If you are not happy with the most recent Hours of Service (HOS) changes, you are not alone. Some people contend that the rules are now too restrictive, while others say they are not strict enough. That’s why these issues will be addressed in court in July.
One of the most vocal opponents of the HOS changes is American Trucking Associations (ATA). The main argument is that the rules are not as safe as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has claimed. In fact, the ATA attests that there are more downsides to the HOS than positive aspects.
Why Does the ATA Oppose the New Rules?
Only certain components of the HOS rule have changed. For example, there were previously no limitations on the 34-hour restarts. But now they can only be used once per week, and they must include two periods of sleep between 1 and 5 am.
In addition, after eight hours of driving a truck, drivers must take a 30-minute break. It is this rule, along with the rule about restarts, that the ATA has a problem with. In addition, both the Truckload Carriers Association and the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association support ATA’s claims that the HOS rules are now too stringent, which could affect productivity for most truck carriers.
Complaints from Safety Advocates
On the other hand, some groups complain that the HOS rules are not restrictive enough. Both Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and Public Citizen want to see stricter regulations in order to improve the wellbeing of drivers. For example, one claim is that the restart rule is not safe the way it is since it allows drivers to forgo the sleep they need to drive safely.
Additionally, these groups want to see the workday of drivers cut from 11 hours to 10 hours. Since the HOS rule has not made this change so far, safety advocates claim it has not gone far enough.
There are several lawsuits developed by those who oppose the new HOS rules for different reasons. The U.S. Court of Appeals has lumped together many of the lawsuits on both sides of the issue, but it could be a long time before you see any changes to the HOS rule.
While the briefs are due in court on July 24, the final briefs are not due until November, so do not expect a decision before then. Meanwhile, you will likely hear various arguments from groups on either side of the issue.
While many people are against the updated Hours of Service rule, others believe that the new regulations do not go far enough to help prevent driver fatigue. In fact, the following groups will be challenging the new rules in court in an effort to see an improvement from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:
- Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
- Public Citizen
- Truck Safety Coalition
- American Trucking Associations
Though the latter association is of the opinion that the Hours of Service update is unnecessary, and plans to say so in court, the others will be fighting to make the rules stricter. According to Truckinginfo, key points amongst these safety groups include:
- The new rule did not decrease the 11-hour maximum on consecutive hours spent driving.
- Reducing the limit to 10 hours makes sense if the intent is to decrease the amount of accidents caused by driver fatigue.
- The 34-hour restart provision was not eliminated like they had suggested.
- The restart practice leads to cumulative fatigue among drivers since they are allowed to drive much longer than they should each week.
- Many drivers using the 34-hour restart have been driving for more than 70 hours in a span of 8 days, according to Fleet Owner.
Drivers used to be allowed at least 48 hours of rest after working this long, but the 34-restart rule has reduced that amount of time off. Now trucking safety advocates want to increase that number, especially since surveys have shown that about half of all drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel before.
Of course, many drivers are aware of the danger of driving too much and sleeping too little, but they cannot always change the issue on their own since companies may require them to work as much as possible under the current rules. In addition, even when given a choice, many drivers choose to drive while tired because they need the money and assume they can make it safely to their destination.
According to Canadian Transportation & Logistics, the American Trucking Associations continues to oppose the updated Hours of Service rules since the group believes they have not been proven to increase safety in the trucking industry.
The new rules do not take effect until July of 2013, so there is some time for the court cases to be resolved before this date. Until then, it is hoped that those with differing opinions on the regulations will be able to work it out in court to come to an agreement that suits both sides.
The long-awaited Hours of Service regulations are out and the industry waits expectantly for the other shoe to fall. Many doubt they will take effect anytime soon as legal challenges from either or both sides of the issue are likely.
The first changes are scheduled to take place February 27th of this year. The ‘Oilfield Exemption’ is of no concern to us. You might however want to know that driving more than three (3) hours beyond the driving time limit may be considered an egregious violation subject to the maximum civil penalties the DOT may impose.
Of most interest to all of us is the change in the ‘on-duty time’ definition. At first glance it would appear the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) had gutted the 14-hour rule. ‘Time spent resting in a parked commercial motor vehicle’ is not considered on-duty time. Heck, we spend hours a day resting in parked commercial motor vehicles… at shippers, consignees, processors, mills… you name it. The DOT threw the 14-hour baby out with the bath water.
Hold your horses. The guidance released with the new regulations contains the following question.
If a driver spends time waiting to be loaded or unloaded resting or conducting personal business can the driver log it as off duty?
To which the FMCSA responded… “The changes to the definition do not alter the existing parts of the definition that define as on duty “[49 CFR 395.2](5) All time loading or unloading a commercial motor vehicle, supervising or assisting in the loading or unloading, attending a commercial motor vehicle being loaded or unloaded, remaining in readiness to operate the commercial motor vehicle, or in giving or receiving receipts for shipments loaded or unloaded.”
Translation… the change is really meaningless. The DOT is not so stupid as to write a new regulation that would essentially eliminate the 14-hour rule. The change is much ado about nothing.
