Bill introduced to provide ‘narrow’ relief from HOS rules

Three semis on lot

WASHINGTON — A bill introduced Thursday in the U.S. House would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to provide narrow relief from the Hours of Service rules has drew immediate praise from two trucking organizations.

Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., along with Reps. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., and Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., introduced the Honest Operators Undertake Road Safety Act, or HOURS Act, that the ATA said would provide common sense HOS relief and flexibility for professional truck drivers while enhancing highway safety and supply chain efficiency.

No text of the bill was available Friday morning, but an American Trucking Associations summary said the HOURS Act would provide relief in four areas:

  • Exempting drivers hauling livestock or agricultural products from the hours-of-service rules within 150 air-miles of the source of their load, regardless of state-designated planting or harvesting season.
  • Harmonizing the HOS rules for short-haul truck drivers by providing one single set of rules: exempting drivers from ELD requirements if they operate exclusively within 150 air-miles of their reporting location and complete their workday in 14 hours, ending the current two-tiered system.
  • Reducing the current supporting documents burden for drivers to only verify the start and end time of a driver’s daily on-duty period.
  • Accelerating the FMCSA’s already-in-progress efforts to provide flexibility in how drivers who take off-duty periods in sleeper berths split their rest time.

“Now that the trucking industry is coming into full compliance with the electronic logging mandate, the next step in improving truck safety and supply chain efficiency is to use the data these ELDs collect to make needed improvements to the underlying hours-of-service rules,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “Congressman Crawford has been a leader on these issues, and a passionate advocate for drivers and carriers of all sizes, so we are proud to support this important legislation that will provide flexibility for millions of drivers while enhancing truck safety.”

Since the December shift to mandatory use of electronic logging devices to track drivers’ hours of service, there have been some issues for the industry – not about ELD use, but about the flexibility of the underlying HOS rules.

“We support this effort to speed up the opportunity to add flexibility to the Hours of Service rule. Drivers need the ability to stop and rest when they are tired without the pressure of the 14-hour clock continuing to run,” said David Heller, vice president of government affairs at the Truckload Carriers Association. “This bill also helps keep conversations about Hours of Service on the minds and lips of lawmakers.”

“Many complaints associated with ELDs are really issues with the HOS rules themselves — issues that were papered over by inaccurate or falsified logbooks,” said Collin Stewart, president and CEO of Stewart Transport Inc. “ELDs have made it more difficult for drivers to ‘fudge’ their logs, but have also shown where the weaknesses in the HOS rules are. The solution proposed ny the bill is a reasonable one and we urge Congress to quickly move on it.”

Stewart is chairman of ATA’s Small Carrier Advisory Committee and a member of the board of directors of the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference.

“Congressmen Crawford, Westerman and Bishop have provided a roadmap for improving the current hours-of-service rules, while maintaining the safety of our highways,” Spear said. “This narrow and targeted relief would improve the lives of millions of professional drivers and we ask Congress to support it.”

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