No matter how current hours-of-service (HOS) regulations get altered — if trucking is unlucky enough to bear witness to such changes — both the industry and highway safety are going to suffer. So says Herb Schmidt, president of Con-way Truckload, a division of transportation conglomerate Con-way Inc. Last fall, Schmidt took the HOS changes proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and calculated their impact on his fleet's operations, a fleet comprised of roughly 2,600 trucks and 8,000 trailers.
“To get a realistic view of how these rule changes would affect us, we took all of our data from October 2010 — logbooks and actual freight hauled — and then recalculated it using the proposed 10-hr. daily driving limit instead of the current 11-hr. limit,” he said.
The results were startling. In order for the fleet to carry the same amount of freight under a 10-hr. drive time limit, it would need a 4 to 5% larger fleet. That translates into an additional 104 to 130 units, not to mention drivers to pilot them. But it's not just the cost of acquiring extra rolling stock that's the problem, says Schmidt, a cost that isn't small as the average sticker price of a Class 8 tractor has increased between 22 and 25% since 2002 due to the implementation of engine emissions control mandates. No, the serious problem with proposed HOS changes in Schmidt's view derives from what he calls “the laws of unintended consequences” from such change.
“Putting 4 to 5% more trucks on the road will lead to more accident exposure, more congestion on already overcrowded roads, and more consumption of diesel fuel, just to name a few of the impacts,” he says.
“Looking at our network of freight, and we operate a mix of dedicated, irregular route, liquid bulk and rail intermodal operations, we calculated that the productivity impact of the proposed rule on our system would be a negative 4.27%,” adds Don Osterberg, senior vice president-safety and security for TL carrier Schneider National. “We also found under the current proposal that we would get [our] drivers home 25% less than we do today.”
He added that Schneider's baseline length of haul of 501.7 mi. would shrink to 478 mi., with that 24 mi./day decline, meaning the carrier would have to increase its driver pay by roughly $3,000/yr. per individual to compensate for such a mileage reduction.
“That [pay increase] is probably appropriate anyway, considering the market we are going into,” Osterberg notes. “With [personnel] supply and demand being what it is, I think we're going to have to increase driver pay. But this is certainly an element that is going to add cost to the supply chain.”
He adds that Schneider uses an in-house tactical planning simulator (TPS) designed in conjunction with Princeton University to calculate the impact of any regulatory change.
Schneider engineers Ted Gifford and John Nienow, along with former Schneider associate Jeff Day, spent three years working with Princeton's Hugh Simao, Abraham George and Warren Powell in developing this tool, which also helps troubleshoot freight flow issues and calculates how customer shipping requests impact supply chain.
“By accurately modeling the human-decision factors of our dispatch process, we are able to create a realistic simulation from which we draw conclusions about the potential impact of various conditions and strategies,” says Gifford, noting that TPS helps optimize the movements of Schneider's 6,500 drivers, hauling 13,000 loads/week, over four-week planning periods.
Even without sophisticated modeling systems, carriers and shippers across the board believe there will be significant productivity fallout from just a 1 hr. reduction in available drive time.
“We surveyed the for-hire carriers that haul about 80% of our freight, and we found they expect a 3 to 7% decline in productivity if we were to go back to a 10-hr. driving limit,” notes Harry Haney III, associate director-logistics operations for Kraft Foods. “That translates into a reduction of 50 to 100 mi./day per driver.”
As a result, instead of being able to serve 75% of its customer base with one-day transit lanes, Kraft would only be able to serve 60% within a day, while 8% of its shipments would require an extra day of transit. That would increase Kraft's total transportation costs by as much as 3%. “And transportation is the most expensive part of our supply chain operation,” Haney explains. (For a complete look at the current and proposed hours-of-service rules, turn to page 34.)
Another unintended cost the industry would shoulder if drive-time limits were cut concerns the changes to the national network of terminals and warehouses used by freight-hauling carriers.
