Life On The Road
Hours of Service: the never-ending story
In September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted in part a motion for a stay of the mandate to eliminate the 11-hour daily driving limit and 34-hour restart provisions of the Hours-of-Service regulations governing truck drivers’ work and rest periods.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA), which filed the motion, is awaiting a decision by the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on how they plan to proceed during the 90-day stay granted by the court. ATA officials expressed confidence that the court has provided FMCSA sufficient time to issue an Interim Final Rule that retains the 11-hour driving limit and the 34-hour restart.
ATA says it will continue to urge the agency to proceed to a final rule in a timely manner.
ATA submitted a motion Sept. 6, asking the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for an eight-month stay of its mandate to eliminate the 11-hour daily driving limit and 34-hour restart provisions of the Hours-of-Service regulations, citing serious disruptions to the trucking industry. A July 24 court decision vacated the two HOS provisions, citing various procedural issues identified during the rulemaking process, but did not say that those rules were unsafe.
According to the ATA, the trucking industry and its customers could not instantaneously shift to an hours-of-service regime with a different daily driving limit and without the 34-hour restart. Rather, such a conversion would require months of preparation, says the ATA.
Changes require retraining drivers and operating personnel, reprinting logs and other forms, reprogramming dispatching and electronic onboard recording software, re-engineering routes, addressing customers’ issues, hiring new drivers and purchasing new trucks to compensate for the loss of productivity.
For those of you keeping score at home, the Hours of Service remained virtually unchanged from the 1930s until Oct. 1, 2005, when revised rules went into effect. During the last two years, however, HOS has become a political football as government officials, trucking industry officials, driver associations, public safety groups and others have sought to tweak the new rules in favor of their particular perspective.
This much we know: The number of deaths from large truck-involved crashes declined by 4.7 percent in 2006, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That year was the first full year for which the 2005 Hours of Service regulations were in effect, and the decrease marked the largest drop in 14 years. A study by the American Transportation Research Institute found that most drivers experienced less fatigue and preferred the 11 hours driving, 10 hours off, and 34-hour restart provisions.
In other words, some drivers like the new rules, some don’t. What happens next is anyone’s guess.