Trucking industry slams new ‘final’ rule on US hours-of-service

by Canadian Shipper

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The much-anticipated revisions to US hours-of-service regulations were released this week.

While daily driving time was not changed from 11 hours, the maximum hours a driver can work per week was reduced by 12 to 70, by limiting drivers to one 34-hour restart per seven-day period. The new rules, laid out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also requires drivers who are maxing out their weekly work allowances to take at least two nights’ rest between 1 and 5 a.m. each week.

The revisions also require drivers to take a half-hour break after driving for eight consecutive hours.

“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives. Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely.”

FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro added “This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency’s history. With robust input from all areas of the trucking community, coupled with the latest scientific research, we carefully crafted a rule acknowledging that when truckers are rested, alert and focused on safety, it makes our roadways safer.”

However, the final rule may be anything but final. The American Trucking Associations and Truckload Carriers Association had lawyers at the ready to challenge any revisions to the rules that were not in the industry’s favour. And the safety organizations behind the revisions were also likely to challenge any ruling they felt didn’t go far enough. Stay tuned for reaction. Meanwhile, you can see the full rules here.

OOIDA blasts new rules

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) was the first to respond to the new rules, declaring them a “one-size-fits-all approach” that will do nothing to improve highway safety.

“Collectively, the changes in this rule will have a dramatic effect on the lives and livelihoods of small-business truckers. The changes are unnecessary and unwelcome and will result in no significant safety gains,” said executive OOIDA vice-president Todd Spencer.

OOIDA was hoping any changes would involve more flexibility for truckers.

“Compliance with any regulation is already a challenge because everyone else in the supply chain is free to waste the driver’s time loading or unloading with no accountability,” said Spencer. “The hours-of-service regulations should instead be more flexible to allow drivers to sleep when tired and to work when rested and not penalize them for doing so. It’s the only way to reach significant gains in highway safety and reduce non-compliance.”

OOIDA pointed out the new rules will have a negative impact on productivity and the earning potential of truck drivers and owner/operators. The FMCSA noted the cost to industry is estimated to be US$470 million with benefits totaling $630 million. 

“Despite the fact that trucking has never been safer, federal regulators and big businesses continue to push for mandates that hurt small-business truckers,” said Spencer. “According to the latest data, fatigue is a factor in only 1.4% of all fatal wrecks involving truckers.”

ATA unhappy

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) was also, in its words, frustrated and disappointed with the new rules. Like OOIDA, ATA said the new rules will do nothing to improve highway safety.

“Today’s announcement of a new rule on the hours-of-service is completely unsurprising. What is surprising and new to us is that for the first time in the agency’s history, FMCSA has chosen to eschew a stream of positive safety data and cave in to a vocal anti-truck minority and issue a rule that will have no positive impact on safety,” ATA president and CEO Bill Graves said. “From the beginning of this process in October 2009, the agency set itself on a course to fix a rule that’s not only not broken, but by all objective accounts is working to improve highway safety. Unfortunately, along the way, FMCSA twisted data and, as part of this final rule, is using unjustified causal estimates to justify unnecessary changes.”

The ATA pointed out truck-involved fatalities have declined 29.9% since the current rules went into effect in 2004, even while miles travelled by trucks has increased dramatically.

“By forcing through these changes FMCSA has created a situation that will ultimately please no one, with the likely exception of organized labour,” said Dan England, ATA chair and chair of C.R. England. “Both the trucking industry and consumers will suffer the impact of reduced productivity and higher costs. Also, groups that have historically been critical of the current hours of service rules won’t be happy since they will have once again failed to obtain an unjustified reduction in allowable daily driving time. Further, it is entirely possible that these changes may actually increase truck-involved crashes by forcing trucks to have more interaction with passenger vehicles and increasing the risk to all drivers.”

The ATA also pointed out the rules will put more trucks on the road in peak traffic times as it requires drivers to rest from 1 to 5 a.m. twice per week.

“By mandating drivers include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. as part of a ‘restart’ period, FMCSA is assuring that every day as America is commuting to work, thousands of truck drivers will be joining them, creating additional and unnecessary congestion and putting motorists and those professional drivers at greater risk,” Graves said. “The largest percentage of truck-involved crashes occur between 6 a.m. and noon, so this change not only effectively destroys the provision of the current rule most cited by professional drivers as beneficial, but it will put more trucks on the road during the statistically riskiest time of the day.”

Graves said the ATA will consider its legal options and noted it will be 18 months before the new rules take effect, giving it plenty of time to mount a challenge

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