Updated Feb 22, 2011

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.

The NPRM follows a 2009 settlement of a lawsuit that had been filed by several safety advocacy groups over the current version of the hours rules adopted in late 2005. Under that settlement, FMCSA is obligated to issue a final rule by July 26.The NPRM follows a 2009 settlement of a lawsuit that had been filed by several safety advocacy groups over the current version of the hours rules adopted in late 2005. Under that settlement, FMCSA is obligated to issue a final rule by July 26.

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.

ATA also said FMCSA previously found that the 11th hour of driving time does not increase driver weekly hours, is used for flexibility purposes and does not increase driver-fatigue risks, and that eliminating it would promote more aggressive driving to meet time constraints and lead to placing tens of thousands of less experienced drivers on the road who would pose greater crash risks.

ATA said that with respect to the 34-hour restart, FMCSA has found in the past that requiring two nights of sleep would disrupt drivers’ circadian cycles and add to more daytime driving in congested periods, again increasing crashes.

The proposed changes “will be enormously expensive for trucking and the economy,” said Graves, pointing out that FMCSA estimated costs of more than $2.2 billion if the daily drive time was reduced by 1 hour and the restart provision was changed significantly. ATA said FMCSA concluded that “eliminating the 11th hour is unlikely to be cost-effective under any reasonable set of circumstances.”

In a Jan. 19 letter to President Obama, Graves wrote that “FMCSA’s Dec. 29, 2010, proposed changes to the HOS rule are, using your words, ‘just plain dumb,’ and ‘not worth the cost’ of making ‘our economy less competitive.’ We ask that your DOT meet its responsibility to address safety and health issues with science and legitimate benefit-cost analyses. FMCSA’s Dec. 29, 2010 proposal fails on both accounts.”

The NPRM is available online at

— Avery Vise & Dean Smallwood

Proposed changes to hours rules

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is proposing seven changes from the hours-of-service rules in place today. The notice of proposed rulemaking would:

• Limit drivers to either 10 or 11 hours of driving time – to be determined during the rulemaking process – following a period of at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty. (FMCSA currently favors reducing driving to 10 hours);

• Limit the standard “driving window” to 14 hours, while allowing that number to be extended to 16 hours twice a week;

• Limiting actual duty time within the driving window to 13 hours;

• Permit drivers to drive only if 7 hours or less have passed since their last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes;

• Retain the 34-hour restart, subject to certain limits: The restart would have to include two periods between midnight and 6 a.m. and could be started no sooner than 168 hours (7 days) after the beginning of the previously designated restart;

• Redefine “on-duty” to allow some time spent in or on the CMV to be logged as off-duty; and

• Revise the oilfield operations exception to clarify the language on waiting time and to state that waiting time would not be included in the calculation of the driving window.

Long Beach port board bans older Class 7s, drayoffs

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the inclusion of Class 7 trucks to its Clean Trucks Program along with penalties for drayoffs, the practice of switching cargo from a newer clean truck to an older truck within the Harbor District. Under the program, Class 8 trucks have been subject to strict emissions standards, and older models have been banned progressively from terminals since the program began in 2008. Class 7 trucks now will be added to the progressive ban starting July 1.

The program last year banned virtually all Class 8 trucks that did not meet 2007 emissions standards. According to the port, some trucking companies starting using older Class 7 models to move lighter loads like empty containers. The board also approved charging cargo owners a fee if their containers are observed being switched from a newer clean truck to a banned truck within the Harbor District.

The port says the use of older Class 7 trucks and drayoffs give firms an unfair advantage over companies that follow the letter and the spirit of the Clean Trucks Program, which has reduced truck-related pollution in the port complex by 80 percent, two years ahead of schedule.


* FreightWatch International reported that cargo theft industrywide rose by 4.1 percent in 2010 to a record average of 75 cargo theft incidents per month. The food and beverage industry was the most heavily hit, accounting for 21 percent of total theft activity, with an average loss value of $125,000 per incident, closely followed by the electronics sector, accounting for 19 percent of all cargo theft and an average loss per incident of $512,000.

