
Commercial Vehicle Enforcement
2900 Apalachee Parkway, MS 45
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is committed to Service, Integrity, Courtesy, Professionalism, Innovation and Excellence in all we do. Please let us know how we are doing via our online customer service survey at https://www.research.net/s/MLR9RGC.
There have been many high profile accidents in which people have been injured and killed by sleepy truck drivers. The National Sleep Foundation points out that "Commercial truck drivers are especially susceptible to drowsy driving. A congressionally mandated study of 80 long-haul truck drivers in the United States and Canada found that drivers averaged less than 5 hours of sleep per day. (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1996) It is no surprise then that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that drowsy driving was probably the cause of more than half of crashes leading to a truck driver's death. (NTSB, 1990a,b) For each truck driver fatality, another three to four people are killed. (NHTSA, 1994)."
Just last summer, the Florida Legislature designated the first week of September every year as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, proclaiming "DROWSY DRIVING IS DANGEROUS DRIVING!" This was enacted in memory of a little girl killed by a truck driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel and hit a schoolbus. Do you think that truck driver had been woken up by Jeff Frost and his henchmen? The dramatic Florida legislature press release stated, in part,
"A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found 37 percent of Americans admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel. Sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment and increases the risk of crashing. "Being alert behind the wheel is critical to highway safety," said DHSMV Executive Director Julie L. Jones. "Studies show the fatality rate is higher for crashes where a driver falls asleep." "It is important for everyone behind the wheel to understand the dangers of drowsy driving," said FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad. "Making the decision to pull into a rest area when fatigued can save lives." The sponsor of the bill designating the week, Rep. Alan Williams, District 8, said, "Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. We must do all we can to raise awareness of the dangers of driving drowsy to help save lives." Williams sponsored the bill in memory of 8-year-old Ronshay Dugans, who was killed in 2008 when her bus was hit by a driver of a cement truck who fell asleep at the wheel. Ronshay Dugan's aunt, Josie West, said she thinks of Ronshay every day and hopes the week prompts people to think about their level of alertness before getting behind the wheel. "Ronshay was gone in an instant when the drowsy truck driver nodded off. His decision to drive while extremely tired tragically took her life."
Jupiter Florida Police officer Jason Starks was just
released from the hospital last week after a driver fell asleep and crashed into him, sending his car flipping upside down and into a tree. It was caught on his dashcam, here is the video:
Shocking Dashcam Video Shows Cop Car Taken Out By Sleepy Driver
A sleepy 83-year old Florida tour bus driver who had been on duty 21 hours killed 21-year-old
bicyclist Nicholas Rybka of Vero Beach in 2011. In 2003 New Jersey passed Maggie's Law in response to the problem of drowsey driving. The law "Establishes driving while fatigued as recklessness under vehicular homicide statute."
Drivers.com points out that the law "originated in 1997, from a traffic crash in which 20-year-old Maggie McDonald was killed," adding "The US Department of Transportation identifies fatigue as the number one safety problem in transportation operations, costing over $12 billion a year. Sleepy drivers are as much a danger as alcohol impaired drivers, says the U.S. National Highway traffic Safety Administration." [See also Maggie's Law Underscoring Importance of Corporate Fatigue Management.] Kersten Hirsch's son, Jordan, died in May, 2010 as a result of drowsey driving and the grieving father now
speaks out against it, hoping to prevent similar tragedies. There are a lot more videos on drowsey driving here.
And EVEN AFTER ALL THIS, the lunatics at the Florida Highway Patrol are stating that they will wake up truckers every day and that it's insignificant?
FACTS AND STATS page at drowsydriving.org, the National Sleep Foundation states "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. These figures may be the tip of the iceberg, since currently it is difficult to attribute crashes to sleepiness...A study by researchers in Australia showed that being awake for 18 hours produced an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05, and .10 after 24 hours; .08 is considered legally drunk.
Other research indicates commercial drivers and people with undiagnosed sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and acute insomnia are also at greater risk for fall asleep crashes. ... Sleep deprivation and fatigue make lapses of attention more likely to occur, and may play a role in behavior that can lead to crashes attributed to other causes."
The National Sleep Foundation has also established a Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, noting "The AAA Foundation estimates that about one in six deadly crashes involves a drowsy driver." They also offer a White Paper on the matter.
On their HOW MUCH SLEEP DO ADULTS NEED? page, the Sleep Foundation points out "There are significant mood, performance, health, and mortality consequences associated with sleep restriction, and these consequences increase as sleep restriction becomes chronic....Additionally, sleep that is frequently disturbed and therefore of poor quality cannot be evaluated by a simple duration number."
The U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH points out in their
GUIDE TO A HEALTHY SLEEP that "even slightly less sleep can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly, and it can impair your cardiovascular health and energy balance as well as your body's ability to fight infections, particularly if lack of sleep continues. If you consistently do not get enough sleep, a sleep debt builds up that you can never repay. This sleep debt affects your health and quality of life and makes you feel tired during the day."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has conducted extensive research on drowsey driving.
Have you had enough of this yet? I have. As a commercial driver and business owner I have been woken up illegally in California, New Mexico, and twice in Texas. I know what the law is. The problem is that these rogue officers and the agencies which employ them have enacted illegal policies and practices and they are not called on it. These infringements may not be of the sensational sort where someone is beat half to death or sexually groped on the roadside by insane degenerate traffic cops, but they are infringements nonetheless. The problem as so aptly pointed out in this excellent essay is that since they aren't eggregious, the cops come to understand that they can get away with it:
Attorney Fees - Nominal Damages - Section 1983
"The public interest mandates that fundamental constitutional rights be aggressively enforced regardless of the size of anticipated damages. Without enforcement in cases where damages are insubstantial, public officials will come to correctly understand that they may violate fundamental constitutional rights with impunity so long as no one is seriously injured. Although the monetary amounts at issue in this case are very low, the stakes for the vindication of constitutional rights are very high."
I sued the Texas Troopers for this very thing and launched DontWakeMeUp.org to call attention to this issue. In my case the Texas Department of Public Safety admitted wrongdoing in 2010, and one of the documents released in initial disclosures last week revealed that the TX DPS admitted in an internal police memo that "The passenger is under no obligation to comply with request" for ID. Of course I already knew that, which is precisely why I sued the degenerates in the first place.
The more I look at it, the more cases I find and I realize how shockingly prevalent it is. Jeff Frost of the FHP recently admitted that "We have a difficulty finding qualified applicants that can pass a rigorous background investigation, a credit check and polygraph exam." Sounds like he himself is grossly unqualified. People should not stand for this arrogant blatant illegal activity by the Florida Highway Patrol.
See also: Distracted Driving Information & Guidance.