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Trucking news: FMCSA delays proposed final rule for Hours-of-Service

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
October 31, 2011

Late last week, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said that its new Hours-of-Service (HOS) rule that was scheduled to be rolled out on Friday, October 28 has been pushed back.

“The petitioners have agreed to extend the October 28, 2011 deadline for publication of a final hours-of-service rule,” according to an FMCSA statement. “FMCSA will continue to work toward publishing a final rule as quickly as possible. The parties to the settlement agreement will file their next status update with the court on November 28, 2011.”

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.

In December 2010, FMCSA rolled out proposed HOS rule, which include:
-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.

If these proposals become law, many industry stakeholders contend that they collectively will reduce the amount of time carriers have to move freight and hinder available trucking capacity.

“We are not surprised that there has been this delay, as FMCSA has been telegraphing this for a little while now,” said Sean McNally, American Trucking Associations (ATA) Vice President for Communications and Press Secretary. “We hope they take this extra time to consider the overwhelming input they have received from professional drivers, safety [groups], and law enforcement that indicate the current rules are working so they don’t 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.”

McNally 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 American Trucking Associations (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.

The ATA is not alone in its opposition to the proposed HOS rules. Earlier this month, Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 Transportation Appropriations bill that her office said would block the White House and FMCSA from implementing new HOS rules.

Representatives from Senator Ayotte’s office were unavailable at press time, but she blasted the proposed HOS rules in a statement, saying it is “another heavy-handed federal regulation that would disrupt business operations and increase costs for the trucking industry and consumers, and New Hampshire’s truckers are rightfully concerned about the impact of these changes. My amendment would prevent the Administration from implementing these rules which, by DOT’s own admission, are cost-prohibitive and whose impact on safety is unclear.”

The impact of these rules was made clear at this month’s Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Annual Conference in Philadelphia earlier this month. Don Osterberg, senior vice president, safety and security at Schneider National, said that it will not be possible to maintain historical levels of service in the trucking sector should these rules come to fruition.

“My belief is that the FMCSA will not officially eliminate the 11th hour of driving, but it will be done in a de facto way by reducing maximum time on-duty within the driving window from 14 hours per day to 13 hours per day,” he said. “It is nearly impossible today drive 11 hours within a 14-hour window, and it will become virtually impossible if the workday is restricted to 13 hours.”

Bloomberg reported earlier this month that House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor penned a letter to President Obama, asking the White House to withdraw these proposed HOS regulations. In the letter, they said that withdrawing regulations that would shorten the amount of time truck drivers spend behind the wheel is the right thing to do, because their costs would hurt the U.S. economy.

Not all politicians are against the rules, though.

In a letter to President Obama last week, 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.”

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 · FMCSA · Trucking HOS · Hours of Service · All topics


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