HOS restart amendments are front and center in a never-ending debate
June 19, 2014
Since the new motor carrier driver Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations took effect in July 2013, there has been more than a little bit of subsequent criticism aimed at these revised regulations, specifically its restart provision.
The restart rules require truckers who maximize their weekly work hours must 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 allows drivers to restart the clock on their workweek 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 in the nearly one year since the new HOS rules have been “live,” especially the aforementioned restart rule, trucking stakeholders have cited lost productivity due to the restart that has crimped capacity, which was already tight during the first quarter and into the second quarter of this year.
The new rules, it is fair to say, were unwelcome by the trucking industry and in all likelihood are even less popular now.
That said, it was hardly surprising that an amendment from Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) was recently approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee by a 21-9 vote ahead of signing off on a $54.4 billion Fiscal Year 2015 federal transportation bill.
The goal of the mandate is to suspend the new HOS restart rules for one year and during that time have the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study the rule during that time to analyze its safety benefits and provide an understanding if how the restart changes impact drivers, as well as safety and productivity issues in trucking.
The amendment was soundly endorsed by the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
“Since these rules were proposed in 2010, ATA has maintained that they were unsupported by science and since they were implemented in 2013 the industry and economy have experienced substantial negative effects as a result,” said ATA president and CEO Bill Graves.
ATA said the primary issue with the restart rules is that they push more trucks onto the road during daytime hours, which they said is a consequence the FMCSA failed to fully analyze from a safety standpoint.
While the Senate committee did sign off on the amendment, it now is under considerable duress in the aftermath of a recent accident in New Jersey on June 7 in which a Wal-mart truck hit a luxury limousine from behind, killing one passenger and injuring several others, one of which was comedian Tracy Morgan.
Even though accidents are ostensibly inevitable, this one involved a high-profile person and has since subsequently raised the call for the Senate HOS amendment to be stricken.
And that is what exactly has happened in the form of an amendment proposed as part of the Senate Appropriations bill this week by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), which aims to uphold the current HOS regulations so that drivers are not forced to work more than 80 hours per week and also get the opportunity to get two nights’ sleep during their time not spent behind the wheel.
Will that amendment get the needed votes and overturn the one from Senator Collins? It is too soon to tell, but it is clear that HOS and motor vehicle safety are getting national attention and not for the right reasons.
Any trucking industry stakeholder will tell you that one death on the road in which a truck is involved is too many and they are right, of course. But following the tragic New Jersey accident, reports indicated that the Wal-mart driver had not slept for 24 hours although Wal-mart officials said that was not the case and was in compliant with HOS guidelines,
So, where are things now? When it comes to HOS, it stands to reason they are in a state of flux, with things fixing to become more muddled and cantankerous in the meantime.
These rules will never appease everyone, but there needs to be a match in the middle somewhere. Here is to hoping it gets reached sooner than later.
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