Letter to President Obama highlights flaws of proposed hours-of-service changes
September 28, 2011
In a letter to President Barack Obama, Representative John Mica (R-FL) and three other members of Congress, John J. Duncan (R-TN), Bill Shuster (R-PA), and Sam Graves (R-MO), outlined their many concerns over the Department of Transportation’s proposed changes to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules for truck drivers.
Among the proposed HOS changes introduced by the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) last December 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.
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. A final is expected by the end of October.
Mica and his colleagues said that, if finalized, these changes would have a significant negative impact on the productivity of the $600 billion trucking industry and subsequently drag down the already staggering U.S. economy.
“We have not seen any evidence that the current hours of service rules, in place now for more than seven years are unsafe and need revision,” stated the letter. “In fact, quite the opposite is true. Since implementation of the current rules, there has been a reduction in severe and fatal crashes involving large trucks, even as truck mileage has increased by almost ten billion miles. Most recently, there has been a dramatic reduction in severe and fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses, with a combined 1,497 fewer lives lost between 2007 and 2009. The current rules are clearly having a positive impact on highway safety.”
The letter to Obama went on to note that there are myriad concerns about how these proposed changes will result in additional trucks and drivers on the road to deliver the same amount of freight, which will add to final product costs and more congestion on already overburdened highways. And it also said that in our consumer-driven economy, the last thing the government should be doing is artificially increasing the costs of almost every consumer good with unneeded regulation.
Pushback to these proposed HOS changes has been strong. Early last month, the American Trucking Associations penned a letter to Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, asking that the White House consider not signing these proposed changes into law.
ATA Senior Vice President of Policy and Regulatory Affairs Dave Osiecki said in the letter to Sunstein that these changes would result in reduced wages for hundreds of thousands of drivers, significant administrative and efficiency costs for trucking companies, and most importantly, billions of dollars in lost productivity.
And shippers are also questioning whether or not these proposed changes will make any type of meaningful improvement.
“The question is [with these proposed changes] will it have a substantial impact in our supply chain and ability to serve customers, given what the loss in hours could do,” said Craig Boroughf, director of indirect sourcing and transportation at USG. “We think that it will decrease overall capacity and result in tighter market conditions. Based on our length of haul of less than 300 miles, we think the service implications will be minimal although we will feel the capacity impact and a tighter regulatory environment, too. We are looking at the impacts of these changes on our business model more than whether we agree or disagree with whether they are required.”
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