Federal Hearings Underway
The trucking industry wants federal regulators to add more flexibility to the amount of time a driver is allowed to spend behind the wheel.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is conducting four sessions on the hours-of-service (HOS) rules. While the lobby for the trucking industry, the American Trucking Association, says the current rules are working, the industry wants more flexibility to the sleeper berth provision, reports the Journal of Commerce.
Many trucks come equipped with sleeping facilities. The current rules let a driver take an eight-hour break in the truck cab as part of the 10-hour rest period that is mandated.
They can stop the 14-hour on-duty clock, rest for eight-hours then still have six hours of driving time left.
The hours-of-service regulations have been controversial since they were first issued in 2003.
In both 2004 and 2007, the courts had vacated the rule saying not enough time had been paid to consider the effects of longer hours on safety. The Bush administration had reissued the rules regardless.
The rules allowed truck drivers to stay behind the wheel up to 11 consecutive hours, up from 10. The off-duty rest and recovery time was cut from a full weekend of 50 hours to a few as 34 hours.
The trucker could spend up to 17 more hours driving each week.
In October, the Obama administration agreed to throw out the controversial proposal after pressure from Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Truck Safety Coalition, and the Teamsters Union.
During its listening session Tuesday, FMCSA also heard from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, made up of those who drive the trucks.
They urged federal regulators to scrap the regulation that increased the number of hours a trucker can drive and opposed raising the maximum driving limit from ten to 11 hours, and have twice led a coalition that challenged it in federal court. The union opposed a 34-hour restart provision, which allows drivers to begin a new work week after they spend 34-hours off-duty.
"The agency issued a rule that favors increasing driver productivity and increasing the profits of motor carriers over driver health and safety,” LaMont Byrd, director of the Teamsters Health and Human Safety Department, said at the FMCSA hearing, reports the Journal of Commerce. “The current rules regarding hours of service, the 34-hour restart provision and the sleeper berth provision must be changed."
To make its point, the American Trucking Association is pointing to an improved safety picture and a dropping rate of truck-involved fatalities in the U.S. in 2008.
The lobby for the trucking industry says that fatalities amounted to 1.86 per 100 million miles, the lowest since 1975 and a drop of 12.3 percent in 2008.
The drop is the largest year-to-year drop on record and the fifth consecutive drop annually.
Why the improved safety picture? The ATA believes that declines to the hours-of-service regulations that took place in 2005 are part of the reason. The truck-involved fatality rate fell more than 20 percent since that year. #