HOS Reform

More than two years after its last attempt to overhaul hours-of-service rules failed, the Department of Transportation has restarted the process.

On Jan. 3, the agency submitted to the White House changes to regulations that govern the hours truckers can work. The White House Office of Management and Budget must clear any rulemaking before it is made public, and a review of controversial measures can take months.

The most recent action follows a joint lawsuit that seeks to force the DOT to address safety issues that the four petitioners say are years overdue.

Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers and Teamsters for a Democratic Union said the Congress had passed several laws requiring the federal transportation department to issue final rules by a certain date. The department had not met those deadlines, which the petitioners want enforced.

In addition to hours of service reform the groups seek:

  • A final rule on minimum training requirements for driving longer-combination vehicles.
  • Training standards for entry-level commercial driver’s license holders.
  • Authorization requirements for transporting hazardous waste.
  • Background checks for new CDL holders.
  • Implementation of staffing standards at international borders.

    The petitioners said that the department has missed the congressional deadlines set in each case by as much as 11 years.

    The most recent attempt to revamp hours of service came in May 2000. The proposal separated regulated drivers into five types of operations: Long-haul, regional, local, local-split shift and those whose primary work is not driving. It also contained a controversial requirement for automatic on-board recorders to replace paper logs.

    Under FMCSA’s May 2000 proposal, long-haul and regional drivers would have been allowed 12 hours driving time per workday – an increase over the current 10 hours. But 12 hours also was the maximum on-duty time as well, so all waiting, loading and unloading would have taken away from driving time.

    In addition, FMCSA would have mandated 10 consecutive hours of rest plus another two hours of rest during each workday. In general, maximum total driving hours per week would have dropped to 60 hours from the current 70.

    Another controversial proposal was for a mandatory minimum weekend of 32 to 56 hours, depending on when the driver went off duty. Weekends had to consist of two consecutive midnight to 6 a.m. periods. Many carriers and owner-operators branded that idea as unworkable in practice.

    – Avery Vise and Jill Dunn