Hours regs debated at opening session

Comments at Jan. 19’s opening session of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s review of the hours of service rule ranged from a request to keep the existing rules to urging a rewrite.
Representing the status quo at the session in Arlington, Va., David Osiecki, senior vice president of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at American Trucking Associations, said the hours rules are based on extensive research and analysis and should be retained in their current form.
“The safety concerns hypothesized by trucking industry critics and those groups opposed to the current rules have simply failed to occur in the real world,” Osiecki said. “In January 2009, in a comprehensive response to these organizations, FMCSA strongly refuted these hypotheses with data and rational explanations. Absent new data, these predictions must continue to be rejected by FMCSA and DOT and should, in no way, be a basis for any proposed changes. In rulemaking and in litigation, FMCSA and DOT have said repeatedly that facts, not perception, must support the rules.”
Gerald Donaldson, senior research director for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said too much driving and work time is permitted under the rules. “It is appalling that well into the 21st century we are still using these workers as though they were 19th century laborers,” he said.
Donaldson’s group, along with the Teamsters union, Public Citizen and the Truck Safety Coalition, opposes the current rules. LaMont Byrd, director of the Teamsters’ Health and Safety department, said the union is against the part of the rule that allows drivers to restart the work cycle after only 34 hours off duty.
“The agency issued a rule that favors increasing driver productivity and increasing the profits of motor carriers over driver health and safety,” Byrd said. “The current rules regarding hours of service, the 34-hour restart provision and the sleeper berth provision must be changed.”
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association was represented by Rod Nofziger, director of government affairs, who called for more flexibility in the regulations. He stated drivers should be allowed to take breaks without the time counting against the daily working hours. He repeated OOIDA’s support for compensating drivers for time spent waiting to be loaded or unloaded.
“To give you an idea of how significant the detention time problem is: Industry surveys have estimated upwards of 40 hours per truck per week is wasted waiting to be loaded and unloaded,” Nofziger said.
“In fact, as a part of the Motor Carrier Efficiency Study, your agency has identified loading and unloading as the most cited inefficiency in trucking, costing the industry an estimated $3 billion per year and society over $6.5 billion annually,” Nofziger noted.
Steve Keppler, interim executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, struck a middle ground. He said the current rules are easy to understand and enforce, and those conditions should be considered in any rewrite of the rules.