Take for instance ‘Adverse Driving Conditions’ [49 CFR 395.1(b)]… virtually every driver knows part of this regulation “a driver may drive up to two (2) additional hours’. What drivers don’t seem to grasp is the DOT did not grant drivers up to two additional hours every time it snows. The DOT is not that stupid. The regulation contains some very specific conditions… 1- the trip must be one that could normally and reasonably have been completed but for the unforeseen event and, 2- the unforeseen event must have occurred after the driver began the trip. [i.e. a forecasted snow storm does not qualify]. 3- the exemption is to the 10-hour rule. If the extra driving time would put the driver over the 14-hour rule the exemption cannot be used and it goes on to say, 4- for not more than 2 additional hours in order to complete that run or to reach a place offering safety. Someone simply driving two more hours, while passing rest areas or truck stops, could be found to be in violation of the exemption.
Simply said, the DOT is not so stupid as to gut its own regulations.
Bottom line, if it sounds too good to be true… with DOT regulations as with anything else in life… it’s probably not true. Stay tuned for more updates as the Hours of Service controversy continues.
The new Hours-of-Service Rule has been met with generally negative regard by most trucking companies, and many drivers are not likely to be happy, either. In fact, the American Trucking Association is considering suing over some of the new requirements, as they are expected by many to greatly reduce productivity. Of course, that was not the intent of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, as those in charge of the changes claim that safety was the number one priority when deciding on the regulations.
The rule requires the following changes:
- 34-hour restart is now limited to once per week
- It includes two required periods of sleep from 1 am to 5 am each week
- A 30-minute break is now required after eight hours of driving
Not surprisingly, these regulations are expected to have some consequences for most trucking companies, with productivity the most likely casualty. Depending on the products transported by the carrier, this change will affect the general population, as important items like food and gasoline may take longer to get to their destination. This, understandably, leaves many carriers worried about the changes.
In addition, driver income may suffer due to the new restart rules since there will be approximately 12 fewer hours of driving time each week. This means drivers can work a maximum of 70 hours per week now, compared with the previous limit of 80. Not only does this affect driver income, but it may also require carriers to adjust their systems and schedules to ensure that they can comply with the rules while also meeting delivery deadlines.
An additional concern is that not all carriers are equally affected, which does not seem fair, as long-haul companies will likely bear the brunt of this decision more so than short-haul carriers. In fact, some carriers are actually happy about the hours of service rules, according to TruckingInfo.com. For example, those in charge of Cardinal Logistics think they may even benefit from the rule since it could weed out the professional, well-managed carriers from the rest, offering an advantage to some companies.
Plus, it is possible that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is correct in that this new rule could increase safety on the road. After all, a well-rested driver should be more alert, and therefore less prone to cause accidents on the road. In fact, the administration originally considered reducing the 11-hour driving limit to ten hours, but decided on these changes instead. According to Politico Morning Transportation, House Oversight and Government Reform head Darrell Issa admitted that the changes might not be ideal for everyone, but they represent a good compromise for those advocating some type of change in the trucking industry.
Time will tell if the change is actually good. That is, unless the American Trucking Association officially decides to fight the new hours of service regulations in court.
Thursday, November 3rd marked yet another step toward finalizing the long-standing and well documented Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulation. Originally scheduled to be published October 28, 2011, the Rule has had a comprehensive history of adjustments dating back to 1995. That said, the most recent delay on the rule was due to a long-running legal dispute in which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is in the process of resolving. Upon resolution, the HOS Rule will finally be nearing completion.
The most significant changes made to the rule so far have included:
- A reduction in trucker’s total driving time.
- A one-hour break rule.
- A modification to the 34-hour restart.
The one-hour break would require drivers to take time off during the day in order to limit the actual duty time within the 14-hour period to 13. The new restart rule will include two periods between midnight and 6 a.m. only to be used once a week.
Additionally, perhaps the most controversial of regulations in regards to the rule involves a one-hour reduction of the maximum daily driving time from the previous 11 to the newly established 10. These changes are intended to increase safety, however the controversy lies in the beliefs of the trucking and shipping industry that it will ultimately raise costs.
Other changes are not to be disclosed until the publication of the HOS Rule and only a small amount of information was made public:
This rulemaking would propose changes to the hours of service requirements for drivers operating a commercial motor vehicle transporting property. The requirement for this rulemaking was established on Oct. 26, 2009, when Public Citizen et al. (petitioners) and FMCSA entered into a settlement agreement under which petitioners´ petition for judicial review of the Nov. 19, 2008, final rule on drivers´ hours of service will be held in abeyance pending the publication of an NPRM reevaluating the hours of service rule.
In late 2010, the FMCSA proposed new hours-of-service (HOS) rules and the process is slowly proceeding in Washington with input from industry groups and highway safety advocates. The new rule would impose a limit of 13 hours on duty within the current driving window of 14 hours. A reduction of actual driving hours from 11 to 10 is also being considered. These cuts are part of yet another attempt to decrease the truck driver accidents caused by fatigued driving.
Another measure being taken to stop tired driving is electronic on-board recorders. The EOBRs document a driver's HOS instead of log books commonly known as "cheat sheets." Some companies already have electronic systems implemented because they ensure efficient scheduling of vehicle and driver operations. The FMCSA is confident that mandatory electronic tracking would prevent HOS violations and reduce semi crashes. Because of how many truck related crashes are fatal, it is vital to prevent fatigued driving in the supply chain management industry.
“The U.S. Senate is pushing legislation that would give more power to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration”. The FMCSA is being given more power because of the publicity truck crashes are getting. If the new legislation passes, the FMCSA would get the power to revoke a trucking company's registration due to safety violations, even if the company assumes a different business name and re-registers for business; which has been a major problem among commercial bus companies.