* Transport America acquired Birmingham, Ala.-based Southern Cal Transport; terms were not disclosed. Transport America, based in Eagan, Minn., says the purchase creates a company with more than 2,200 drivers, making it one of the top 15 for-hire dry van truckload carriers in the United States.

* Vitran Corp. announced the intended asset acquisition of the less-than-truckload business of Milan Express, based in Milan, Tenn. Milan’s regional LTL business operates 34 facilities in the central and southeastern United States. The transaction, terms of which were not released, is expected to close on Feb. 19.

* Greatwide Logistics Services acquired the contracts, personnel and equipment of Overton Transportation, a subsidiary of Sysco Corp. The temperature-controlled business will be integrated under the Greatwide Freight brand; terms were not released. Overton has 70 tractors, 100 trailers and 133 employees based in La Vergne, Tenn.

* Con-way Freight deployed its SafeStack load management and cargo protection system nationwide across its fleet of 16,800 freight trailers, the culmination of a nine-month multimillion-dollar investment in the adjustable decking and securing system.

Obama administration renews cross-border truck talks

Nearly two years after the termination of the pilot program that allowed expanded access to the United States by select Mexican carriers, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Jan. 6 shared with Congress and the government of Mexico an initial concept document for a long-haul cross-border Mexican trucking program that emphasizes safety and satisfies the United States’ international obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The proposal, which can be downloaded at, outlines the steps Mexican carriers would have to take – including a comprehensive safety audit and vetting process – before gaining access to operate in the United States. Mexican carriers chosen to be phased into the program would undergo a number of inspections and reviews as part of a monitoring process to ensure continued safe operation in the United States.

DOT’s latest cross-border trucking proposal outlines the steps Mexican carriers would have to take before gaining access to operate in the United States.DOT’s latest cross-border trucking proposal outlines the steps Mexican carriers would have to take before gaining access to operate in the United States.

After the demonstration program was terminated in March 2009, Mexican government officials responded by placing tariffs on a number of U.S. products. Last August, Mexico added additional tariffs, for a total of 99 U.S. products.

After the ban in 2009, LaHood and other administration officials met with lawmakers, safety advocates, industry representatives and other stakeholders to address a broad range of concerns. The U.S. Department of Transportation says the initial concept document, which is a starting point in the renewed negotiations with Mexico, addresses concerns raised during that process.

DOT says a formal proposal can be expected in the coming months, at which time the public will have the opportunity to comment. — Jeff Crissey

Diesel Emissions Reduction Act signed into law

President Obama on Jan. 4 signed the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act into law following the U.S. House of Representatives’ approval by voice vote on Dec. 21 and the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval on Dec. 16. DERA (H.R. 5809) is a five-year reauthorization of the program created in 2005 to establish voluntary national and state-level grant and loan programs to reduce diesel emissions by upgrading and modernizing older diesel engines and equipment.

The Diesel Technology Forum says DERA was supported by a coalition of more than 500 environmental, health, industry, labor and government organizations. “It will be a significant and important accomplishment for the 111th Congress,” says Allen Schaeffer, DTF executive director. “Because of the national importance of modernizing older diesel engines to reduce emissions, DERA is one of the most important clean air initiatives passed by Congress in recent years.”

Schaeffer says DERA is important to the nation’s economic growth because diesel engines power more than 95 percent of commercial trucks and an overwhelming majority of ships, locomotives and farm and construction equipment.

“The combination of new clean diesel technology and ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel has helped to reduce diesel emissions to near-zero levels for new buses, trucks and offroad equipment,” he says. “Now the older engines that continue to power our economy will also benefit from the upgraded engines and filters provided by DERA. This legislation will accelerate the introduction of even more clean diesel technology to as many of our older diesel engines as possible.”