Hours-of-service rule changes scheduled to take effect July 1

June 27, 2013

Truck driver hours-of-service (HOS) changes completed in December 2011 are scheduled to be enforced July 1. On that date, carriers and drivers must comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on-duty requirements.

The most significant change to the HOS rule is that drivers are now limited to one 34-hour restart per week, and every restart must include two 1 am to 5 am periods.

Technically, this rule has been in effect since February 2012. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association are contesting the rule in court.

The rule includes changes to what constitutes on-duty time. Drivers can count any time resting in a parked truck as off-duty. However, the number of hours a driver can work in one week has been cut from 82 to 70.

Also new are penalties for carriers that permit drivers to “egregiously” violate HOS rules. “Egregious” is defined as allowing a driver to drive more than three hours beyond the limit.

In testimony June 18 before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s panel on highways and transit, Steve Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of Maverick USA, said the HOS rule changes are costly and unsupported by data or research.

“FMCSA’s motivation to change these rules was not based on evidence demonstrating a problem,” said Williams, a past ATA chairman and current chairman of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). “FMCSA’s three-paragraph statement in the rulemaking called ‘The Purpose and Need for Regulatory Action’ did not cite any research or data analysis showing a problem. That speaks volumes.”

Williams cited an ATRI report that found “statistically significant” declines in the number of crashes under the basic framework of the current rules. Specifically he pointed to a 31% drop in preventable collisions between 2004 and 2009.

“The industry will lose operating flexibility and productivity, and the rules will increase driver stress and frustration,” he said, noting an estimated 1.5% to 4% reduction in productivity will translate to “between $500 million and $1.4 billion in lost productivity.”

Williams also said it is “difficult—bordering on impossible—to accept FMCSA’s suggestion that corresponding benefits will result from these changes and that they will somehow offset all the costs.”

Pointing to an ATRI study released June 17, Williams said, “FMCSA’s claim that 15% of drivers work more than 70 hours per week to be grossly overstated” and that after correcting that false assumption “the pending restart changes would have a net annual cost (not a benefit) to industry and society.”

Williams called on Congress to postpone the July 1 effective date until the agency completes mandated research on the rule. He also asked Congress to request independent analysis of the regulation and require FMCSA to report to Congress on any future changes to the HOS rule.

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