Bob Petrancosta, vice president-safety for LTL carrier Con-way Freight, notes that his company completely overhauled its entire operation to maximize the efficiencies inherent to an 11-hr. drive-time limit — and it would require a huge chunk of change to undo them.
“Since the current HOS rules went into effect in 2004, we reduced the number of terminals in our system from 500 to 365,” he says. “Moving back to a 10-hr. drive time limit would disrupt the movement of freight within our system and force us to realign both infrastructure and assets, while relocating many of our employees. We'd also need more drivers to service the same amount of freight and would be forced to put more trucks on the road during the daytime.”
Though Con-way Truckload's Schmidt readily admits that the industry successfully operated under a 10-hr. drive-time limit for much of its history prior to 2004, he stresses that the FMCSA is not proposing to completely return to those old rules.
“Sure, we were successful as an industry back then,” Schmidt, a 25-yr. veteran of the trucking business, notes. “But then we also had far more flexibility in the use of the sleeper berth, and we didn't have the 34-hr. restart provision. If you want to go back to the old drive-time limits, then go back to the old rules in their entirety. That's certainly not what the agency is proposing.”
The agency is, however, favoring a return to the old drive-time limit nonetheless, with Larry Minor, FMCSA's associate administrator of policy and program development, stating that “we currently favor a 10-hr. driving time limit,” in public commentary given earlier this year.
Another major HOS change being contemplated by the agency is mandating two back-to-back midnight to 6 a.m. off-duty periods in order for drivers to use the 34-hr. restart provision.
BREAK FOR SAFETY?
John Spiros, vice president-safety and claims management for Roehl Transport, notes that two such mandatory breaks could actually lead to more problems, forcing drivers to start their workday at often the most heavily congested time period on major urban roadways.
“Some cities, like Atlanta and Boston, actually restrict trucks from operating at that hour,” he explains. “So this part of the proposal would actually complicate the lives of all the stakeholders involved in this issue.”
Todd Spencer, executive vice president for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA), points out that the ultimate problem with the FMCSA HOS reform effort is that the agency is trying to forge a rigid “one-size-fits-all” set of rules for an industry that encompasses many different styles of operations.
“For example, certain hazardous materials and Dept. of Defense shipments demand that drivers can't take breaks for safety and security reasons, yet under these new [HOS] regulations, drivers must take a 30-min. break,” he notes.
“Trucking is such a diverse industry, yet the goal here is one rule applicable to all,” Spencer stresses. “That just won't work because one rule doesn't make sense for all.”
What's also needed is more flexibility within the rules, so carriers and drivers alike can “work around” all the other parties involved in the supply chain, he says.
“Remember that truck drivers don't set their schedules,” Spencer explained. “They bump up against that 14-hr. on-duty workday limit because they've been held up at a dock for six or seven hours. By our calculations, truck drivers spend an average of 30 to 40 hrs. per week waiting at docks. That is because shippers and receivers put their efficiency needs ahead of the rest; that is where the focus needs to be.”
That's why every truck driver on the road today can't be held to a single, rigid set of HOS rules, he stresses. “You can't ignore the environment that they live in,” Spencer notes. “We want drivers to be given the tools and support so they can drive when they are fresh and can rest when they need to.”
Yet perhaps the biggest complaint from the trucking industry about the proposed changes to HOS rules doesn't even involve the movement of freight at all.
“When the FMCSA changed the HOS rules in 2004, it did so from a safety perspective; it wanted these changes to ultimately help make the roadways safer,” says Con-way Truckload's Schmidt. “They wanted to make sure truck drivers got an opportunity to get adequate rest and to reduce the number of highway fatalities. The thing is, they got it right. The rules are having that intended effect; they are making the roadways safer because the number of truck-involved crashes has dropped steadily over the last several years.”
WHERE'S THE PROBLEM?
For 2009, for example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recorded 3,380 fatalities in 2,987 truck-involved crashes, down from 4,245 fatalities and 3,754 truck-involved crashes reported in 2008. Furthermore, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) noted that trucks traveled more than 288 billion mi. in 2009, down from 310.7 billion in 2008 — meaning the rate of truck-involved fatalities on U.S. highways fell to 1.17 per 100 million mi., down from a rate of 1.37 in 2008, a 14% drop.
