Hours of Service Proposal Unacceptable, says NASSTRAC

The proposed Hours of Service changes put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in December 2010 would have a negative impact on over-the-road transportation and would severely cripple supply chain operations, according to NASSTRAC, an industry association that represents the interests of freight shippers in all modes of transportation. On Friday, March 4, NASSTRAC submitted its comments on FMCSA’s proposed changes to the rules jointly with The Health and Personal Care Logistics Conference.

NASSTRAC urged the FMCSA to preserve the current hours of service rules, which it stated, have significantly improved the trucking industry’s safety performance.

“Shippers and carriers alike feel that FMCSA should not adopt significant changes in rules that are working unless the benefits clearly and substantially outweigh the inevitable costs and burdens of further modifications of the rules,” said John Cutler, NASSTRAC's legal counsel. “Clearly, that standard has not been met here.”

Cutler emphasized that NASSTRAC does not oppose efforts to improve safety on highways, but that the current rules have served both safety interests and economic interests effectively. In fact, the current HOS rules that were adopted in 2003 have helped to reduce truck-related crash fatalities by 33 percent and truck-related crash injuries by 39 percent, according to Cutler.

“Highway travel overall is safer and the trucking industry's safety record has been particularly praiseworthy in recent years,” Cutler added. “That being said, implementing the current rules has not come without costs and burdens for motor carriers and as well as shippers. If the hours of service regulation is not done right, it will hurt the trucking industry, shipping customers, and the economy in general. Therefore, it’s critical that the FMCSA avoid unnecessary, uncalled-for and unwise regulation.”

NASSTRAC's filing states that, under the proposed rules, the trucking industry would need to secure 180,000 additional drivers and trucks just to maintain current service levels. The filing also underscores that the FMCSA has overstated projected benefits and that flaws exist in the agency's cost analysis. In fact, NASSTRAC supports the critique of errors of analysis and mathematics in the Feb. 15 review prepared for the American Trucking Association by Edgeworth Economics.

“FMCA admits that it is not sure whether it should reduce maximum driving time to 10 hours [reduced by mandated breaks] or keep the limit at 11 hours [but mandate breaks],” Cutler added. “The reality is that other aspects of these proposed changes make them all unacceptable.”

Cutler suggested that these rules not only reduce productivity but they ignore FMCSA's own CSA and electronic onboard recorder (EOBR) programs, which should enhance safety without changing hours of service rules.

“The agency's thinking seems to be that truck drivers are like brick layers building walls,” he concluded. “At the end of the day, if the job isn't finished, the brick layer can simply leave the wall partially finished and come back after a good night’s sleep to pick up where the project was left off. Truck drivers cannot operate this way. It’s critical that hours of service regulation address the realities of over-the-road trucking and the needs of the marketplace.”

To view NASSTRAC's filing, visit www.NASSTRAC.org and click “Access Recent Filings.”

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