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Hours-of-service final rule retains 11-hour driving limit
New rule shortens workweek from 82 to 70 hours; 34-hour restart requires two rest periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
On Dec. 22, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a final rule that revises the hours-of-service safety requirements for commercial truck drivers.
While the final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit – FMCSA previously was in favor of reducing it to 10 hours – it reduces by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week. Under the old rule, truck drivers could work on average up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new HOS final rule limits a driver’s workweek to 70 hours. FMCSA says it will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time.
In addition, truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Drivers can take the 30-minute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window.
The rule also requires truck drivers 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 a.m. to 5 a.m. This rest requirement is part of the rule’s 34-hour restart provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their workweek 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.
Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by 3 or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.
“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives. Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely.”
As part of the lengthy and contentious HOS rulemaking process, FMCSA held six public listening sessions across the country and encouraged safety advocates, drivers, truck company owners, law enforcement and the public to share their input on HOS requirements.
“This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency’s history,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “With robust input from all areas of the trucking community, coupled with the latest scientific research, we carefully crafted a rule acknowledging that when truckers are rested, alert and focused on safety, it makes our roadways safer.”
Commercial truck drivers and companies must comply with the HOS final rule by July 1, 2013. The February 2012 issue of Commercial Carrier Journal will feature a special report highlighting the HOS rule changes and explore the rule’s impact on carriers and drivers.
Handheld cell phone ban now in effect
Effective Jan. 3, commercial truck and bus drivers are prohibited from using handheld cell phones while operating commercial motor vehicles. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration specifically banned the practice in a final rule published last month in the Federal Register.
Drivers who violate the restriction face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and CMV disqualification for multiple offenses. States will suspend a driver’s commercial driver’s license after two or more serious traffic violations. Commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use handheld cell phones while driving face penalties up to $11,000.
Carriers that allow their drivers to use handheld cell phones while driving face penalties up to $11,000.
“It’s just too dangerous for drivers to use a handheld cell phone while operating a commercial vehicle,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro.
In the final rule, FMCSA stated that commercial drivers reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event, and dialing a handheld cell phone makes it six times more likely that commercial drivers will be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event.
Following the rule’s announcement, the National Transportation Safety Board last month voted to recommend banning all U.S. drivers from using handheld mobile phones or sending text messages as well as hands-free devices other than those installed by vehicle manufacturers. The recommendation would have to be adopted separately by each U.S. state since states have authority over driver behavior.
To view the final rule, go to www.regulations.gov; the docket numbers are FMCSA–2010-0096 and PHMSA-2010-0227. – Jeff Crissey
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration received numerous inquiries from fleets about vendors using aggressive marketing tactics to sell allegedly FMCSA-endorsed supervisor training to employers who may be subject to drug and alcohol testing requirements. The agency said it is not familiar with these companies nor the training they offer.
FMCSA granted a temporary exemption period allowing commercial motor vehicle operators to use trailer-mounted surge brakes.
CK Commercial Vehicle Research’s annual fleet study for 2011 showed that 84 percent of survey respondents operating Class 8 vehicles and 33 percent operating medium-duty vehicles intend to purchase new equipment in 2012, with their average order size equal to 16 percent of their current fleet population. One in four plan to add capacity with new equipment.
U.S. Xpress Enterprises Co-Chairman and President Patrick Quinn died Dec. 13 following a battle with brain cancer; he was 65. Quinn’s 40-year career in trucking was highlighted by numerous leadership roles, including terms as chairman of both the American Trucking Associations and Truckload Carriers Association.
YRC Worldwide stockholders authorized the company’s board of directors to conduct a reverse stock split of its common stock and to proportionately reduce the number of authorized shares of common stock.
FedEx Corp. increased shipping rates for FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery by a net average of 4.9 percent.
Bill would provide more scrutiny for new, reincarnated companies
U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and John Rockfeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, last month introduced the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act, a bill that would reauthorize the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and strengthen federal truck and bus safety standards.
