Friday, January 25, 2013

Tholian Webs and Hamstrings

     In an early episode of Star Trek (the original) the United Star Ship Enterprise enters Tholian space much to the chagrin of the Tholians who begin spinning a complex energy web around the Enterprise effectively entrapping it. The appearance of the Tholian web is reminiscent of the pattern you see containing ham hocks at the local butcher shop or deli.

    This is the kind of entrapment the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has subjected commercial drivers to in their latest revision of the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. The FMCSA after thousands of hours of input from professional drivers about the HOS seemingly ignored that input and continued on their own course much to the detriment of driving safety and the well being of drivers.

    As a semi-retired semi driver, the HOS regulations rarely affected me since my driving has been mostly short, local trips completed well short of the time limitations prescribed by the regulations, the old ones or the new. Until this week when I accepted a dispatch to deliver in Kentucky and pick up in Ohio returning home on the third day.

    This was the first overnight trip I have done since being advised by my doctor 10 or so years ago to find a job other than Over-The-Road (OTR) driving because of the DVT (Deep Vein Clot) I suffered and my predisposition to suffer a repeat episode. The sitting a driver does in one position for extended periods allows bodily fluids to accumulate in the lower extremities which can be a precursor to a clot forming.

    David Bloom, a news reporter for NBC, died from just such a DVT after spending an excess amount of time cramped in an armored personnel carrier (APC) while he was covering the invasion of Iraq in April of 2003. Since his untimely death from this previously little known condition, his widow, Melanie, has made it a legacy for her late husband to increase people’s awareness of this condition which kills more people annually than AIDS and breast cancer combined. []

    For ten years I have been clot free because of a combination of blood thinners, weight loss and graduated compression support stockings to prevent excess accumulation of fluids. Prior to my clot I had experienced serious edema or swelling in my legs and feet. I had what was referred to as “pitting edema” and later “weeping edema” — there was so much fluid accumulated that it actually started oozing out through my pores.

    I took this recent trip because I have been free of any major medical problems for most of the last ten years. I took this trip knowing that I had more than enough time to get to the delivery at or well before the appointment time and the same flexibility on the return trip. I thought. Enter the Tholian web!

    Before the recent HOS changes, a driver could drive up to 10 hours before being required to take an 8 hour rest break. It could take 18 or 20 hours before a driver had to shut down for a break so long as he didn’t drive more than 10 or drive after accumulating combined driving and on duty not driving time of 15 hours. This allowed a driver to take a nap or a break and he’d still have time to complete his trip on time without violating any of the regulations.

    Now, a driver is allowed to drive 11 hours but he CANNOT drive after the 14th hour no matter what! That means if he takes a nap or an extended break, he must still shut down 14 hours after beginning his on duty time. Naps or breaks will not extend the mandatory shut down time previously allowed. That shut down must be for TEN hours not eight. That means the driver MUST complete his 14 hour duty period more than 10 hours ahead of his next appointment so he’s legal again to drive to his next appointment! It doesn’t get any more hamstringing or horse collar or Tholian than that!

    In my approximately one million crash-free, driving-violation-free miles, I have never met a driver who wished to kill himself or anyone else. I have never met a driver who needed to be told he’s too tired to drive. I have met a trooper or two who told me that “tired or not you can’t park here” and forced me back onto the highway in search of a place to nap. Yet the FMCSA tells me I cannot “legally” drive when I’m tired, that is, when they’ve determined I’m too tired to drive whether I’m tired or not.

    This creeping Big Brotherism is going to kill a lot of people if we don’t assert our rights to govern our own bodies. Take this log book and shove it. I KNOW when I’m tired! I KNOW when I’m fit to drive and your damned regulations be damned! The log book page I turn in will always be legal. It may not be factual but it will satisfy the requirements. I will nap if I feel the need. I am the driver! I will not be driven!

    [Quitclaim: The immediately foregoing is neither an admission of guilt nor an expression of intention to commit any violation of the FMCSA regs. It is an expression of opinion using full writer’s license to speak freely.]

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