With New Federal 'Rest Rules' Taking Effect July 1st, Feds questioned on why they already violate existing rules
Letter to Feds on Driver Fatigue and following their own rules
By Martin Hill
June 18, 2013

The Federal Government is enacting yet more rules that commercial truck drivers must comply with beginning on July 1st, 2013. The first new rule states that a driver must take a mandatory half hour break after a maximum of eight hours of driving. As noted on their website, the feds had no prior "rest break" rules other than existing sleeper berth provisions. As it stands today, property carrying commercial drivers are allowed to drive 11 hours at a time (14 hour shift maximum) with a mandatory 10 hour break afterwards, eight of it in the sleeper berth. If the eight hours is interrupted for any reason, FMCSA rules mandate that the driver begins the ten hours all over again. For a list of the rules, see the FMCSA website here. [http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/topics/hos/index.htm.] [PDF here.] The rules were entered into the Federal Register in December 2011, but take effect next month, on July 1, 2013. This means that the laws will have 'teeth'; drivers and companies must comply with the new rest rules.

This is done so that drivers will get the rest they need.

As the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration has documented in their meticulous report Fighting Fatigue,

"One person's lack of sleep can contribute to another's lack of safety on the Nation's roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Senior Research Psychologist Jesse Blatt, fatigue and sleep deprivation contribute to about 100,000 police-reported highway crashes, causing more than 1,500 deaths annually in the United States. And the National Transportation Safety Board also has linked operator fatigue with a number of costly public incidents, including the Exxon Valdez grounding and the collision of subway trains on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City."

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's extensive in-depth Commercial Motor Vehicle/Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study notes

"The Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study (DFAS) was the largest and most comprehensive over-the-road study ever conducted on driver fatigue and alertness in North America. It provides extensive information on the alertness, driving performance, and physiological and subjective states of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers as they perform real-life, revenue-generating trips. This Executive Summary overviews the objectives, methods, principal findings, and safety implications of this landmark 7-year study.

The DFAS was initiated in 1989 by the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Motor Carriers (OMC) in response to a Congressional directive contained in the Truck and Bus Safety and Regulatory Reform Act of 1988. Field data collection was conducted in 1993 and the project was completed in 1996. The overall cost of the study was US$4.45 million."

As you can see, the government take this stuff very seriously. Or at least that's what it appears on the surface. But after spending untold millions of dollars ($45 miillion on one study alone), how well are all the sleep rules being complied with? The truth of the matter is that law enforcement officers throughout the nation are violating these rules purposely, flagrantly, with impunity. They are waking up sleeping truck drivers every day in every state, in complete violation of state and federal laws. They have no legal justification or probable cause to wake up the sleeping co-driver who is in his 'OH-SO-IMPORTANT!!' 10 hour sleeper berth time.

Truck drivers are hard working regaulr folks who really don't want any hassles. They don't appreciate being woken up anymore than you would if some insane jackboot with a gun pounded on your bedroom window every night at 3am and demand you wake up and show him your ID under threat of arrest. But this is literally exactly what happens every day. The offenders are law enforcement officers working at weigh stations, checkpoints, port of entries, as well as U.S. Department of Homeland Security officers at warrantless internal checkpoints.

This happened to me in 2010 while I was sleeping when my partner was ticketed at a weigh station in Devine TX. The police forced me to wake up, get out of the sleeper, and show them ID under threat of arrest. I filed a state and federal civil rights complaints within a week. In this case, both officers were recorded and the Texas Department of Public Safety admitted wrongdoing in writing on behalf of the two officers only one month after an internal affairs complaint was filed against the officers in November 2010. The admission letter, dated December 20, 2010 and signed by Captain Kenneth Plunk of the Waco Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, stated that "corrective action was needed" against both officers and that "additional training has been taken." [Here is the postmarked envelope the letter came in.] I then filed a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit against the troopers for damages, permanent injunction, and to dissuade them from continuing this blatantly illegal practice. One of the documents released in initial disclosures was an internal POLICE MEMO in which the Texas Troopers officially admitted that "The passenger is under no obligation to comply with request" for ID. As I stated, this is not complicated.

Truck drivers need to get the load to its destination. If they don't do the job they're hired to do, they can be fired. Truckers also aren't likely to resist demands because of their fear of being arrested or detained and held up for hours at a time. Truck scheduling is generally pretty tight and we don't have a lot of time to spare. Many truckers, according to the feds themselves, also feel pressured to drive when they're tired because of company deadlines, family obligations to earn more money, etc. That is precisely why the feds enacted all these rules about getting rest.

Personally, I think it's an outrage and disgrace that these petty, vile, amoral power-abusing officers wake up decent people "because they have the badge and the gun." And that's the NICEST way I can put it. (Trust me, it's not always easy to be polite.) Personally, for me this is not only a safety issue, a health concern and a legal issue, it is also, first and foremost, a distinctively moral issue.

As the Catholic Church explains,

"The Church's obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society is a requirement of our faith. It is a basic part of the mission we have received from Jesus Christ, who offers a vision of life revealed to us in Sacred Scripture and Tradition... By our baptism, Catholics are committed to following Jesus Christ and to be "salt for the earth, light for the nations."

The Cathechism of the Catholic Church states

"Fraud and other subterfuges, by which some people evade the constraints of the law and the prescriptions of societal obligation, must be firmly condemned because they are incompatible with the requirements of justice... It is incumbent on those who exercise authority to strengthen the values that inspire the confidence of the members of the group and encourage them to put themselves at the service of others. Participation begins with education and culture. One is entitled to think that the future of humanity is in the hands of those who are capable of providing the generations to come with reasons for life and optimism." [CCC 1916-1917.]

