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FMCSA’s Ferro pushes back against Maine Senator’s reported amendment to put ‘restart’ on hold for year

The headline of Ferro’s blog on DOT’s “Fast Lane” site says, “Congress Shouldn’t Roll Back Safety; the Steps We’ve Taken Keep Tired Truckers Off the Road.”

The Trucker Staff

6/4/2014

WASHINGTON — Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief Anne Ferro has pushed back against a reported move by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to suspend the restart portion of Hours of Service for a year while a study is done on it.

The headline of Ferro’s blog on DOT’s “Fast Lane” site says, “Congress Shouldn’t Roll Back Safety; the Steps We’ve Taken Keep Tired Truckers Off the Road.” The blog (click here to read what she says) posts several pictures of truck crashes and over-turned tractor-trailers.

Ferro continued that “The current Hours of Service include common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety by reducing the maximum average work week for truckers to 70 hours from 82 hours and requiring a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of their shift.

“We carefully considered the public safety and health risks of long work hours and solicited input from everyone who has a stake in this important issue, including victims’ advocates, truck drivers and companies. The result is a balanced Hours of Service rule with analysis showing that the changes save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year …”

Collins said late Tuesday that while neither truck drivers nor their customers nor herself ever want to see an accident caused by driver fatigue, the new rules, which FMCSA said were designed to curb fatigue, have presented some unintended consequences.

Collins was responding to information contained in an e-mail sent late Tuesday by the Capitol Hill office of the American Trucking Associations indicating that Collins was preparing to introduce legislation to suspend the controversial restart provision.

“Be advised, Sen. Susan Collins intends to offer a proposal before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, June 5, providing an opportunity to impact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s harmful new trucking Hours of Service “restart rule,” the notice read.  “The new rule has placed economic hardships on countless employers and reduced drivers’ wages throughout the motor carrier industry.  As such, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee need to hear from you on this important issue ASAP!”

The notice called for ATA members to support the HOS Restart Study Amendment, which would suspend the “restart” provisions in the new driver HOS rules while a one-year study of the rules is undertaken.

A spokesperson for Collins in a statement to The Trucker stopped short of saying that the senator’s amendment would suspend the restart rule.

“What has become clear during the past 11 months is that new federal rules have presented some unintended consequences that may not be in the best interest of public safety, truck drivers, and the businesses and consumers who depend on their services,” Collins’ spokesman said. “In particular, there is increasing concern that the regulations affecting overnight driving are actually resulting in more trucks being on the road during congested, daytime hours, raising important issues that deserve more study.  These issues prompted the Federal Highway Administration to announce a federally funded grant program to examine how truck deliveries during times when there is less traffic on the roads can improve air quality and create more livable cities.”

The spokesman said that Ferro had testified before Congress that the agency’s field study did not consider the unintended consequences and safety concerns of forcing more trucks to travel during congested, daytime hours.  Nor did it address how this rule could affect overnight drivers, forcing them onto the road at a time when they would otherwise be resting, he said.

“While Senator Collins is still working on specific details of her amendment, her goal is to work out a compromise that continues important and responsible safety measures but also addresses these unintended consequences that the FMCSA has acknowledged,” the spokesman said.

Safety advocates have accused Collins of attempting an end-run around the federal rulemaking process to appease the trucking industry, The Hill reported.

Collins’ amendment is likely to be attached to a $54 billion funding bill for the Transportation Housing and Urban Development Department or THUD.

“I have whiplash — one month ago I was in the White House celebrating vital improvements to reduce truck driver fatigue and now my own senator is using her power as a ranking member on the THUD Appropriations Subcommittee to undo a rule which will result in more overly tired truckers on our roads,” said Daphne Izer, the founder of Parents Against Tired Truckers in a statement ahead of a Senate hearing on the THUD bill.

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

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