Hours regs reduce flexibility, productivity for little gain, reps say

TruckerTim0095 - sleeper - sleep hoursAt a House subcommittee hearing held June 18, trucking industry stakeholders told members of Congress that the hours of service rules set to be implemented July 1 do not offer flexibility needed for a diverse industry like trucking and do nothing to address conditions outside the control of drivers and fleets, like detention time, weather and traffic congestion.

The highways and transit subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.), began the hearing by saying that trucking companies have told him a “one-size-fits-all approach” does not give the industry nor specific companies the flexibility needed to adequately measure when drivers need rest and when they don’t, but instead forces industry-wide rigidity.

Examples, he said, include when a driver detained at a shipper or receiver waiting to load or unload must count that time spent sitting as on-duty.

Edward Stocklin, an owner-operator testifying on behalf of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the agency did not take the opportunity it had to give trucker’s the flexibility they need to plan their own schedules. Stocklin said drivers are always facing an “unstoppable 14-hour clock” that does not forgive drivers for waiting out bad weather, car accidents or detention at a shipper. “[Flexibility] means give us the ability to drive when rested and rest when tired,” Stocklin said.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Anne Ferro defended the rule, saying it did give drivers and fleets flexibility. She also said requests to delay implementation of the rule were denied because they did not include “adequate support” for postponement.

Joan Claybrook, an outspoken advocate for further restricting the hours truckers can work, said the new rule “falls short of making the necessary improvements for safety that are needed to reduce the annual toll of truck-involved crash deaths and injuries as outlined by the court.”

Steve Williams, representing the American Trucking Associations, called the rule “arbitrary and capricious,” saying that it is based on pre-2003 data  â€” the first year that drivers hours of service limits saw rulemaking since 1938. Williams is owner of Maverick USA.

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Commercial Vehicle SAfety Alliance president Mark Savage did not necessarily discredit the rules inherently, but said that without electronic onboard recorders, inspectors will have trouble enforcing them.

—James Jaillet contributed to this report.

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