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FMCSA CLARIFIES HOURS RULE

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a technical amendment to resolve some confusion over its intent with several provisions of the new hour-of-service rules, which take effect Jan. 4. The document, published in the Sept. 30 Federal Register, clarifies treatment of three or more sleeper berth periods, specifies the sleeper berth periods for operations at natural gas or oil well locations and corrects an error in the section dealing with short-haul drivers.

The technical amendment does not, however, address an area of disagreement between FMCSA and the American Trucking Associations. ATA believes drivers should be allowed to stop the clock on the 14-hour limitation by taking a single sleeper berth period provided they take 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time following their shifts. FMCSA, however, says that combination doesn’t comply with the final rule.

Under the technical amendment, in situations where a driver takes more than two sleeper berth periods of two hours or longer, any two of those periods totaling 10 hours may be used in calculating mandatory off-duty time. The sleeper berth periods don’t have to be consecutive. Any sleeper berth periods beyond the two qualifying periods, however, would count against the 14 hours available for driving.

For sleeper berth periods at natural gas or oil well locations, FMCSA clarified that the new rule requires a total of 10 hours off duty and that the periods may be taken in sleeper berths, other sleeping accommodations or both. Another provision in the new rule was intended to give short-haul drivers one 16-hour on-duty limit in a seven-day period, but the published version incorrectly stated six days.

A separate action anticipated late last month was expected to further clarify enforcement of the sleeper berth provision to resolve confusion over how inspectors should treat certain situations when a driver has only taken his first sleeper berth period.

Suppose that following 10 hours off duty a driver drives five hours, takes five hours in the sleeper berth and drives another five hours. A law enforcement officer then inspects his logs. At this point, the driver has driven beyond the end of the 14th hour after beginning his day. Unless the driver takes another qualifying sleeper berth period, he will not be in compliance. But can the inspector assume that the driver won’t take that second berth period and find the driver in violation?

According to an enforcement memorandum that was expected to be issued from FMCSA late last month, the answer is no. Roadside inspectors would give the driver the benefit of the doubt. But the driver would still be accountable for taking that second sleeper berth period during future inspections and in compliance reviews.

On the issue of combining a single sleeper berth period of at least two hours with 10 consecutive hours off duty, FMCSA said in the HOS Frequently Asked Questions section on its website that allowing that combination would run counter to FMCSA’s goal of encouraging a 24-hour clock. “To permit the use of sleeper berth time in this way is merely to substitute sleeper berth time for the current off-duty time, thereby increasing the potential for false logs, as well as continuing the circadian disruption the rule attempts to reduce,” FMCSA said.

For more information, visit this site.


BRIEFLY
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration delayed indefinitely the compliance date for its interim final rule governing interstate transportation of household goods by movers and brokers. The compliance date had been March 1, 2004, but FMCSA has received petitions for reconsideration from United Van Lines and Mayflower Transit. For more information, visit http://dms.dot.gov/search and search Docket No. 2979.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has compiled a summary of state and local idling restrictions. The agency has charted the restrictions for the 13 states with statewide restrictions, as well as eight cities and counties with individual regulations. The list is available at www.epa.gov/orcdizux/retrofit/documents/s03002.pdf.

AB Volvo will spend $150 million over the next four years to expand its Hagerstown, Md., truck engine plant. The Volvo Powertrain facility will deliver the next generation diesel engine family for the Volvo Group’s two North American truck brands – Mack and Volvo.

International Truck and Engine Corp. has created a business unit to sell products and services to the U.S. military.

Bridgestone brand truck tires will remain standard original equipment on new Kenworth, Peterbilt and other Paccar trucks under a long-term global agreement between Paccar Inc. and Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire LLC.


TCA PRESIDENT LEAVES POST
Truckload Carriers Association President Robert Hirsch left the association in October due to a difference over managerial approach, TCA said. According to a brief TCA statement, Hirsch and TCA Chairman Clifton Parker mutually agreed to the separation.

Parker told CCJ said the organization will be run by an interim leadership team composed of himself; Lance Craig, first vice chairman; Barry Pottles, officer at-large and head of TCA’s membership effort; and Pat Quinn, immediate past chairman. The senior TCA staff will report weekly to the leadership group. There were no staff departures other than Hirsch.

Parker said he hopes to have a replacement hired by the end of the year. Craig is in charge of the search committee to fill the post.

“The officers and the board of directors appreciated everything Mr. Hirsch did during his tenure,” said a prepared statement from TCA.


