The HOS Monkey Wrench

Any reversion to the old hours of service (HOS) rules would have far-reaching effects on the economy beyond just trucking industry, said Edward Mortimer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Director of transportation policy.

“The business community is aware about it. Businesses will adjust to the change, but it would cause problems in the adjusted time delivery system,” Mortimer told Fleet Owner, in discussing the potential for the federal court to reinstate the old HOS rules.

Although it is difficult to say whether the retraining costs and efficiency penalties that would follow a reversion would eventually get passed onto the consumer, Mortimer points to retailers that are currently stocking up for the holidays.

“Right now the trucking industry is running at full capacity. This is when most of the holiday goods are moved in, by the end of October,” Mortimer said. “From a logistics standpoint this is the busiest time of year.”

Herb Schmidt, president of Contract Freighters, Inc. (CFI), told Fleet Owner that if the old rules were reinstated, the bill would eventually get passed along to the consumer— especially now that capacity is so tight. “Whatever the cost ends up being, we’re not having the drivers bear the brunt of that, and nor will we,” Schmidt said. “Ultimately, you and I pay for it in the stores— that’s what it all boils down to.”

For now, Schmidt said that CFI is operating normally with no contingency plans in the works until the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reaches a decision on whether or not to keep the current rules in effect. “We’re totally in a holding pattern, 100%,” Schmidt said.

Trucking consultant George Edwards expects that ultimately, the current HOS will be modified and not discarded. “I suspect that studies are going to be done to address the driver health issues raised by the court ruling against the HOS rules and that modifications will be made,” he said at the recent McLeod Software Users Conference. Overall, the business community, shippers, and trucking industry have shown their support for the current rules because of the efficiencies that were developed to accommodate the regs. “They better not throw the baby out with the bathwater here,” Edwards said. “Because of the new HOS rules, trucking companies are no longer being used as 'rolling warehouses' by shippers. Carriers have also used the new rules to implement waiting and detention time charges. The end result is that shippers and carriers are both getting more efficient, and that's making a big difference.”

The Court is expected to make its decision in the coming weeks, although no deadline has been set.

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