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House T&I Committee leadership calls on GAO to review HOS rule studies

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
April 04, 2014

High-ranking leadership for the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee is calling on the U.S. Government Accountability Office to evaluate two studies that were used to justify changes for the motor carrier Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that went into effect last July.

The new HOS rules are comprised of the following:
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

“Millions of American truckers are critical to the flow of commerce in our country, and we have to be certain that any changes to regulations impacting their ability to properly do their jobs and earn a living are well founded,” said House T&I Chair Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) in a statement.  “Concerns have been raised that these regulatory changes may have been enacted without proper data or analysis, and if the Administration is going to change the rules on truck drivers, we need to know that the changes were thoroughly vetted and will improve safety.”

In a letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, Shuster and Tom Petri (R-WI), House T&I Highways Transit Subcommittee Chairman pleaded their case for the GAO to take a deep dive into the two studies that were used to help put the new HOS changes into law nearly nine months ago.

They explained that commercial vehicles must be operated by skilled individuals who are mentally and physically capable of performing their jobs safely, adding that because it is important that federal regulations be based on full and fair scientific research, proper data and analyses, and operational testing.

Regarding the study for the HOS restart rule, the Congressmen asked Dodaro to research if FMCSA collected proper safety and operational data, the number and type of drivers included was representative of the commercial driver population, additional daytime truck traffic was analyzed for safety outcomes, and the driver groupings were appropriate.

They also requested that GAO evaluate and report on the validity of key assumptions, data, and methodology used by the FMCSA in its Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) as part of its HOS rulemaking, asking if the assumptions and methodologies in the RIA are consistent with the FMCSA analyses offered in support of prior hos rulemakings, crash data used by the FMCSA was current and appropriate, violation data was based on a representative sample of the industry, and driver health assumptions were appropriate and is it reasonable to expect the health benefits will be realized through real-world analysis, and errors, inconsistencies, or assumptions in the RIA affected FMCSA’s conclusions regarding costs and benefits of the new regulations.

One main component of the new rules is the 34-hour restart, which has set the pace as least popular one in industry circles, because drivers are now able to reset their workweek only once every seven days—and the rest period includes two spans from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Since these rules took effect, trucking productivity, according to various industry estimates, has decreased by up to 2-10 percent.

Many shippers and carriers have deemed the new HOS rules as unnecessary and unwarranted, saying that the previous rules, which had been in effect since 2003 were working well and did not need to be changed. What’s more, many industry stakeholders additionally maintain that the new rules are having a very negative effect on carriers and shippers in that they are hindering overall efficiency and making supply chain operations less fluid and flexible at a time when they need to be as over the road capacity is as tight as it ever is, because of HOS and other regulations like CSA, as well as an ongoing driver shortage, and a slowly improving economy, which could lead to further difficulties for shippers looking to secure capacity. 

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
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. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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