ATA slams lastest hours proposal
FMCSA leaning toward 10-hour driving time limit
The American Trucking Associations said the Obama administration missed the mark in many ways with the latest hours-of-service rewrite. Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, described the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposal as “overly complex, chock-full of unnecessary restrictions on professional truck drivers and, at its core, would substantially reduce trucking’s productivity.”
FMCSA formally published its hours-of-service notice of proposed rulemaking in the Dec. 29 edition of the Federal Register; comments on the proposal are due Feb. 28. (The agency announced the proposal on Dec. 23, just after CCJ’s January issue went to press before the holidays.)
One of the big questions had been whether FMCSA would reduce the number of driving hours allowed between off-duty periods from the current 11 to 10, but the agency chose not to decide, saying it would settle the question following public comment. The agency did say, however, that it is leaning toward reducing the driving time limit to 10 hours.
Regardless of the number of hours allowed per shift, FMCSA’s proposal would place new restrictions on drivers’ workdays. Under the current rule, FMCSA places no restrictions on on-duty time within the 14-hour window for driving. The agency now proposes to prohibit drivers from spending more than 13 hours on-duty during that window. Put more simply, drivers would have to take at least one hour off-duty during their driving shifts.
In addition, FMCSA proposes to require that drivers take a break of at least 30 minutes before driving more than seven hours straight. That 30-minute break could be part of the one hour that drivers would be required to take off-duty during their 14-hour driving window.
Another concern in the trucking industry was whether FMCSA would increase the number of hours required to restart the 60 hours in seven days/70 hours in eight days limits on cumulative on-duty time. The agency proposed to leave the restart at 34 hours but with a significant restriction: Restarts would have to include two periods of midnight to 6 a.m. In addition, drivers would be limited explicitly to a single restart in a 168-hour (7-day) period; current regulations don’t restrict restarts.
FMCSA also proposes to give drivers and carriers some flexibility compared to current rules. For example, under current rules, only carriers meeting certain requirements could extend drivers’ daily shifts beyond 14 hours, and they could do so only once a week. Under the agency’s proposal, all drivers would have the option of extending their daily shift to 16 hours twice a week. The goal is to give them flexibility to accommodate special situations, such as loading and unloading at terminals or ports, FMCSA says.
Also, the current regulations say that a driver is on-duty any time he is in a commercial motor vehicle unless he is in the sleeper berth. Under the NPRM, time spent resting in a parked CMV is excluded from on-duty time. And even in a moving CMV, team drivers can exclude from on-duty time up to two hours of time they spend in the passenger seat immediately before or after eight consecutive hours in a sleeper berth.
Disappointing many in the trucking industry, FMCSA left in place the strict limits on use of the sleeper berth that the agency adopted in 2005. So to satisfy mandatory rest requirements, one of two sleeper berth periods must be at least eight hours. And FMCSA says that drivers using the sleeper berth exception still would be subject to all the other daily and cumulative on-duty and driving limits it proposes.
Missing the mark?
The trucking industry’s safety performance while operating under the HOS rules in place since 2004 “has been remarkable” said Graves, citing U.S. Department of Transportation statistics that show crash-related fatalities are down 33 percent from the 2003 level, and that fatality and injury crash rates are at their lowest level ever.
ATA accused the Obama administration of trying to justify its proposed changes as needed to improve driver health, but that its argument is faulty since the administration consistently has gone on record over the last five years, with supporting information and data, stating the current rules are having no negative effect on driver health.
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