Truck drivers routinely break the law by driving their rigs longer than 10 hours at a stretch and then falsifying their logs to cover it up, said drivers interviewed yesterday at Trucker's Inn, the massive truck stop off Interstate 95 in Jessup.
Some drivers decide for themselves to exceed the 10-hour limit, truckers said, but others are pressured by their employers to drive longer than federal law allows.
"There are companies who will require their guys to deliver a load in less time than he can legally do it," said Michael Archibald, a 45-year-old trucker from New Mexico. "If the driver complains about it, which he has a right to do, he'll find himself not getting loads.
"What are you going to do -- run with the load or bitch?"
Mr. Archibald has driven six years for Werner Enterprises, a large trucking company based in Omaha, Neb. He said Werner operates "by the book," but every driver at some point exceeds the limits and falsifies the logs.
"We call that the 'funny book,' " he said of altered logs. "Every trucker out here at some point has done some of that creative bookkeeping."
The trucking industry has so many regulations that drivers often break rules they consider excessive, the drivers said. While idling their trucks in yesterday's scorching heat, they didn't hesitate to admit that, and in nearly every case allowed their names to be used.
However, one driver in the truck stop's huge blacktop parking lot declined to give his name. Asked whether he drove longer than federal law allows, he said: "Yeah, I do it every chance I get."
Has he driven when he knew he was too tired to control his large rig?
"I have driven to the point of total exhaustion," he said. "But when I reach that point, I stop. I've learned that I need a minimum of 2 1/2 hours of good, sound sleep to recharge. Then I can safely drive some more."
Federal law requires truckers to rest a full eight hours after every 10 hours on the road. It also limits them to 70 hours of driving and on-duty activities per week. On-duty activities include fuel stops and inspections.
"If you've got a load that has to be there at a certain time, it has to be there," said Mac Thompson, 30, a driver from Texas. "That's just the way it is out here."
Mr. Thompson drives exclusively for Poly American, a Texas company that makes and recycles plastic bags. He said his schedule is leisurely compared to a trucker who might be in Maryland, gets a load to Seattle, then one to Los Angeles, then one back to Maryland -- when all the while he really wants to go home to Florida.
"Now that guy might drive all night just to get home," Mr. Thompson said. "You take your chances and hope you don't get caught."
Gary Workman, 42, a driver from Delaware who owns his truck and trailer, said that once he drove four days without sleep -- when he was in 20s and just breaking into the business.
"I was driving coast to coast," he said. "I'd stop and eat and rest, but I never slept."
He hasn't driven such marathons in years, he said. But many drivers on the road do, he said, especially those hauling fresh produce.
"You might get a load out of south Florida," he said, "and the shippers and receivers get together and say it's got to be in New York within 24 hours. So you drive all night to get it there, or it'll be rejected."
The consumer should appreciate such efforts, he said.
"When you go to the grocery store you don't want to buy stale lettuce or wilted cucumbers," he said. "People neglect to understand that just about everything they have, everything they touch, everything they're associated with, was delivered in a truck."