“This is not a small decline; it's a significant amount of movement,” notes Bill Graves, president & CEO of the American Trucking Assns. (ATA). “[Those numbers] make 2009 the safest year for our industry.”
Graves points out that since FMCSA first changed the HOS rules in 2004, the truck-involved fatality rate has dropped 36%, nearly twice as fast as the overall fatality rate on U.S. highways. “That's not a coincidence,” he stresses. “The current rules are working.”
“Trucking's critics point to the slumping economy as the main reason for the industry's safety gains, but the Dept. of Transportation's own figures show that trucks are driving more miles than when these rules were established, and trucking is involved in far fewer crashes,” adds Dave Osiecki, ATA's senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs. “Advocates for change noisily asserted these rules would lead to increases in crashes and fatalities, but those dire, baseless predictions have not come true,” he says. “We are left to conclude that these rules are doing their job in helping to improve highway safety.”
The HOS Impact
|Provision||Current Rule||Proposed Rule||Notes|
|“Daily” Duty Period|
|Off-duty period||10 consecutive hrs.||No change|
|“Driving Window”||For most drivers, 14 consecutive hrs. (may continue on-duty/not driving after 14 hrs.); |
“Regional” allowed one 16-hr. period “weekly” but release from duty required after 16 hrs;
Non-CDL w/i 150 miles allowed two 16-hr. periods “weekly” (may continue on-duty/not driving after 16 hrs.).
|For all property-carrying CMV drivers (unless excepted): |
14 consecutive hrs. with release from duty required at end of driving window;
16 consecutive hrs. no more than twice “weekly” with release from duty required at end of driving window.
|Any on-duty time after 14th hr. constitutes use of a 16-hr. period.|
|Maximum on-duty within driving window||Normally 14 hrs; 16 hrs. once per week for “regional” drivers; 16 hrs. twice per week for non-CDL w/i 150 miles.||13 hrs.||Proposal not applicable to non-CDL 150 mile short-haul drivers. 13 hrs. during 14- or 16-hr. driving windows for others.|
|Maximum driving within driving window||11 hrs.||10 or 11 hrs. (Both being considered)|
|Limit on consecutive hours of driving||None||May drive only if it has been 7 hrs. or less since last off-duty period of at least 30 min.||Proposal not applicable to non-CDL 150 mile short-haul drivers.|
|“Weekly” Duty Period|
|Maximum on-duty hours||60 hrs. in 7 days/ |
70 hrs. in 8 days
|“Restart”||34 consecutive hrs.||See “limits on restarts” below.|
|Limits on Restarts||None||(1) Must include two periods between midnight-6 a.m.; |
(2) May only be used once per week.
|Driver must designate the period being used as a restart.|
|When used as substitute for 10 consecutive hrs. off duty||Two periods: One at least 8 consecutive hrs. in SB; other at least 2 hrs. SB or off-duty. The shorter period does NOT extend the driving window.||Continue 8/2 hr. periods, but apply same new driving, on-duty, and duty-period limits as proposed for non-SB drivers.|
|Definition of On-Duty Time|
|On-duty time||Includes any time in CMV except sleeper berth.||Does not include any time resting in a parked CMV. In moving CMV, does not include up to 2 hrs. in passenger seat immediately before or after 8 consecutive hrs. in sleeper-berth.||Also applies to passenger-carrying drivers.|
|Oilfield exemption||“Waiting time” for certain drivers at oilfields (which is off-duty but does extend 14-hr.duty period) must be recorded and available to FMCSA, but no method or details are specified for the recordkeeping.||“Waiting time” for certain drivers at oilfields must be shown on RODS or electronic equivalent as off-duty and identified by annotations in “remarks” or a separate line added to “grid.”||“Waiting time” is not included in on-duty time or the calculation of the 14- or 16-hr. driving window.|