OOIDA: Micromanaging drivers' time undermines highway safety

OOIDA study: HOS hitting truckers hard

Nov. 21, 2013
Rule changes upping fatigue and stress, cutting income and home time

Released literally on the heels of this week’s ATRI research report on the impact of the current Hours of Service (HOS) regs is an extensive survey on the same issue of members of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. (OOIDA) by the association’s foundation.

According to OOIDA, the results show that the most recent changes—which came into effect back on July 1st-- affect the ability of truck operators “to drive while rested, operate their businesses efficiently, and make a living.”

The negative effects of the rules cited by the study include increased fatigue and stress, less income and home time and spending more time driving in general as well as in congested traffic.

Meanwhile, the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) has strongly reiterated its objections to the HOS changes now in place.

“From the outset, ATA was confident the Hours-of-Service rule changes were based on politics, not data,” said ATA president & CEO Bill Graves. “Well now we’re seeing mounting evidence that rather than solving anything, these rules are creating many problems for drivers and fleets alike.”

He stressed the importance of gaining Congressional support of the TRUE Safety Act, a bill introduced in October by Reps. Richard Hanna (R-NY), Tom Rice (R-SC) and Michael Michaud (D-ME) that would  stay the new rulesuntil an independent review can be completed.

 “The TRUE Safety Act will put the brakes on these rules until they can be thoroughly vetted,” Graves affirmed. “We’re confident that once they are independently and objectively reviewed, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admin. [FMCSA] will have no choice but to undo what it has done.”

Regarding its study, OOIDA pointed out that the HOS changes put in place by FMCSA “reduced flexibility in a driver’s work week schedule” by revising the 34-hour restart provision to require two rest periods from 1-5 AM and by limiting restarts to once every seven days as well as adding in mandatory 30-minute breaks.

Yet, stated the association, those arbitrary requirements for when a driver must take breaks “leave no room in a driver’s work day to contend with unpredictable factors such as bad weather or heavy traffic.”

“The agency’s insistence on micromanaging a driver’s time is actually undermining highway safety,” said Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president.

“Instead of providing the flexibility to drive when rested and stop when tired, the new rules have put drivers in the position of driving more hours than ever and in the worst traffic conditions, and spending less time at home." he continued. "How is that safe?”

The survey of OOIDA members included responses from more than 4,000 truck drivers.

About 46% reported feeling more fatigued since the changes in hours of service, and 65% said they now receive less income.

The report also found that having the one 34-hour restart per week provision has caused 56% of the respondents to lose mileage and loads hauled per week.

In their comments about HOS, many respondents said they experience less time at home and increased stress.

On several occasions, drivers reported having long wait periods between loads but were unable to use the restart because the 34 hours did not cover two periods from 1-5 AM or because 168 hours had not elapsed since the previous restart. In general, the report discerned that this forced drivers to lose time at home-- which led them to take on shorter hauls and earn less income.

 “The problem with time management is not new to truckers,” pointed out OOIDA’s Spencer. “And it isn’t new to the agency either because, over and over, drivers expressed at many FMCSA listening sessions that they have little or no control over their time, particularly because of the unpredictability of the job and due to shippers and receivers keeping them waiting to load or unload.”

Indeed, OOIDA contends that “throughout the process of the agency’s changing the regulations, it was pointed out repeatedly the need for flexibility and the need to hold the entire supply chain accountable for its role in highway safety.”

 “The rules need to reflect the fact that drivers have to accommodate numerous factors they have no control over such as weather and traffic, in addition to the schedules of shippers and receivers who don’t have to comply with any regulations at all,” remarked Spencer.

“Truckers shouldn’t be expected to navigate the conflicting worlds of regulations versus reality and still operate safely and efficiently,” he added.

 Click here to view the entire OOIDA Foundation study.

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