House members call on DOT and FMCSA for clarity on HOS rules
September 04, 2013 - LM Editorial
In a letter addressed to Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last week, 51 Republican members of the House of Representatives expressed their concern regarding the motor carrier Hours of Service (HOS) final rule, which took effect on July 1.
As previously reported, the components of the final rule include:
comprised of the following:
the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week has been reduced by 12 hours from 82 to 70;
-truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes, and drivers can take the 30-minute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window;
-the final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit (the FMCSA was considering lowering it to 10 hours) and will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time;
-truckers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights’ rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most—from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. This rest requirement is part of the rule’s “34-hour restart” provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period; and
-carriers that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by 3 or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and drivers could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.
The House members said in the letter that the new HOS rules went into effect despite the lack of a completed field study and report legally required by Congress as per the new federal transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which was signed into law in July 2012.
This field study, which directed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to expand on an FMCSA report on driver fatigue and maximum driving time requirements focusing on the 34-hour restart rule, was supposed to be conducted by March 31, 2013. But the House members pointed out to Foxx that despite the fact that the field study was not completed, the FMCSA went ahead and finalized and enacted the “untested” new HOS regulations.
To that end, they requested to Foxx that the FMCSA establish and provide them the date on which the efficacy study required by MAP-21 and full report will be completed and submitted to Congress.
“The commercial trucking industry is a pillar of the U.S. economy and small, medium, and large businesses across America depend on the on-time, cost-efficient, and safe transport of finished products and raw materials each day,” the House members wrote. “It is imperative that the rules governing the commercial trucking industry be backed by factual, statistically-valid and data-driven studies that are fully completed and analyzed before proposed rules come into effect.”
They added that the new HOS rules greatly decrease driver flexibility and also increase costs for the trucking industry at a cost of up to $376 million annually (according to American Trucking Associations data) to the industry alone, which will in turn be passed on to American consumers as prices in stores will subsequently rise as a result.
The National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council (NASSTRAC) expressed their support for the letter to Foxx.
NASSTRAC Advocacy Chairman and President of Tranzact Technologies Mike Regan told LM that the data provided by FMCSA on the efficiency savings the new rules will provide are based on a reduction in the number of over the road accidents and the costs of injuries, which he said cannot be validated.
“It is basically hands-on phantom data,” he said. “There is a real cost associated with that and that is what we are trying to say here. It is mandated that they have to do [a field study] so let’s do what has to be done.”
Regan added that the July 1 HOS implementation date was not done by accident, as that is when the trucking market is typically at its weakest point during the year, given that freight patterns are cyclically oriented. It would not make sense for the rules to take effect in March or September when spring shipments and holiday shipments are arriving, respectively.
Another component cited by Regan is that most people don’t understand the correlation between the economy and supply and demand in the transportation sector.
“If you look at the ATA monthly tonnage report and the Cass Freight Index, it would suggest that GDP was stronger for the second quarter than previously reported, which was reported last week, but 2.5 percent GDP is basically a flat line economy,” he said. “And you are starting to see increases in spot market rates and a widening spread of pockets where supply is tight and demand is strong. I think by the second quarter of next year the full impact of HOS will be felt.”
Key Bank analyst Todd Fowler wrote in a research note that the impact of revised hours of service is difficult to quantify considering typical late summer softness, adding that his firm believes a modest net negative impact on utilization is most likely near term.
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