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Trucking news: NITL, ATA speak out against proposed HOS rules

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
June 10, 2011

Weeks after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said it would not meet its initial goal of publishing a new hours-of-service (HOS) rule—based on changes to the rule it proposed late last year—by its initial deadline of July 26, pushing the deadline back to October 28, two prominent industry organizations—the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) — are again voicing their displeasure with the proposed rules.

Among the proposed HOS changes introduced by 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.

The ATA maintains that the current HOS rules are working well, explaining that since FMCSA first changed the HOS rules in 2004, and the truck-involved fatality rate has dropped by 36 percent, which is nearly double the overall fatality rate U.S. highways. And they cited United States Department of Transportation (DOT) data.

“Trucking’s critics point to the slumping economy as the main reason for the industry’s safety gains, but DOT’s own figures showed that trucks are driving more miles than when these rules were established, and trucking is involved in far fewer crashes,” said Dave Osiecki, senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs, in a statement. “Advocates for change noisily asserted these rules would lead to increases in crashes and fatalities, but those dire, baseless predictions have not come true.”

The primary reason for the delay of the final HOS rule, which has now been pushed back to October 28, is because of four studies issued by FMCSA introduced during the HOS rule comment period that focus on the relationship between fatigue and driver safety:
-The Impact of Driving, Non-Driving Work, and Rest Breaks on Driving Performance in Commercial Motor Vehicle Operations;
-Hours of Service and Driver Fatigue-Driver Characteristics Research;
-Analysis of the Relationship Between Operator Cumulative Driving Hours and Involvement in Preventable Collisions; and
-Potential Causes of Driver Fatigue: A Study On Transit Bus Operators In Florida.

The comment period expired on June 8.

The NITL said that these studies fail to effectively tie operating hours to driver fatigue that then led to driver-caused accidents.

“Upon examining each of the studies the League said that two of the four studies involving bus transportation were simply not relevant,” the NITL said in comments filed with the FMCSA. “In its explanation, the League said the first study examined bus drivers who operate under rules that provide for more work and less rest than the current HOS rules for truck drivers.  The League also noted that even the authors of the bus studies point out that the operation of (city) buses, differs from those other modes of mass transportation and trucking industry. Unlike trucks for example, routes are scheduled during peak hours because that is the time when buses get more riders.”

The NITL also explained that the third is flawed in that its results imply that fatigue causes the crash risk and that risk increases with each driving hour, adding that the study makes no attempt to verify that the underlying crashes were caused by fatigue.

“With the current rules accident rates per million miles are down, fatalities are down,” said Tom Sanderson, president and CEO of Transplace. “Arbitrarily choosing to take an hour out of available driving time makes no sense, and the 34-hour restart provision causes these anomalies of incremental lost productivity depending on when you deliver.”

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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