New hours proposal coming

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The trucking industry could see another proposed rewrite of driver work-hour regulations this spring – about three years after the Department of Transportation issued proposed new rules.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration spokesman David Longo confirmed that DOT and FMCSA are working on a new proposed hours-of-service regulation that they had expected to submit to the Office of Management and Budget before the end of 2002. An OMB review of a proposed rule of that significance could take several months. Coincidentally or not, news of the hours proposal came as four groups asked a federal appeals court to order FMCSA to complete several overdue rulemakings, including the hours-of-service rewrite. (See separate article on page 13.)

The government’s most recent proposal to revamp drivers’ hours came as a notice of proposed rulemaking published in May 2000. The proposal separated drivers into five types of operations: Long-haul, regional, local, local-split shift and those whose primary work is not driving. The proposal also contained a controversial requirement for automatic on-board recorders to replace paper logs.

Under FMCSA’s May 2000 proposal, long-haul and regional drivers would have been allowed 12 hours driving time per workday – an increase over the current 10 hours. But 12 hours was the maximum on-duty time as well, so all waiting, loading and unloading would have taken away from driving time. In addition, FMCSA would have mandated 10 consecutive hours of rest plus another two hours of rest during each workday. In general, maximum total driving hours per week would have dropped to 60 hours from the current 70. Another controversial proposal was for a mandatory minimum weekend of 32 to 56 hours, depending on when the driver went off duty.

The trucking industry’s longstanding position that any changes be supportable by scientific evidence and practical in application is unchanged. “As a significant stakeholder in the hours-of-service issue, the American Trucking Associations will continue to play a vital role as this process moves forward to ensure that any proposal is based upon sound science and is workable in the real world environment of the trucking industry,” ATA President William Canary said in a prepared statement last month.