A coalition of 24 groups representing producers, handlers and shippers of perishable fruits and vegetables is petitioning the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to modify hours of service and electronic logging device rules for truck drivers hauling these commodities.
The groups, in their petition dated March 15, say that current hours and ELD rules “have significant effects on perishable produce quality and consumer safety, and contribute to higher volumes of undesirable food waste.” In their petition, the groups request the following modifications:
•Add an allowance for drivers to rest at any point during their trip without counting this rest time against their HOS allotments. The groups say current hours regulations increase the number of drivers who continue driving while fatigued instead of stopping to rest because they cannot stop their 14-hour clock.
“The ability to completely pause the ELD from counting a break, no matter the length, toward HOS whenever the driver needs them, will improve driving performance and road safety without the unnecessary stress of penalties from HOS restrictions,” the groups state.
•Exclude loading and unloading times from the 14-hour on-duty clock. The groups say produce loading and unloading depends heavily on field labor availability and harvesting weather conditions, packinghouse machinery malfunctions and more.
The coalition adds that drivers have reported long load times, sometimes six to eight hours, often result in the need for an immediate 10-hour break, further delaying delivery of the perishable product.
“Allowing loading and unloading times to be excused from the overall 14-hour on-duty HOS calculations outside of the 150-air mile provision could provide much-needed resting time and stress relief to drivers of perishable products,” the group says.
To further address the problems drivers hauling these commodities face, the groups say they support revising the split sleeper berth provisions to allow 5/5, 6/4 and 7/3 splits to fully reset the 14-hour on-duty, 11-hour driving period.
•Allow drivers to complete their trips, regardless of HOS requirements, if they come within 150 miles of their delivery point (as long as delivery is not the same day as the beginning of the haul).
The groups say allowing this would “allow the driver to appropriately take into account the need for safety and the need to rapidly transport perishable fruits and vegetables to their final destination,” and would allow delivery “without sacrificing a produce product’s shelf life while sitting on a truck with the endpoint in sight.”
The petition states that if the requested exemptions cannot be granted, the coalition requests a delay of enforcement of the hours of service and ELD regulations to allow for improvement to the regulations for fruit and vegetable haulers.
The petition has not yet appeared in the Federal Register, so the public comment period is not yet open.