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ATA: DOT dropped 3 chunks of coal on trucking with proposed HOS rule

The proposed HOS rule is full of unnecessary restrictions on truckers, ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said Thursday.

The Trucker News Services

12/23/2010

ARLINGTON, Va. —  The American Trucking Associations said that in a self-described effort to get the Hours of Service “right” for professional truck drivers, the Obama administration missed the mark with its proposed HOS rule and that the Department of Transportation had in essence “dropped three big chunks of coal under trucking’s Christmas tree.”

“The Obama Administration’s proposal is overly complex, chock full of unnecessary restrictions on professional truck drivers and, at its core, would substantially reduce trucking’s productivity,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said.

Graves noted the proposal had three main elements.  He said it would: (1) likely reduce the maximum daily driving time to 10 hours; (2) reduce the maximum daily working time window by an additional hour; and, (3) counter to the government’s news release, abolish the 34-hour restart as it exists today. 

The trucking industry’s safety performance while operating under the HOS rules in place since 2004 “has been remarkable” said Graves.  Crash-related fatalities are down 33 percent from the 2003 level; both fatality and injury crash rates are at their lowest level since the U.S. DOT began keeping records.

Trucking has never been safer, he said.

“When viewed against trucking’s sterling safety record,” Graves said, “it’s plain that the Obama Administration’s willingness to break something that’s not broken likely has everything to do with politics and little or nothing to do with highway safety or driver health.”

The ATA, in a news release, said that hard-pressed to argue safety benefits of further restricting truck driver productivity, the Obama Administration was trying to justify its proposed changes as needed to improve driver health.

A big problem for the Obama Administration, however, is that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration “has consistently gone on record over the last five years with supporting information and data, stating the current rules are having no negative effect on driver health.

“Especially troubling is this administration’s disregard for the negative safety impacts the proposed changes would have – impacts expressly recognized by FMCSA in the past,” Graves said.

As an example, ATA said the FMCSA previously found that the 11th hour of driving time does not increase driver weekly hours; is used for flexibility purposes; does not increase driver-fatigue risks; and that eliminating it would promote more aggressive driving (to meet time constraints) and lead to placing tens of thousands of less experienced drivers on the road who would pose greater crash risks.  With respect to the 34 hour restart, FMCSA has correctly found in the past that requiring two nights of sleep would disrupt drivers’ circadian cycle and add to more daytime driving in congested periods, again increasing crashes.

“FMCSA’s reversal on these crucial matters is hard to explain in other than political terms,” Graves said. 

The changes proposed Thursday “will be enormously expensive for trucking and the economy” he added.

The ATA release noted that  FMCSA estimated, just two years ago, costs of over $2.2 billion if the daily drive time was reduced by  one hour and the restart provision was significantly changed.

“This proposal includes even more restrictions than what FMCSA previously considered,” said Graves, and “as a result, we will be evaluating FMCSA’s proposed costs and benefits very carefully.”

For more information on the HOS rules for professional truck drivers, visit www.SafeDriverHours.com

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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