Feds issue revised trucking rule

Jan 6, 2012

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a revised hours-of-service (HOS) rule for commercial truck drivers, planning to improve safety in the industry, but the restrictions have many trucking organizations and companies less than happy.

The final rule was published Dec. 27 in the Federal Register and it revises the original 34-hour restart provision. A driver must have 34 consecutive hours offduty after driving 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in an eight-day maximum work week.

Starting July 1, 2013, the 34-hour restart period must include two 1 a.m.- 5 a.m. rest periods because, according to FMCSA, nighttime rest is more restorative than daytime rest.

USPOULTRY said the final rule is better than the original proposal, which required two 12: a.m. -6 a.m. periods but may require as little as 34 hours or as much as 48 hours off duty depending upon when the driving week ends.

Under the old rule, drivers could work up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new hours reduces maximum driving hours by as much as 12 hours per week.

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 new rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit, but FMCSA said they will continue to research any risks associated with this driving time.

In addition, effective Feb. 27, 2012, driving or allowing a driver to drive three or more hours beyond the driving-time limit may be considered an egregious violation and subject to maximum civil penalties of $11,000 per offense for the trucking company and up to $2,750 for each offense for the driver.

The HOS puts limits in place for when and how long commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers may drive. According to FMCSA, “These regulations are based on an exhaustive scientific review and are designed to ensure truck drivers get the necessary rest to perform safe operations.” FMCSA also reviewed existing fatigue research and worked with organizations like the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies and the National Institute for Occupational Safety in setting these HOS rules.

“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray La- Hood said in a statement. “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.”

The regulations are designed to continue the downward trend in truck fatalities and maintain motor carrier operational efficiencies, according to FMCSA.

Truck-related fatalities have dropped 33 percent to the lowest levels ever recorded since the current HOS regulations were introduced in 2003, said Paul Pressley, USPOULTRY’s executive vice president of industry programs.

“The new rule will restrict the on-duty hours available for many drivers and increase the number of trucks and drivers necessary to deliver our products without any demonstrated improvement in highway safety,” he added.

Who must comply with the Hours-of-Service Regulations?

Most drivers must follow the HOS Regulations if they drive a CMV.

In general, a CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business and is involved in interstate commerce and fits any of these descriptions:

Weighs 10,001 pounds or more; Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more; Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation; Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation; A vehicle that is involved in Interstate or intrastate commerce and is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards is also considered a CMV.

As part of the rule making 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. The listening sessions were webcast live on the FMCSA website.

“This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency’s history,” FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said.

“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.”

While FMCSA is working on safety issues, industry organizations may be looking for more drivers, during a time when America is facing a truck driver shortage.

“The truck-driver population is growing at less than 1 percent a year,” said Jeff Kauffman, a Sterne Agee & Leach Inc. analyst who follows truck and railroad stocks. “Freight’s growing at closer to 4 percent.”

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) said it is considering legal action against the rules, saying the “unnecessary changes” could make roads less safe.

“We’re pleased that regulators have seen the wisdom of keeping the current 11-hour limit, but longer overnight breaks create the potential for more big trucks to be mixing with passenger cars during congested daylight hours,” David French, senior vice president at the National Retail Federation, said.

The trucking group said the July 2013 implementation date showed that the current structure is working.

“If there is a positive in this rule, it is the lengthy period of time before it becomes effective,” Graves said. “This will give ATA time to consider legal options. And, by delaying implementation of this rule, the agency is acknowledging there is no safety crisis on our highways.” — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor