Reaction Mixed on New Rule

| April 07, 2005

“What would help the new hours of service is to get freight rates up. Everything else has gone up, but not the freight rates. If they’d get that rate up, we’d be fine with these rules.
They’re trying to regulate our cost of living. They don’t know when we get tired when we’re in that truck.”

Steve Cantrelo
Sulligent, Ala.
Newman Specialized
Seven years OTR

Many truckers and trucking industry organizations have conflicting feelings about the changes to the hours-of-service rule.

Some say the new rule will be changed again before it is ever implemented in eight months. Others say it is a good compromise, and still others say it does not go far enough to solve the problem of driver fatigue.

“We have worked hard all along for a rule that is a good mixture of common sense and sound science,” says Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations president and CEO. “It will allow us to meet the real world operational needs of the trucking industry and most importantly, do so safely.”

ATA officials noted that the new rule reflects components of an earlier ATA proposal by increasing the amount of rest time and promotes the body’s natural 24-hour circadian rhythms, as opposed to the current rule, which is based on an 18-hour day.

“It’s not everything we wanted, but it is a much better rule than we had three years ago,” says David McCorkle of McCorkle Truck Line in Oklahoma, former ATA chairman and head of its HOS committee during the debate on the HOS proposal three years ago. “We can live with this one.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association issued a statement saying that the rule is much better than the one proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation three years ago. But, OODIA says it “will have minimal impact on driver fatigue” because truckers still will be “forced to perform uncompensated work for as many as 33 to 44 hours per week,” referring to time spent waiting and other non-driving activities.

“After almost 65 years of working with regulatory controls that should have been declared obsolete decades ago, this is a pretty sorry excuse for a revision to address today’s problems,” says Jim Johnston, president of OOIDA.

The OOIDA statement says the organization “is grateful to FMCSA for abandoning the most disturbing parts of its initial hours of service proposal, especially the proposal for 24-hour-a-day electronic surveillance of drivers.”

FMCSA says that as it fashioned the new rule following the controversy surrounding the failed 2000 proposal, it gave serious consideration to proposals from ATA and Parents Against Tired Truckers. The final version, says FMCSA, represents a medium between the two proposals.
The compromise didn’t make PATT happy, however. PATT founder Daphne Izer says allowing truckers to drive 11 hours is too much. “Ten hours is too much,” she says. “Studies show after eight hours of driving the number of accidents go up.”

“The FMCSA … is not concerned with the safety of the motoring public,” she says. Izer also questioned FMCSA’s reasoning behind dropping the requirement for electronic on-board recorders, which was part of the 2000 proposal. “On-board recorders are a must,” she says. “How are they going to enforce the hours without them? The logbook is a comic book.”

Like PATT, the National Sleep Foundation found the lack of EOBRs disappointing. The organization says the rule is a step in the right direction but does not do enough to combat fatigue. “Without the ability to monitor and enforce the new rules, they are not likely to be more effective than the rules they replace,” the organization said in a press release.
The rule also drew objections from the industry’s major labor union, the Teamsters. “We oppose the new hours-of-service rule,” says spokesman Rob Black. “It’s already a lot to have 10 hours of driving time. When you add an hour, that can only make for drivers who are more fatigued. A driver that is fatigued is not as safe.”

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