UPS, FedEx pilot union groups oppose FAA pilot fatigue ruling

Following a December ruling by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) focused commercial airline pilot scheduling, which provides pilots with a longer opportunity for rest before entering the cockpit, union groups representing pilots at FedEx and UPS have spoken out about how the rule does not apply to air cargo operators.

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Following a December ruling by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) focused commercial airline pilot scheduling, which provides pilots with a longer opportunity for rest before entering the cockpit, union groups representing pilots at FedEx and UPS have spoken out about how the rule does not apply to air cargo operators.

As recently reported by LM, the primary components of this rules are:
-varying flight and duty requirements based on what time the pilot’s day begins;
-adjusting the allowable length of a duty period to be based on when the pilot’s day begins, and the number flight segments a pilot is expected to fly, which ranges from 9-14 hours for single crew operations;
-limiting flight time when the plane is moving under its own power before, during or after flight to eight or nine hours depending on the start time of the pilot’s entire flight duty rest period; and
-a 10-hour minimum rest period prior to the flight duty period, which is two hours more than the previous rule, and mandates that a pilot must have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep within the 10-hour rest period.

FAA officials said that the estimated cost of this rule to the aviation industry is $297 million, with the benefits estimated to be between $247 million to $470 million.

Air cargo operators, according to the FAA, are not required to comply within this rule, as it would be too costly compared to the benefits generated in this portion of the industry, according to the FAA and DOT. They added that some cargo airlines have improved rest facilities for pilots to use when cargo is loaded and unloaded at night.

But FAA officials said they are encouraging air cargo carriers to voluntarily comply with the new rule voluntarily.

The FedEx Master Executive Council, which is the FedEx branch of the Air Line Pilots Association blasted the decision to omit air cargo operators from operating under the rule, saying it “completely ignores the safety of cargo pilots and instead lets operators choose to ignore the safety improvements that will benefit pilots carrying passengers.”

And FedEx MEC Chairman Scott Stratton said in a statement that cargo aircraft operate into the same airspace, into the same crowded airports surrounded by millions of homes and face the same challenges every other professional aviator encounters on a 24-hour basis.

While the FedEx MEC did not formally take any legal action regarding this rule, the Independent Pilots Association (IPA), which represents UPS pilots, filed a Petition for Review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit to challenge air cargo carriers excluded from the FAA rule.

“The IPA seeks to have cargo operations included within the scope of the rule because of the safety benefits provided by the rule.  IPA does not seek to delay implementation of these important safety benefits to passenger operations,” said IPA General Counsel William Trent in the statement, which added that the IPA, which represents 2,700 UPS pilots, would challenge the rule on multiple substantive and procedural grounds.

Trent also noted that the FAA rule is devoid of facts regarding how the FAA arrived at either the projected costs or benefits of applying the final rule to cargo operators.

Meanwhile, UPS spokesman Norman Black told LM in December that from a UPS standpoint, the FAA appropriately recognized that cargo and passenger operations require different fatigue mitigation measures. 

“One size has never fit all when it comes to crew rest regulations,” said Black. “UPS believes the FAA has recognized this fact and made an appropriate decision in its new rule.”

And in the case of UPS, Black said that its current fatigue practices for pilots, such as flying many fewer hours per month and building special rest facilities meet a much higher standard and far exceed the current U.S rest regulations. What’s more, he added that UPS is committed to working with the FAA and its pilots to achieve best practices for fatigue mitigation, as long as they take into account the unique nature of cargo operations.

Washington, D.C.-based Airforwarders Association (AfA) Executive Director Brandon Fried said comparing cargo pilots to passenger pilots can almost be viewed as an apples-to-oranges comparison.

“One size does not fit all,” he said. “Cargo pilots for the most part fly about half of the amount of time as passenger pilots do. FedEx, UPS, or TNT might lift off at 11 p.m. and fly into a regional hub and get some break time and then return by 3 or 4 a.m., which is not the same as a passenger pilot flying across the country…and not being cognizant of what is going on due to a lack of sleep. I don’t see the comparison there.”


About the Author

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. Contact Jeff Berman

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Article Topics

Air Cargo · Air Freight · FedEx · UPS · All Topics
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