What's wrong with this picture?

Randy Grider | February 01, 2012

Editor’s Journal

 

Randy Grider is editor of Truckers News. Write him at rgrider@randallreilly.com.

 

Latest hours rule does nothing to fix the true problem

Imagine you have a house that was built so out of square and the foundation so far off level that wall pictures are hard to hang properly. While not perfect, you finally get your favorite living room masterpiece adjusted to cover up the house’s overall structural problems. In other words, it works for you.

But then every time you have guests over to your house, they attempt to readjust the picture to suit themselves. They tug at the corners, then stand back a few steps and declare the orientation of the picture to be better. While they can offer “evidence” that their repositioning works best, you know that it doesn’t quite do it for you, but you learn to live with it each time it gets changed.

The best solution would be to fix the foundation and bring the house into square, but that’s an expensive project that no one is willing to undertake. So the cycle of subjectively tweaking the picture continues indefinitely.

That’s basically what continues to happen with trucking’s hours of service. No one wants to fix the structural problems. Instead adjust, readjust, re-readjust …

The latest tweaking of the hours-of-service rule came just before Christmas as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration attempted to sneak in the revamped version during the dead news period of the holiday season.

While the new rule is less drastic than many trucking stakeholders thought it might be with the 11 hours of daily driving limit retained — much to the chagrin of some labor organizations and so-called safety advocates — it contained just enough changes to create potential problems for some segments of the trucking industry. Primarily we are talking about the 34-hour reset provision and the long-haul sector.

As ordered, the 34-hour reset can only be used once is a seven-day period and must include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. off-duty periods. Another adjustment is drivers are limited to eight hours of consecutive driving before they must take a 30-minute break, though the way it is written shortens the actual drive time if the driver is delayed loading or unloading after coming on duty.

Both adjustments to the rule have the potential to affect productivity and possibly even traffic patterns, which could worsen highway congestion. Both will be costly to the industry in software reprograming and driver training.

Now factor in the costs of the next round of litigation, which could come from either side of the hours issue or both. It leaves us wondering if these adjustments are worth the overall price and time spent.

In the end, we believe continuous tweaking doesn’t fix the problems of a structurally flawed system, which pays by miles and regulates by hours.

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