The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) released a white paper yesterday that calls for the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) to keep the current truck driver hours-of-service regulations more or less intact.
“The trucking industry has operated safely and efficiently for 7 years (since January 2004) under the current HOS rules,” the paper said. “ATA strongly supports retention of the current and safe rules with one exception—more rest options through greater flexibility in the sleeper berth rule.”
To support its case, ATA cited improved crash statistics, such as a 33% decline in truck-involved highway crash fatalities in 2009 compared to 2003. ATA also noted that the rate of fatalities is at its lowest since DOT started keeping records in 1975. On top of that, ATA said crash-related fatalities, injuries and property-damage-only crash rates for large trucks are at their lowest level since DOT began keeping records three decades ago.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admin. (FMCSA) is expected to issue a new proposed hours-of-service rule at any time. The new rule will result from an agreement over litigation filed by Public Citizen and the Teamsters against the current reg, which mandates an 11-hour driving day and has a 34-hour “restart” provision.
As part of the settlement, DOT officials agreed to finalize a new rule by July 2011.
ATA expects the new rule will:
- Reduce driving time and increase the number of hours required to restart a driver’s weekly on-duty period
- Include at least one mandatory rest break during each shift.
“Hard-pressed to argue safety benefits, the Administrationis likely to try to justify any HOS changes as needed for driver health,” the white paper claims. “That argument will be as specious as claims of safety gains. FMCSA has consistently gone on record over nearly the last decade that the current HOS rules are having no deleterious effect on driver health. Among other things the agency has noted that drivers are not driving any more hours-per-week under the new rules than before, and that the enormous improvements in diesel exhaust reduction and other modern truck features (e.g. power steering, automatic transmissions, improved suspension systems) drastically limit the health risks associated with truck driving.”
According to ATA, FMCSA estimates there will be a $2.25 billion hit for the industry with a one-hour reduction in drive time and a significant increase in the 34-hour restart provision due to added costs.
The ATA paper concluded that the reduction in drive time would increase the number of inexperienced drivers, and therefore risks, particularly at a time when the federal government is so focused on improving safety with CSA.
“Finally, by restricting truck driver productivity and forcing the use of more inexperienced drivers, the revised rules are likely to result in more highway crashes – new drivers present more than three times the risk of crashes than their more experienced counterparts,” the paper said.