Shippers rebel against HOS reform

Opposition to the hours of service (HOS) reforms put in place by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is building among shippers as they are worried those revisions will lead to higher transportation costs and freight delays.

“The big issue for us is that the revisions practically ignored overall impact of the new rules on our supply chain – both in terms of productivity and safety,” Jon Gold, VP for the National Retail Federation (NRF), told Fleet Owner.

“Retailer supply chains relay heavily on trucks to transport goods from the ports to the distribution centers and from those centers to store shelves in a timely manner,” he explained. “The FMCSA’s revisions will reduce productivity, impose delays, and also be detrimental to highway safety as we’ll have to put more trucks on the road to compensate for those changes.”

“For industries and carriers charged with delivering fresh food, keeping assembly lines running and making deliveries, this rule is concerning and will hurt the economy,” added Rick Schweitzer, NRF’s legal counsel for the amicus brief filing. “With the lack of evidence that it will improve safety, moving forward with this rule will only create more uncertainties in an already cumbersome regulatory environment.”

In particular, Gold said revisions to the 34-hour restart period to now include two consecutive nights off will significantly impact many retailers that rely on night-time driving to move their wares.

“A majority of our members use night-time driving to avoid traffic congestion and thus improve the speed of delivery,” he added. “Now, with the two consecutive night provision, more trucks will have to move during the day at peak congestion times. That also puts more trucks on the road and so affects highway safety.”

“Shippers and transportation providers find the 34-hour restart change particularly burdensome,” added Schweitzer. “It will increase wait times for drivers to return to work and it creates a rigid rest structure, without scientific basis that it will place more trucks on the road during peak driving hours.”

Both the NRF and its National Council of Chain Restaurants division joined a coalition of 15 manufacturers, retailers, agricultural producers, and other groups – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – as well as transportation providers to file an amicus brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals that calls the HOS reforms “arbitrary and capricious.”

The joint friend-of-the-court brief adds to previously filed comments from NRF with the FMCSA during the rulemaking process to express the retail industry’s concerns about both the productivity and safety impact of its revisions to HOS regulations.

“We all support ways to improve highway safety, but we believe we must do it in a sensible manner,” Gold pointed out. “Look at the HOS changes made in 2004: those were heavily contentious and were thought at the time might be exceedingly detrimental to the [trucking] industry. But at the end of the day, those rules made things better and actually improved highway safety significantly. We don’t see the justification then for changing things.” 

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