With the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) planning to roll out its new Hours-of-Service (HOS) rule by October 28, that date may be in peril due to the actions of a New Hampshire senator.
Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) this week introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 Transportation Appropriations bill that her office said would block the White House and FMCSA from implementing new HOS rules.
These rules, which were introduced by the FMCSA last December, include:
-lowering the maximum time on-duty within the driving window from 14 hours per day to 13 hours per day;
-for the driving window, the standard driving window would remain at 14 consecutive hours and 16 hours no more than twice per week, with release from duty required at the end of the driving window regardless of length;
-reducing the legal daily driving time from 11 hours to 10 hours although both 10 and 11 hours are both being considered;
-under the current rules there is no limit on consecutive hours of driving, but the new rules would require a minimum 30-minute break after a maximum of 7 hours driving or working in order for a driver to continue driving; and
-maintaining the 34-hour restart as part of the 60-to-70 hour weekly on-duty limit but the restart must include two periods between midnight and 6 a.m. and it may only be used once a week.
If these proposals become law, many industry stakeholders contend that they collectively will reduce the amount of time carriers have to move freight and hinder available trucking capacity.
What’s more, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) has repeatedly stated that the current HOS rules, which have been in place since 2004, have allowed the trucking industry to move more than 70 percent of U.S. goods while achieving record low levels of crashes and fatalities.
And the ATA has previously stated that the truck-involved fatality rate has dropped by 36 percent since 2004, which is nearly double the overall fatality rate U.S. highways. And they cited United States Department of Transportation (DOT) data.
Representatives from Senator Ayotte’s office were unavailable at press time, but she blasted the proposed HOS rules in a statement, saying it is “another heavy-handed federal regulation that would disrupt business operations and increase costs for the trucking industry and consumers, and New Hampshire’s truckers are rightfully concerned about the impact of these changes. My amendment would prevent the Administration from implementing these rules which, by DOT’s own admission, are cost-prohibitive and whose impact on safety is unclear.”
The impact of these rules was made clear at this month’s Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Annual Conference in Philadelphia earlier this month. Don Osterberg, senior vice president, safety and security at Schneider National, said that it will not be possible to maintain historical levels of service in the trucking sector should these rules come to fruition.
“My belief is that the FMCSA will not officially eliminate the 11th hour of driving, but it will be done in a de facto way by reducing maximum time on-duty within the driving window from 14 hours per day to 13 hours per day,” he said. “It is nearly impossible today drive 11 hours within a 14-hour window, and it will become virtually impossible if the workday is restricted to 13 hours.”
Bloomberg reported earlier this month that House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor penned a letter to President Obama, asking the White House to withdraw these proposed HOS regulations. In the letter, they said that withdrawing regulations that would shorten the amount of time truck drivers spend behind the wheel is the right thing to do, because their costs would hurt the U.S. economy.