The act would provide more scrutiny before new motor carriers and drivers are able to enter the industry, strengthen the safety laws governing current carriers and drivers, and increase FMCSA’s enforcement tools to remove unsafe and unfit drivers and carriers from the industry. Specifically, the bill would:
• Require electronic onboard recorders be used on all trucks and buses used in interstate commerce in order to improve and enforce drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service rules;
• Strengthen the U.S. Department of Transportation registration process by requiring an applicant to pass a safety proficiency examination and submit a safety management plan as a precondition for operating authority;
• Bolster FMCSA’s ability to crack down on “reincarnated carriers” – carriers that attempt to resume operations after being put out of service – by increasing the administration’s ability to revoke carriers’ operating authority and by requiring new operators to disclose all relationships with other motor carriers over the past five years as a condition of receiving operating authority; and
• Direct DOT to support FMCSA’s implementation of its Compliance Safety Accountability program.
“We must do more to make sure large trucks and buses are not a threat on our roadways and are only operated by the most qualified drivers,” said Lautenberg. “While most drivers and companies put safety first, crashes still happen, and when they do, the consequences can be devastating. This bill will give the Department of Transportation the tools to kick unsafe drivers and carriers out of the industry.”
The bill would require electronic onboard recorders be used on all trucks and buses used in interstate commerce.
The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security, representing several large U.S. trucking companies, announced its support for the measure, particularly the EOBR mandate. “These electronic logging devices are the critical link to continued improvements in highway safety and the quality of life for our nation’s commercial drivers,” said Steve Williams, Alliance chairman and chairman and chief executive officer of Maverick USA.
Chris Lofgren, president and CEO of Schneider National, said the hard data generated by EOBRs is necessary to address drivers’ working hours and improve public safety. “EOBRs take the noncompliance issue off the table,” Lofgren said. “Once we can measure safety in a compliant industry, we can then address changes to the hours-of-service rules if necessary.”
Lawsuit seeks to block cross-border pilot program
A lawsuit filed on Nov. 23 seeks to block the U.S. Department of Transportation from opening the U.S.-Mexico border to Mexican trucks through its cross-border pilot program. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club challenged the program in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
“It’s outrageous enough that we’ve outsourced millions of jobs to foreign countries, but now we’re bringing foreign workers across the border into the United States to take our jobs,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “This is another pressure the American middle class doesn’t need. … Congress has repeatedly and overwhelmingly set tough safety conditions for any cross-border trucking program, and this one clearly doesn’t meet those conditions.”
The suit claims the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s pilot program:
• Waives a law that trucks must display proof that they meet federal safety standards;
• Breaks the law requiring the pilot program to achieve an equivalent level of safety because Mexican drivers don’t have to meet the same physical requirements as U.S. drivers;
• Breaks the law that Mexico must provide simultaneous and comparable access to U.S. trucks. Mexico cannot do so because of the limited availability of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel in Mexico;
• Breaks the law that the pilot program must include enough participants to be statistically valid. FMCSA’s proposal ensures that only the best Mexican trucks participate, which would allow it to justify letting any Mexican truck over the border in the future; and;
• Doesn’t comply with the environmental requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.
Three Mexican carriers have been approved for program participation, with the third, Moises Alvarez Perez, recently clearing its Pre-Authority Screening Audit. The first Mexican carrier approved for program participation, Transportes Olympic, made its first delivery under the program Oct. 20. Leading opponents of the pilot program – including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the Teamsters union and U.S. Reps. Bob Filner and Duncan Hunter, both of California – united for a press conference near the border crossing prior to the program’s kickoff.
Hunter, a Republican, and Filner, a Democrat, are among 19 co-sponsors of the Protecting America’s Roads Act (H.R. 2407), which would end authority gained by Mexican carrier participants at the end of the cross-border pilot program and bar paying for electronic monitoring of Mexican carrier participants with U.S. tax dollars.
