Letter to Senators from trucking stakeholders makes case for fresh approach to HOS 34-hour restart

Nearly a year after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) new motor carrier Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations took effect, one thing remains clear: the rules are not being embraced by the trucking industry, even just a little bit.

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Nearly a year after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) new motor carrier Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations took effect, one thing remains clear: the rules are not being embraced by the trucking industry, even just a little bit.

This was evident in the form of a letter sent this week from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and dozens of other industry stakeholders, including FedEx, UPS, carriers, and various shipper groups, to Senators Barbara Mikulski, Chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Richard Shelby, Ranking Member, Committee on Appropriations, and Susan Collins, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.

The ATA said that the purpose of the letter was to voice support for both the proposed Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Restart Study and a one-year suspension of what it called “unjustified restrictions” on the use of HOS restart provisions by drivers.

These provisions, which went live on July 1, 2013, 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.

The letter outlined the challenges the restart provision has placed on various supply chain stakeholder, including for-hire and private carriers, drivers, manufacturers, retailers, shippers, and consignees, and explained that the restart restrictions have placed economic hardships on thousands of employers and reduced driver wages on an industry-wide basis.

In making the case for the proposed Commercial Motor Vehicle study and one-year suspension of the HOS restart restrictions, the ATA explained to the Senators that FMCSA claimed a small percentage of drivers would be impacted by the rules, specifically drivers routinely working “excessive” hours. But it cited how motor carriers and a domestic automobile manufacturer met with the FMCSA and used data from electronic logging devices that showed the restart restrictions are “having unintended impacts on many drivers, including those working very reasonable hours,” adding that “these motor carriers have not experienced any corresponding safety or driver health benefits.” The letter explained that those issues were labeled as “unintended consequences” by the FMCSA.

What’s more, it said that the proposed CMV Driver Restart Study is a clear acknowledgement that the current restart restrictions lack the research basis, data and analysis necessary to justify them, noting that the real world impacts of the restart restrictions are far greater than anticipated than when the rules were written. The current restart rules, the letter noted, are causing harm to carriers and drivers, as well as other supply chain stakeholders, and it said that it is not reasonable to continue to have restart rules force more traffic onto roads during daytime hours that in turn increase congestion and the risk of a crash.

Despite the widespread opposition to the HOS restart rules, including legislation introduced by House members in October calling for truckers to abide by the 34-hour restart rules that were in place before July 1, 2013, as well as many carriers and shippers pointing to lost productivity, among other reasons, it stands to reason that there may not be any change coming.

James Burley, a partner at Washington, D.C.-based law firm Venable LLP and former Secretary of Transportation under the late President Ronald Reagan, said at last fall’s Council of Supply Chain Management’s Annual Conference that it was too soon in terms of its overall impact as to how the restart rules could exacerbate the driver shortage as well, while noting that despite its opposition of the rules from many industry groups, it is apparent the new regulations will stick.

And research issued in 2013 by the American Transportation Research Institute found that the 34-hour restart changes will ultimately have a net annual cost of up to $376 million as opposed to the $133 million net benefit cited by the FMCSA prior to the rules taking effect.

“The 34 hour restart [rule] is a drain on both the carrier community and the shipper one, ultimately, resulting in impacts to the end consumer,” said Jeff Brady, director of transportation for Harry & David, a multi-channel specialty retailer and producer of branded premium gift-quality fruit, gourmet food products and other gifts. “Trucking impacts the entire economy and with the last several decades of no cohesive highway infrastructure plans; the increases in congestion, at critical times of the day none the less, is impacting capacity. Capacity in trucking, or lack thereof, creates higher costs to get capacity commitments from an ever shrinking carrier base.”

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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