So it's time for the U.S. government and the various police departments to stop violating their own rules. Below is a copy of the letter I recently sent to the Dept. Of Transportation's FMCSA and Federal Highway Adnministration regarding this matter:

Hello. My name is Martin Hill and I recently came across your contact information at the Federal Highway Administration's website article on the importance of sleep for commercial drivers. [http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/03sep/04.cfm.]

It stated "For more information about USDOT initiatives on fatigue management, contact K. Thirumalai at 202-366-0375 or e-mail k.thirumalai@rspa.dot.gov. "

I am also sending a copy of this message to a number of other people in positions of authority in the hopes of receiving an adequate response in order to address this issue.

I would also appreciate it if you could forward a copy of this message to FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro, FMCSA Deputy Administrator Bill Bronrott, and Chief Safety Officer & Assistant Administrator Jack Van Steenburg, as their e-mail addresses don't seem to be listed. This message will also be published for wide dissemination on the internet on a number of popular websites.

As you are certainly aware, millions of dollars have been spent in the quest to ensure safe driving and road conditions for commercial drivers. Many in-depth studies have been done on this vital matter such as this one http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/facts-research/research-technology/publications/cmvfatiguestudy.htm

As a commercial driver I am writing to bring something to your atention which is an extremely grave matter.

Under the false pretext of law enforcement, police officers and DOT inspectors, as well as immigration checkpoint officers are blatantly violating not only state and federal law, but violating DOT/FMCSA sleep rules. They are doing this under color of law in violation of title 42 sec. 1983. They are waking up off duty sleeping truck drvers across the country with regularity.

The drivers are in the sleeper berth when their partner is driving. The sleeper has no obligation to disrupt his /her sleep. As your own studies affirm, it is imperative that the sleep pattern not be disturbed. Unless the officer had a dire safety concern such as a fire or unless they have probable cause or a warrant, they can not legally wake up the sleeper. Yet they do this daily across the united states. This is a clear and eggregious violation of the 4th Amendment as well as state and federal laws.

I am the plaintiff in a federal civil rights lawsuit against two officers who did this to me. Their department officially admitted wrongdoing in writing as soon as the complaint was filed, and the officers had "corrective action" taken against them, as well as "retraining provided". Also, in initial disclosures filed in the federal lawsuit of which I am the Plaintiff, the police admitted in their own internal memos that sleeping drivers are under no obligation whatsoever to comply with requests for ID or to wak up and interrupt their sleeper berth time.

However, a slap on the wrist for the offending officers is not enough. That is why Title 42 S. 1983 was established, to punish wrongdoers as well as offer a disincentive for police to continue violating peoples civil rights. The officers are now DEFENDANTS.

I have established a website on this matter at DontWakeMeUp.org and have put a great deal of time and effort into resolving this problem. The site has gotten an inordinate amount of attention and i am constantly being contacted by other drivers who need help with this very same issue. YOU MUST DO SOMETHING TO STOP THE CARNAGE AND STOP THE DEATHS CAUSED BY THESE POLICE WHO CONTINUE TO VIOLATE TRUCKERS SLEEP PATTERNS, thus causing fatal commercial truck crashes. More than 4 people a day, according to your own numbers.

You certainly understand that most truckers are ALREADY TIRED, and most of them don't have the knowledge, wherewithal, time, energy or resources to fight this sort of battle. They are intimidated by police and although they don't like it, they just do what they're told . No one wants to be arrested jailed, or have their truck impounded, or get fired from their job because they failed to wake up for a police officer's illegal order. So the problem escalates.

I however view this as not only a legal, but a moral issue. It is beyond despicable, deranged, and evil what these police do. It is a national disgrace and it will not be tolerated.

I would like you or your department to contact me regarding this matter. I will be happy to testify to any government agency on this matter as I have a lot of personal experience and knowledge on this subject.

We must work togeher for a change. As you know, new rules for breaks go into effect July 1st. This is because drivers need more rest. The problem of police and government agents illegally waking up commercial drivers must be stopped, now.

Thanks, and I will await your response.

Martin Hill

Martin Hill is a Catholic paleoconservative and civil rights advocate. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Daily News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, The Orange County Register, KNBC4 TV Los Angeles, The Press Enterprise, LewRockwell.com, WhatReallyHappened.com, Infowars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, Economic Policy Journal, FreedomsPhoenix, Haaretz, TMZ, Veterans Today, Jonathan Turley blog, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, National Motorists Association, RomanCatholicReport.com, Republic Broadcasting Network, WorldNetDaily, OverdriveOnline.com, Educate-Yourself.org, Dr. Kevin Barrett's Truth Jihad radio show, Strike-The-Root.com, ActivistPost.com, Los Angeles Catholic Lay Mission Newspaper, KFI AM 640, IamtheWitness.com, Redlands Daily Facts, BlackBoxVoting, The Michael Badnarik Show, The Wayne Madsen Report, Devvy.com, Rense.com, The Contra Costa Times, Pasadena Star News, Silicon Valley Mercury News, Long Beach Press Telegram, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, L.A. Harbor Daily Breeze, CopBlock.org, DavidIcke.com, Whittier Daily News, KCLA FM Hollywood, The Fullerton Observer, Antiwar.com, From The Trenches World Report, and many others. Archives can be found at LibertyFight.com and DontWakeMeUp.Org.