Little hours rewrite support at congressional hearing

A Nov. 30 congressional hearing on the proposed hours-of-service rule indicated most subcommittee members believe it would represent an unjustified financial burden on the trucking industry.

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending held “The Price of Uncertainty: How Much Could DOT’s Proposed Billion Dollar Service Rule Cost Consumers This Holiday Season?”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has said it expects to issue the delayed final rule before Dec. 28.

Among subcommittee members, the only backing for the proposal appeared to be from Rep. Dennis Kucinich, (D-Ohio) and Rep. Jackie Speier, (D-Calif.), who hosted a pre-hearing press conference in favor of it.

Kucinich used Nagle Companies’ safety record to make a point, as Ed Nagle III, head of the Ohio-based company, was a hearing witness. Nagle’s driver out-of-service record is 10.2 percent, compared with the national average of 5.5 percent.

Nagles said that by the last FMCSA audit, he had fired most of the problem drivers and issued a last warning to the ones who remained. Some of the drivers’ HOS violations resulted from time spent seeking available truck parking after being detained during a pick-up or delivery, he said.

Nagles took the initiative to deal with the drivers, which illustrates the system is working, said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho). The current rule would be more effective if it were better enforced, he said.

Representatives and witnesses noted experts have said many more drivers would be needed under the proposed rule. Labrador, whose career includes working as a dump truck driver, asked why the driver shortage exists in the face of high unemployment.

An explanation was offered by Frank Miller, logistics director for Florida-based W.S. Badcock Corp., who testified on behalf of the National Retail Federation. “I have to go through 500 applications to put one qualified driver in a truck,” Miller said.

Jesse David, a senior vice president at consulting firm Edgeworth Economics, also testified. The American Trucking Associations hired his firm to review the FMCSA’S Regulatory Impact Analysis for the upcoming rule.

The agency had made significant cost-benefit efforts, numerous additional unsupported assertions and methodological errors, all of which further inflated the forecasted benefits, David said. ”I find that the new rule would result in a net cost of $320 million annually, rather than a net benefit of $380 million annually, as calculated by FMCSA,” he wrote.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro FMCSA said the agency had “provided an unparalleled level of transparency” in creating the rule.

Officials considered crash data and scientific literature on driver fatigue, along with feedback provided by industry stakeholders serving on the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Administration Committee and gathered in nationwide listening sessions.

“A rule cannot ensure that drivers will be rested, but it can ensure that they have enough time off to obtain adequate rest on a daily and weekly basis,” Ferro said.

Representatives of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, American Bakers Association and Food Marketing Institute also testified.