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Trucking sector remains wary of pending HOS changes

By John D. Schulz, Contributing Editor and Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
June 21, 2013

With the new motor carrier Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations set to take hold in just a matter of days, the trucking industry is continuing what is essentially a last-ditch effort to keep things in their present state.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) yesterday cited testimony from Steve Williams, CEO of Maverick USA, before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s panel on highways and transit, in which Williams explained that the pending HOS changes are costly and unsupported by data or research.

“FMCSA’s motivation to change these rules was not based on evidence demonstrating a problem,” said Williams in his testimony. “FMCSA’s three paragraph statement in the rulemaking called ‘The Purpose and Need for Regulatory Action’ did not cite any research or data analysis showing a problem. That speaks volumes.”

As previously reported by LM, the new HOS changes set to take effect on July 1. And the biggest facets of the changes include requiring drivers to take at least a 30-minute break within eight hours of coming on duty. It also limits the “34-hour restart” provision, unless that time off includes two such breaks between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

These changes have repeatedly raised the ire of the trucking sector, with many industry stakeholders stating it will create a capacity shortage and potentially raise rates anywhere between four-to-ten percent.

Williams, whom also serves as the chairman of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), said in his testimony that an ATRI report found “statistically significant” declines in the number of crashes under the basic framework of the current rules, citing a 31 percent drop in preventable collisions between 2004-2009.

“The industry will lose operating flexibility and productivity, and the rules will increase driver stress and frustration,” he said, adding an estimated 1.5 percent to 4 percent reduction in productivity will translate to “between $500 million and $1.4 billion in lost productivity.”

And in citing an ATRI study released earlier this week Williams noted that the FMCSA’s claim that 15 percent of drivers work more than 70 hours per week is “grossly overstated” and that upon remedying what he described as a false characterization, he said that the pending restart changes would have a net annual cost—rather than a benefit—to industry and society.

While chances of it coming to fruition would appear to be slim, Williams said Congress should postpone the July 1 effective date of the HOS rules until the FMCSA completes mandated research on the rule, along with asking Congress to request an independent analysis of the regulation and require FMCSA to report to Congress on any future HOS rules.

Long-haul carriers with lengths of haul in excess of 1,000 miles will see more impact from the HOS changes than carriers with more regional freight in their accounts.

Dedicated freight operations might suffer slightly more because they were designed with the idea of maximizing the drivers’ 11 hours of driving within a 15-hour work day.

Effective July 1, that work day becomes effectively 14 and a-half hours—or less.
Some truckload executives say privately the loss of productivity will mean more than simply a half-hour lost in on duty time. The 30-minute breaks are a mandated minimum; it’s entirely possible some drivers may take longer breaks—costing carriers and shippers even more lost productivity.

Just how much of an impact the HOS rules will have on carrier operations will depend on network specifics, including where terminals are located and fleet-specific circumstances, according to Derek Leathers, president and COO of Werner Enterprises.

“If available capacity is reduced by even 2 percent, it is a very big deal,” Leathers said at this week’s eyefortransport 3PL Summit in Chicago. “That equates to roughly 25,000-to-35,000 trucks disappearing off the road starting July 1. And 2 percent is roughly 500,000-plus annualized loads that don’t get picked up, effective July 1. That 2 percent is the same size as the pull-forward that happened in March 2010 to avoid what many thought was going to be a Peak Season crunch out of Asia and the U.S. network locked up. It is the same amount that was pent up after storms in February which saw the network lock up, too.”

About the Author

John D. Schulz, Contributing Editor and Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

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