FMCSA Official Says Final Hours-of-Service Rule Still a Year Away

An official with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says she expects it will be at least late 2002 before her agency issues a final hours-of-service rule.

The options for the controversial rule are for the agency to finalize the rule as proposed or to gather more data and issue a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking. “We have made a recommendation to the secretary of transportation, but he will wait until an administrator is in place to act,” said Julie A. Cirillo, chief safety officer of the FMCSA, at a town hall meeting at the 40th International Trucking Show in Las Vegas in June. The meeting was held in conjunction with California Highway Patrol commercial enforcement officers.

Cirillo said it was “pretty clear” from the more than 50,000 comments the agency had received on the proposal “that several issues had caught people’s attention,” including the number of hours in a workday, the definition of a weekend, driver contact during off-duty time, onboard data recorders and driver classifications.

On the NAFTA issue, Cirillo said, “The president is committed to opening the Mexican border by the end of the year.” She noted the agency had introduced proposed rules designed to ensure that Mexican carriers abide by the same rules and standards as U.S. and Canadian carriers.

“We are asking the Mexican carriers to do the same things U.S. and Canadian carriers do,” she said.

One rule would require Mexican carriers to operate for 18 months under provisional authority. During this time, they would undergo a safety audit and demonstrate they can operate in the U.S. safely. Cirillo also said her agency had asked for authority to increase federal inspectors at the border from 238 to 496 over the next year, but funding for that staffing increase was uncertain.

Cirillo also reviewed what she termed “major changes” in the commercial drivers license program which are already in the rulemaking process, including a provision that could disqualify a driver from holding a CDL if he were convicted of certain offenses committed while driving an automobile. The Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 requires these new rules.

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Show manager Roger Sherrard said ITS was down from last year in response to economic conditions. He said the exhibitor count was off 15 percent to 20 percent from last year’s show, but that pre-registration for attendees was about the same. “Pre-registration is very similar to last year, but I think we may be down some in attendance.

“We won’t know our final number of attendees until after the show closes,” Sherrard said, adding that he had heard “a lot of positive feedback so far.”

The California Trucking Association and Arizona Motor Transport Association held a number of committee meetings and educational seminars during the show.

The show will move to a Thursday-Friday-Saturday schedule next year, June 27-29, 2002, Sherrard said.