Federal Update
Rest when tired, drive when rested
Will the new hours-of-service rules give you the flexibility you need to operate safely and efficiently?

By David Tanner, associate editor

Truckers need flexibility during their work day to rest when tired and to drive when rested. Small-business trucker Ed Stocklin made that point on behalf of OOIDA during a hearing on the new hours-of-service rules that are scheduled to take effect July 1.

The 35-year trucking professional from Wauna, Wash., who specializes in over-dimensional hauls across the country, urged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to allow truckers some room to complete their work day safely and without being pressured to drive through bad weather and traffic jams.

“Flexibility does not mean allowing truckers to drive when tired,” the OOIDA life member stated in his testimony for the June 18 hearing.

“It means giving the trucker the ability to rest when they need to and to drive when they are rested,” he said. “Nothing should come in the way of me stopping to take a rest break, yet truckers commonly face this as we are placed between inflexible customer and regulatory demands, demands that will only become more inflexible starting July 1.”

The FMCSA, in response to a petition filed by safety advocates in 2003, issued a final HOS rule in 2011 that takes effect July 1.

The rule keeps the driving limit at 11 hours in a 14 consecutive hour period. Drivers may only drive if less than eight hours have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty period or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes. The regulation will restrict a 34-hour restart to every 168 hours (seven days). The rule also calls for two periods of rest between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. and upholds the 60-hour and 70-hour on-duty limits for the work week.

OOIDA’s 150,000 members have a unique perspective because they average a quarter-century of experience and 2 million miles under their belts, Stocklin stated.

Issues such as detention time at the docks are of great concern to truckers, who are paid by the mile but can be delayed by those in the supply chain who are not accountable for that wasted time.

“This detention time is usually uncompensated throughout the industry, especially for small carriers like me who do not have the major negotiating power of large fleets,” Stocklin stated.

Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Tom Petri, R-Wis., and ranking Democrat Peter DeFazio of Oregon both highlighted the detention issue in their remarks.

Dollars and sense
In response to questions from committee members about the practicality of changing the hours-of-service rules, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro stated the agency’s main goal of safety and saving lives. She said the HOS changes would save at least 19 lives.

Small-business truckers, who also state safety as a top priority, are concerned about the cost to them in the agency’s quest to reduce crashes, injuries and deaths.

“Despite the important role played by a safe and knowledgeable driver, the attention of regulations from the Department of Transportation across the past several years and administrations has largely been focused on increasing restrictions on drivers and adding costs to trucking companies through mandated technologies,” Stocklin stated in his testimony.

“These costs and restrictions hit small carriers the hardest, despite the clear economic incentive that small truckers like myself have to drive safely. If we get in an accident, regardless of fault, it is our truck that is in the shop. We have to pay out of pocket to get it fixed, and we will not be out there hauling freight and earning money until it is fixed. The downtime alone can mean bankruptcy for owner-operators.”

Truckers do not want to see a one-size-fits-all approach to regulations, given that trucking businesses are dynamic and vary from local to cross-country in countless configurations of equipment.

“While not all demands are under DOT’s control, and not everything is going to be fixed by this rule, the more that you chip away at a driver’s flexibility, the more difficult the task is for them to deal with the challenges that they face out there,” OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bowley told Land Line following the hearing. LL