U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced the bill, which was referred to the Highways and Transit subcommittee July 7.
ATA says Alabama’s Metal Coil Securement Act preempted by federal law
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking comments on a petition submitted by the American Trucking Associations requesting a determination that Alabama’s Metal Coil Securement Act is preempted by federal law. The 2009 act prohibits a motor carrier from transporting metal coils in a movement that originates or terminates in Alabama unless the driver is certified in load securement.
The law, as originally enacted, also required the driver to carry a copy of the certification in the vehicle and produce it upon demand. Maximum penalties for violating these requirements include fines of between $5,000 and $10,000, jail time and/or a court order prohibiting the driver from operating a commercial motor vehicle in the state. Alabama later removed the requirement for drivers to produce the certification upon demand.
On June 26, 2009, FMCSA sent a letter to then-Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama stating that the act appeared to be incompatible with the requirements of FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. FMCSA also drew attention to two federal laws authorizing preemption of state legislation and indicated that they might be applicable, and urged state officials to work to resolve any conflict between state and federal law. Riley responded that the act was adopted in response to a number of accidents in Alabama involving the transport of metal coils and that the state’s certification requirements were not preempted by federal law.
On Dec. 22, 2010, ATA petitioned FMCSA for a determination that Alabama’s certification requirements and penalties create an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce and are preempted under federal law. ATA contends that Alabama’s requirement that drivers obtain certification in metal coil load securement is more stringent than and incompatible with federal metal coil safety regulations.
In a letter dated Jan. 25, 2011, the Alabama Department of Public Safety acknowledged that the requirements exceed federal regulations, but stated that they should not be preempted because they have safety benefits and do not place an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.
FMCSA said that although preemption under federal law is a legal determination reserved to the agency’s judgment, it is seeking comment on what effect, if any, Alabama’s certification requirement has on interstate motor carrier operations.
Commenters also are encouraged to submit information on similar requirements imposed by states other than Alabama.To comment, go to www.regulations.gov; the docket number is FMCSA-2011-0318.
Truck-related fatalities up in 2010
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last month released updated 2010 fatality and injury data showing that highway deaths fell to 32,885 for the year, the lowest level since 1949. The record-breaking decline in traffic fatalities occurred even as American drivers traveled nearly 46 billion more miles during the year, an increase of 1.6 percent over the 2009 level.
However, the latest numbers also revealed that fatalities rose among large truck occupants, and the American Trucking Associations urged policymakers to avoid jumping to conclusions based on the data. Truck-related fatalities rose 8.7 percent in 2010, the first increase since 2005, and 3,675 people died in truck-related accidents in 2010, an increase of 295 over the 2009 figure of 3,380, ending a three-year decline.
“While we have more work to do to continue to protect American motorists, these numbers show we’re making historic progress when it comes to improving safety on our nation’s roadways,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Thanks to the tireless work of our safety agencies and partner organizations over the past few decades, we’re saving lives, reducing injuries and building the foundation for what we hope will be greater success in the future.”
The updated information released by NHTSA indicates 2010 also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010, down from 1.15 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2009. Among other key statistics:
• Fatalities declined in most categories in 2010, including for occupants of passenger cars and light trucks (including SUVs, minivans and pickups);
• Deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped 4.9 percent in 2010, taking 10,228 lives compared to 10,759 in 2009; and
• Fatalities rose among pedestrians, motorcycle riders and large truck occupants.
Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, said that 2010 was among the safest years on record for the trucking industry “thanks in large part to the good-faith efforts of America’s truck drivers, vehicle manufacturers, truck fleet safety directors, law enforcement officers and true safety advocates, rather than due to economic hardship or other ancillary factors. By remaining vigilant and focused on the true causes of crashes, I’m confident that we will be able to continue the marked declines in the number of truck-involved crashes and fatalities on our highways that we have seen in over the past decade.”