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Changes Proposed for Trucking Regulations
FMCSA proposed trucking regulations may impact the entire supply chain. Hours of service and electronic on-board recorders rules would change schedules and routes.
By DeAnna Stephens Baker
Date Posted: 3/1/2011
Many trucking carriers may soon be making changes to their routes and schedules.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently proposed both a change to the hours-of-service (HOS) requirements and mandatory electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) to monitor drivers’ HOS compliance for commercial truck drivers. These changes could affect the entire supply chain, as they would incur additional costs to the carriers as well as adjustments to shipping timetables.
Hours of Service
According to the FMCSA, the new HOS proposal would require drivers to complete all driving within a 14-hour workday and complete all on-duty work-related activities within 13 hours, allowing for at least a one hour break. While the proposal does not specify a limit of daily driving time, it does favor a 10-hour limit. It would retain the “34-hour restart” provision allowing drivers to restart the clock on their weekly hours by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. However, some provisions would apply.
“A fatigued driver has no place behind the wheel of a large commercial truck,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We are committed to an hours-of-service rule that will help create an environment where commercial truck drivers are rested, alert and focused on safety while on the job.”
Civil penalties for violating this proposed rule would be up to $2,750 for commercial truck drivers for each offense. Penalties for trucking companies that allow their drivers to violate it would be as high as $11,000 for each offense.
Many in the industry see the proposal as harmful to productivity and the economy and have already requested Congress hold a hearing on it. In a letter signed by over 30 organizations, including the American Trucking Association (ATA), Fed Ex, and the National Association of Wholesale-Distributors, industry members said the proposed changes would disrupt the supply chain, noting that many companies have organized delivery schedules and routes around the current regulations, including physically relocating drivers to make the most of the driving time limits.
“Trucking companies, and private carriers with fleets, would need to put additional trucks and drivers on the road to deliver the same amount of freight, adding to final product costs and increasing congestion on the nation’s already clogged highways,” the letter stated. “The significant changes proposed by FMCSA would seriously disrupt parts of the nation’s supply chain and require the business community to incur costly adjustments to their transportation systems – adjustments to make their distribution systems less efficient.”
The ATA also contends that the FMCSA misapplied its own crash numbers so as to elevate driver fatigue as a cause of truck crashes in an effort to rationalize the change in HOS requirements.
“Since the current HOS rules were introduced in 2003, the trucking industry has achieved a continually improving safety record, reaching the lowest fatality and injury rate levels in recorded history,” said ATA president Bill Graves. “It is troubling that this complex, restrictive set of proposed rules is founded on what appears to be incorrect analysis and inflated math.”
Electronic On-board Recorders
The EOBR proposal would require interstate carriers that currently use Records of Duty (RODS) logbooks to document drivers’ HOS to use EOBRs to automatically record the number of hours drivers spend operating the vehicle. Under the proposal, short-haul interstate carriers that use timecards to document HOS would not be required to use EOBRs.
FMCSA estimates, the proposal would affect around 500,000 carriers. FMCSA already mandates EOBRs for interstate carriers with serious patterns of HOS violations and some large carriers have also installed EOBR technology on their fleets. Carriers that violate the requirement would face civil penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense. Noncompliance would also negatively impact a carrier’s safety fitness rating and DOT operating authority.
“This proposal is an important step in our efforts to raise the safety bar for commercial carriers and drivers,” said Anne Ferro, FMCSA administrator. “We believe broader use of EOBRs would give carriers and drivers an effective tool to strengthen their HOS compliance.”
Many small companies and independent drivers disagree, contending that EOBRs cannot accurately and automatically record a driver’s hours of service and duty status as they can only track the movement and location of a truck and require human interaction to record any change of duty status.
“EOBRs are nothing more than over-priced record keepers,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). “This proposal is actually another example of the administration’s determination to wipe out small businesses by continuing to crank out overly burdensome regulations that simply run up costs.”
The comment period on the hours of service proposal closed February 28. Comments on the EOBR proposal will be accepted until April 4. Both proposals and information on how to submit comments are available on FMCSA’s Website, www.fmcsa.dot.gov.