Negative feedback over new HOS rules is likely here to stay
November 22, 2013
It is hard not to write about the new motor carrier Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations that took effect on July 1 when there are so many parties that, quite simply, loathe them.
In the dead-tree version of this magazine and on this shiny Web site, the changes have been discussed in detail. Here is a quick recap of the new rules:
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.
As you know, the 34-hour restart rule is the least popular of all of these aforementioned new rules.
At the end of October, bipartisan legislation was introduced by a trio of Congressmen—Reps. Richard Hanna (D-NY), Tom Rice (R-SC) and Michael Michaud (D-Maine) that aims to halt the 34-hour restart
The legislation—entitled H.R.3413, the TRUE Safety Act—calls for: truckers to abide by the 34-hour restart rules that were in place before July 1, 2013; the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an independent assessment of the methodology FMCSA used to come up with the new 34-hour restart rule; and the new 34-hour restart rule could not be re-implemented until six months after GAO submits its assessment to Congress.
This bill was soundly endorsed by various industry concerns, including the American Trucking Association (ATA). In fact, no other concern has arguably had a stronger opinion about the new rules than the ATA.
That said, the ATA this week is requesting that Congress and the FMCSA deal with the myriad issues these new rules are causing.
“From the outset, ATA was confident the hours-of-service rule changes were based on politics, not data,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves in a statement. “Well now we’re seeing mounting evidence that rather than solving anything, these rules are creating many problems for drivers and fleets alike.”
Not surprisingly, Graves and his ATA constituents are all in when it comes to supporting the TRUE Safety Act.
In a statement issued by the ATA today, Duane Long, chairman of Raleigh, N.C.-based Longistics, told members of the House Small Business Committee that unnecessary changes to federal hours-of-service rules for truck drivers were having serious negative impacts on the industry.
“Simply put, the July 1 hours-of-service rule changes were unnecessary; the regulations adopted in 2003 were working and the administration offered rhetoric but little data to explain why they needed to be changed,” said Long, first vice chairman of the ATA. “Unfortunately, the gap between the administration’s rhetoric and the trucking industry’s operating reality is very wide. These changes are having a very real, and very negative impact on hundreds of thousands of drivers and motor carriers.”
Various industry estimates peg the new HOS rules as impacting trucking industry productivity by anywhere from 2-to-ten percent.
Speaking of data, the American Transportation Research Institute has tons of it relating to the new HOS rules, which it released earlier this week.
In its findings, which are based on feedback from 2,300 commercial drivers and 400 motor carriers as well a detailed analysis of logbook data representing 40,000+ commercial drivers. , ATRI said that the operational and economic impacts due to the new HOS rules include:
-more than 80 percent of motor carriers surveyed have experienced a productivity loss since the new rules went into effect, with nearly half stating that they require more drivers to haul the same amount of freight;
-among commercial drivers surveyed by ATRI, 82.5 percent indicated that the new HOS rules have had a negative impact on their quality of life, with more than 66 percent indicating increased levels of fatigue;
-commercial drivers are forced to drive in more congested time periods, although the FMCSA Regulatory Impact Analysis did not address increased safety risks with truck traffic diversion to peak hour traffic;
-the majority of drivers (67 percent) report decreases in pay since the rules took effect; and
-the impacts on driver wages for all over-the-road drivers total $1.6 billion to $3.9 billion in annualized loss
It goes without saying, that this is a lot of data to chew on. But one thing for sure is that the lack of positive reception for the new HOS rules was something everyone saw from miles away and will continue to see going forward without any real end in sight, save for supply chain confusion and chaos, of course.
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