Productivity problems, rising costs to conduct business, increased crash risks, late deliveries, and pollution are just a few problems groups are stating in response to the FMCSA’s final HOS ruling released on Dec. 22nd.
The ruling chose to maintain the 11-hour daily driving limit but revised the 34-hour restart provision to include two consecutive breaks between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., a decision that would reduce a driver’s work week from 82 to 70 hours.
This decrease in work hours would lead to productivity problems since a reduction would limit a driver’s time on the road, which could cause delivery complications and increased rates for shippers (which trickle down to higher costs for consumers).
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), who received several thousand comments regarding their proposed rule, 8,028 of commenters disagreed with the proposal, especially the restart provision, which has 4,776 disapprovals, and driving time, which had 4,633, resulting in 93 percent of comments being in opposition of the proposal, with only 601 commenters supporting it (http://www.thetrucker.com/News/Stories/2011/12/27/HOSruleresetdespite9to1publicoppositiontochanges.aspx).
Those individuals who submitted comments disagreeing with the FMCSA’s proposal did so for the main arguments that the current hours of service has already proven a reduction in crashes as well as stated that changes would “impose substantial costs on the industry, make night deliveries difficult, increase congestion, and lower driver incomes,” thetrucker.com notes.
These arguments come as no surprise, being something that the American Trucking Associations (ATA) has been arguing for months believing that “by mandating drivers include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. as part of a ‘restart’ period, FMCSA is assuring that every day as America is commuting to work, thousands of truck drivers will be joining them, creating additional and unnecessary congestion and putting motorists and those professional drivers at greater risk. The largest percentage of truck-involved crashes occur between 6 a.m. and noon, so this change not only effectively destroys the provision of the current rule most cited by professional drivers as beneficial, but it will put more trucks on the road during the statistically riskiest time of the day” (http://www.thetrucker.com/News/Stories/2011/12/22/ATAObamaadministrationsfinalHOSruleputssafetyinthebackseat.aspx).
At the same time as defending the current HOS for improving safety on the road, safety advocacy groups including the Truck Safety Coalition, Public Citizen, and Consumer Federation of America, among others, stated that the decline in crashes the ATA is talking about is due to economic recovery, not the HOS, presenting data that showed a direct correlation between economic recovery and the reduction in fatal accidents.
The ATA, however, counteracted the argument believing that crash reduction was not due to the recession since truck vehicle miles traveled (VMT) increased during this time.
Once again, the ATA’s dispute was not received with open arms, with the FMCSA stating that the FHWA had “recently defined that term to mean any vehicle other than a bus with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds,” which “now includes mobile homes, large pickups, cab chassis and various other larger vehicles, most of which are not used by motor carriers, except for short-haul pickups and deliveries,” with “revised VMT numbers showing that combination truck VMT peaked in 2007, fell slightly in 2008 and fell sharply in 2009” (http://www.thetrucker.com/News/Stories/2011/12/28/AtruckisnotalwaysatruckinofficialdataFMCSAsays.aspx).
The ATA, however, continues to contemplate whether they will file a suit or not.
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