Trucking org calls for removal of hours reform in Senate bill, says ELDs should guide new rules

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Updated May 8, 2016

hours truck eveningThe Trucking Alliance issued a statement May 2 urging Congress to forgo the recently unveiled changes to hours of service regulations for truck drivers and to wait on the implementation of the coming electronic logging device mandate before issuing any reforms to hours of service regs.

The May 2 letter comes in response to provisions included in the Senate’s 2017 Department of Transportation funding bill relating to hours of service rules. In short, the bill could set a new 73-hour cap on the amount of hours truckers can work in a consecutive seven-day period following a 34-hour restart. The new cap would be contingent on a pending study by the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Should the study find the hours rules currently in effect are safer than those in effect between July 2013 and December 2014, the 73-hour cap would take effect. For more details on the potential changes, see prior Overdrive coverage at this link.

The Trucking Alliance, a lobbying and advocacy group representing a few large national carriers like JB Hunt, Maverick USA, Knight Transportation and others, says in its May 2 statement it favors keeping language in the bill to retain the 34-hour restart — in short, fixing a technical issue created by a 2015-enacted bill. Its beef lies with the 73-hour cap, which it wants removed from the bill’s text.

The 73-hour cap would be “counterproductive to truck driver safety” and could set a dangerous precedent of politicizing trucking regulations by circumventing FMCSA and the traditional rulemaking process, the Alliance says. Scientific data should dictate hours regs, the group argues, not politics.

“Congress has mandated that interstate trucking companies install electronic logging devices by December 2017 to verify truck driver hours-of-service compliance. The statistical data produced by this technology should guide future changes in truck driver hours of service rules, rather than a political decision by Congress,” the group says in its statement.

Additionally, the Alliance says, the new rules would “create widespread confusion throughout the industry,” given the already existing limits of 60 driving hours in seven days and 70 hours in eight days.

As noted in Overdrive’s prior coverage of the restart changes, the hours changes floated by the Senate still have major hurdles to clear before becoming law, and the provisions must face multiple amendment processes in both the Senate and the House. The provisions are susceptible to change at any of those points and could still ultimately be left out of a larger omnibus spending bill, should Congress choose that over the piecemeal spending packages currently in the works.

Other prominent trucking lobbyists, like the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, have not made their positions known on the changes. ATA told Overdrive via email last month it “appreciates the recognition” by Senate appropriators that the technical glitch included in the December-passed 2016 omnibus appropriations law needed clarification. The “glitch” could have removed the 34-hour restart from hours regs, according to some interpretations.

Likewise, OOIDA told Overdrive via email it “appreciate[s] lawmakers maintaining the 34-hour restart” as an option for truck operators.

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