Final HOS rule is not gaining traction with retailers

Even a casual observer of freight transportation and logistics knows that December’s final rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding the truck drivers’ Hours-of-Service (HOS) rule was a big deal.

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Even a casual observer of freight transportation and logistics knows that December’s final rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regarding the truck drivers’ Hours-of-Service (HOS) rule was a big deal.

It had been discussed at trade shows and conferences, at the water cooler, and many other places to be certain. And when the rule was released, there were definitely changes, too. Here is a quick recap of the new rule, which is set to take effect in mid-2013, pending the surely inevitable legal action which is sure to come:
-the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week has been reduced by 12 hours from 82 to 70;
-truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes, and drivers can take the 30-minute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window;
-the final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit (the FMCSA was considering lowering it to 10 hours) and will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time;
-truckers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights’ rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most—from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. This rest requirement is part of the rule’s “34-hour restart” provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period; and
- carriers that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by 3 or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and drivers could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Now, to be sure, this final rule could have been more onerous and had even more potential to impact capacity and overall truck productivity. Some truckers have admitted that the rules are not as bad as they could have been.

But make no mistake that there are those that are against it, too.  Case in point is a blog posting by Jonathan Gold, VP, Supply Chain, at the National Retail Federation. In his blog, entitled, “New trucking rule to increase costs and congestion, reduce productivity and safety,” Gold notes early on that “the new rule is a bit complicated but the ramifications are severe and will surely be felt on America’s roadways and throughout the retail industry supply chain.”

One of the main reasons for this, he observes, has to do with the new restart rule outlined above. And the main reasons Gold cites for this are that these changes will drive up retailer transportation costs and make trucking less safe due to the fact that more trucks will have to be added onto already congested roadways to make up for those drivers on mandatory breaks. He also said that NRF also contends that the FMCSA failed to truly recognize the importance of nighttime driving and early morning deliveries.

“As we all know, many retailers rely upon nighttime driving and early morning deliveries as a way to keep costs down and trucks off the road during peak driving times to reduce congestion with passenger vehicles,” wrote Gold.

Of course, the NRF is not the only one to speak out against the new incarnation of HOS. Many other concerns, including the American Trucking Associations to name one, also have been very vocal in their opposition to the final HOS rule.

But it is very clear that the retail supply chain, which is as heavily focused on supply chain speed and trucking efficiency, as any other part of the logistics sector.

Gold’s counterpart at the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) Casey Chroust, RILA’s EVP of retail operations, drove this point home in a December interview with LM, when the rule was first rolled out.

“Retailers are firmly aligned with carriers against these final HOS rules,” he said. “In today’s retail supply chain, just-in-time inventory rules the day. Retailers’ distribution networks are fine-tuned machines that are optimized down to the mile. HOS times greatly impact the ability for retailers to fulfill and ship their goods. We built distribution networks around the existing rules and done studies to determine optimal placement of distribution centers with the current HOS rules in place and the reach that it gets them. Now, the range of how far carriers can take retailers’ products will be reduced, coupled with a reduction in the ability of retailers to deliver goods in off-peak hours. These rules will increase congestion, costs, and emissions as a result.” 

Between NRF and RILA, their membership represents pretty much every big name (and box) retailer you can think of. That is pretty significant when looking at their respective comments on this new HOS rule.

And depending on what does—or does not—happen in the courtroom in the coming months, tracking these HOS-related developments figures to be an interesting ride.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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