Concrete delivery truck companies are rejoicing, following a ruling passed this month by federal transportation authorities exempting their drivers from taking mandatory, unpaid 30-minute breaks during the day for the next two years.
The 30-minute break rule is part of federal hours-of-service trucking regulations, implemented nearly two years ago to cut out long, unbroken stints of driving on highways and Interstates.
The law says drivers are not allowed to drive unless eight hours have passed since their last 30-minute break.
And on-the-clock time outside the cab making a pour or sitting at a construction site does not qualify as a break under federal rules.
Concrete trucking firms have been arguing for years that driving concrete across town to a job site is much different than driving long-haul freight across the country.
"We're in the concrete business," said Phil Johnson, safety manager for Ready Mix USA's East Tennessee and Atlanta divisions. "We're not like an over-the-road driver who gets in his truck and drives for hours before he stops again."
Johnson said that at Ready Mix USA, drivers have been forced to stop toward the end of the day, clock out and ride out the 30-minute break, especially when the busy summer construction season comes.
Drivers say the hours-of-service break makes their day 30 minutes longer. And dispatchers say the rule causes scheduling headaches.
"You had to find sometime during the day when you could allow this guy to have a 30-minute break," said Johnson. "For the most part, they were just twiddling their thumbs waiting for their break to go by."
The nature of the job lends itself to brief periods of down time in the course of a normal workday anyway, he said.
"There's quite a bit of waiting they do anyhow," Johnson said.
Emily Chambers, EHS manager at Sequatchie Concrete Service Inc., said there's also the pressure of deadlines when dealing with ready-mix concrete.
"When you're driving a perishable product, having to take a 30-minute break can be annoying," she said.
Generally, there is a 90-minute window to deliver and pour concrete after it has been mixed with water.
Like Johnson, Chambers said many concrete drivers find themselves with several 15- to 20-minute breaks in action throughout the workday.
The new, two-year exemption will benefit dispatchers, drivers and the company, she said.
"We're excited," she said. "Most of the people are just really thankful that their days are a little bit easier."
Drivers must carry a copy of the new exemption in their trucks. The exemption also is only good for companies in good standing with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Contact staff writer Alex Green at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6480.