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Trucking news: Final HOS ruling expected by the end of 2011

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
November 30, 2011

In a filing with the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit yesterday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stated it will roll out its new proposed truck driver Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules within 30 days.

In December 2010, the FMCSA rolled out its proposed .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) rules changes, which have received decidedly mixed reviews in terms of their potential impact, in terms of its potential for an increase in the cost of doing business, as well as questions from trucking industry stakeholders as to whether or not these rules need to be changed from their current version, which have been in effect since 2004.

Among the proposed HOS rule changes introduced by FMCSA nearly a year ago are:
-lowering the maximum time on-duty within the driving window from 14 hours per day to 13 hours per day;
-for the driving window, the standard driving window would remain at 14 consecutive hours and 16 hours no more than twice per week, with release from duty required at the end of the driving window regardless of length;
-reducing the legal daily driving time from 11 hours to 10 hours although both 10 and 11 hours are both being considered;
-under the current rules there is no limit on consecutive hours of driving, but the new rules would require a minimum 30-minute break after a maximum of 7 hours driving or working in order for a driver to continue driving; and
-maintaining the 34-hour restart as part of the 60-to-70 hour weekly on-duty limit but the restart must include two periods between midnight and 6 a.m. and it may only be used once a week.

According to various reports, the final HOS regulation is now under review at the Office of Management and Budget.

The original deadline for the rule was July 26. In one of the final truck-related regulations issued by the Bush administration, FMCSA said it was adopting as final its interim final rule of Dec. 17, 2007. That allows drivers to drive 11 hours within a 15-hour work day with a 34-hour restart provision. Both provisions had been challenged in court by Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway Safety, unions and other groups on procedural grounds

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) stands firm against this proposed rule. ATA Vice President for Communications Sean McNally recently told LM that “the current rules are working,” and the FMCSA does not need to go out and fix something that is not broken.

“These rules by their own admission will have no net safety benefits and will come at a tremendous cost,” said McNally.
McNally also said that the ATA is skeptical of FMCSA’s motives, adding that the FMCSA will hopefully come around to the idea that the rules in place are doing what they are supposed to do.
What’s more, the ATA has repeatedly stated that the current HOS rules, which have been in place since 2004, have allowed the trucking industry to move more than 70 percent of U.S. goods while achieving record low levels of crashes and fatalities.

And the ATA has previously stated that the truck-involved fatality rate has dropped by 36 percent since 2004, which is nearly double the overall fatality rate U.S. highways. And they cited United States Department of Transportation (DOT) data.

But not everyone is against the proposed HOS changes.

In a letter to President Obama in October, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and Senators John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee wrote that they support the proposed HOS rules.

“The National Transportation Safety Board has found that fatigue is the primary factor in 30 to 40 percent of large truck crashes,” the Senators wrote.  “The DOT’s proposal would permit increased flexibility for CMV drivers to get the adequate rest when they need it and to adjust their schedules to account for unanticipated delays without sacrificing a full day’s work.  As you finalize the HOS rules, we urge you to make safety, scientific research, and the work that has already been completed by the DOT the primary factors in your decision.”

Industry experts have told LM that if there is a significant decline in truck productivity as a result of new HOS rules, it will be difficult for other modes to make up the difference in lost production, should trucking output decrease by ten percent or somewhere in that general range.

“If you run the numbers, there will very likely be a significant loss of productivity should the ruling go through,” said a trucking executive, whom declined to be identified.

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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Article Topics

News · Trucking · HOS · Regulations · All topics

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