CCJ EQUIPMENT DEMAND INDEX: SIX IN A ROW FOR ILLINOIS

VANS
DECEMBER ’02 ’01 ’00
Illinois 1 1 1
Ohio 2 2 2
California 3 10 14
Texas 4 4 5
Tennessee 5 3 7
Indiana 6 7 4
Wisconsin 7 9 6
Georgia 8 6 13
Missouri 9 5 3
New York 10 15 12
Kentucky 11 11 8
N. Carolina 12 8 10
Minnesota 13 14 15
Michigan 14 13 9
Iowa 15 12 11
FLATS
DECEMBER ’02 ’01 ’00
Ohio 1 1 1
Illinois 2 3 2
Indiana 3 7 3
Texas 4 2 5
Michigan 5 11 8
Arkansas 6 4 4
Alabama 7 14 13
Georgia 8 10 12
Kentucky 9 9 7
W. Virginia 10 15 28
N. Carolina 11 8 15
Wisconsin 12 23 10
New York 13 24 16
S. Carolina 14 5 11
Missouri 15 12 9
REEFERS
DECEMBER ’02 ’01 ’00
California 1 11 3
Illinois 2 4 1
Georgia 3 1 10
Ohio 4 7 2
Washington 5 9 14
Arizona 6 30 22
Texas 7 3 8
Idaho 8 15 18
Florida 9 2 5
Wisconsin 10 8 4
Missouri 11 5 7
Iowa 12 12 9
New York 13 24 15
Minnesota 14 18 27
Colorado 15 16 23

Illinois held the top spot in van demand for the sixth consecutive month. According to the CCJ Equipment Demand Index, the big change in van demand was California’s jump from the No. 10 to No. 3 spot.

Ohio remained at the top in flatbed demand for the fourth consecutive month, beating Illinois once again by about 24 percent in flatbed equipment searches. Indiana jumped from seventh place to third place for flatbed demand.

Reefer demand saw considerable changes. California jumped from No. 11 to the No. 1 position with 18 percent more than in Illinois. Illinois took the No. 2 spot, jumping from No. 4, while Georgia dropped from No. 1 to third.

The index, based on equipment searches performed by TransCore customers, shows the top 15 states in terms of demand for trucks in the spot market in the three most common equipment types: dry vans, flatbeds and refrigerated units. The index is intended to help fleet operators identify the most promising opportunities for backhaul and other spot-market freight in the month after its publication.


TONNAGE INDEX DOWN IN AUGUST
American Trucking Associations said its seasonally adjusted Truck Tonnage Index dropped 9.5 percent in August to 140.3. Year-to-date through August, the unadjusted index is up 2.9 percent over the same 2002 period.

“High volatility in truck tonnage continued in August, but we had expected the number to be low due to manufacturing production falling in August, the blackout on the east coast and the low level of retail sales,” said Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist. Citing very lean inventories and improvement in new orders for manufactured goods, Costello said he believes truck tonnage is still on a recovery path. “That doesn’t mean that we still won’t have months like August, but the trend line will continue upwards.”

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership.


SCHNEIDER OFFERS HOS TOOLS
Schneider National has created a special section on its website (www.schneider.com/hos.html) to help drivers, shippers, consignees and others understand the new hours-of-service regulations better. The website offers background information and a Flash tutorial to help illustrate the potential impacts of the rule changes and offer best practices that might help mitigate adverse effects.


HOS FORUM: RULES CLEARLY CHALLENGE PRODUCTIVITY
Major challenges to productivity and profitability are expected from the revised hours-of-service regulations, panelists at the Hours-of-Service Forum said in late September. The two-hour session, held in conjunction with the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, addressed the challenges presented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association’s new regulations, which take effect Jan. 4. Most significant are two additional hours of rest and the requirement that drivers generally complete their driving within the first 14 hours of coming on duty.

The productivity impact will vary from carrier to carrier depending on the nature of their operations and the current efficiency of their customers, panelists agreed. Schneider National’s productivity likely will drop by as much as 9 percent, said Don Osterberg, vice president of capacity development and safety. Carriers could offset that loss by adding trucks and drivers, but adding capacity is not the answer. “I clearly believe that many carriers are going to show discipline in this regard in that we can’t just throw capacity at this,” he said, adding that implementing the rules will cost Schneider $1 million.

There’s no way around lost productivity when you consider that carriers are effectively losing two hours per driver due to the increased rest requirements, said David Hedgpeth, FFE vice president of compliance and safety. Hedgpeth added, however, that FFE didn’t object to the additional rest. But under the 14-hour limit, carriers also will lose productivity if their drivers continue to take the usual breaks that stop the clock under the current rules. “Our drivers would normally stop and take a couple of hours to shower, eat or do whatever they’d normally do,” Hedgpeth said. “That’s another 2 hours we’re going to lose per day per driver.”

Maximizing the available 11 hours of driving time within the 14-hour window will require a focus on the docks, said Tom Kretsinger, Jr., executive vice president of Liberty, Mo.-based American Central Transport. “The driver’s got three hours to fuel, get breakfast, lunch, dinner, load, unload and count a load. From that standpoint, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for waiting around.”

And then there’s the problem of keeping drivers whole. A loss in productivity obviously means a loss of income unless carriers pay more per mile or on some other basis. “We’re looking at paying detention as a way to compensate drivers,” Kretsinger said. “Competition for drivers is already pretty intense. And, of course, the shippers are going to have to pay for that.”
“It’s incumbent on us to get with [customers] and make them understand that that scheduling window has to be narrowed down,” Hedgpeth told HOS Forum attendees. “It’s not unusual for us to get a 4-hour scheduling window.”

Despite questions that remain about the rules’ interpretation and the many challenges they present, carriers must find ways to make them work. “The cow’s already out of the barn, as we say in Texas,” said Hedgpeth. “We can’t shove the cow back in the barn. These are the rules, and we’re going to have to operate under them.”
– Linda Longton