Proposed Regulation on Hours of Service:Bad Timing, to Say the Least

Hours of Service 49 CFR Part 395 Proposed Rule-Making

Does anyone remember scrambling and bidding for trucks in an auction-like atmosphere during the driver shortage?  Back in the mid-2000’s, when the economy was humming, we did not have enough drivers willing to do the grueling job for the average pay.  After all, it wasn’t that difficult to find a job with roughly equivalent revenue, one where a driver could go home to the wife and kids every night and not pay to shower after eating heat lamp-fried chicken.

If there was a benefit of the great recession, it was alleviating the driver shortage and erasing it from many minds.  However in the meantime, many drivers and carriers have left the industry, taking their equipment with them. 

The recovery of the economy, predicted by some as a 3.5% growth in GDP alone (Amen!), will be enough to tax driver and equipment availability in 2011.   Yet the effects of the new CSA 2010 regulatory changes are predicted to significantly reduce the driver pool and cost the industry millions to re-train  drivers on proper log book procedures.  And, has anybody been to the gas pump recently? 

The new HOS Rules are being challenged by the trucking industry.  They are widely believed to restrict productivity while not increasing their proclaimed aim of increased highway safety.  One proposed legislative change would reduce driving hours from 11 to 10 hour per day. This will also reduce a driver’s estimated gross revenue by 10%, while the fixed cost of operating a truck will remain constant.  This is a significant reduction on net income for drivers, whom few would regard as overcompensated. 

In some instances, transit times and or lead times will be increased.  Drivers will be forced to time out before their allotted 500 miles of driving due to congested areas and waiting time at border crossings and ports.  Carriers may even have to put more trucks on the road to compensate for the lack of production. 

The second major revision targets the restart period.  In addition to the 34 consecutive hours of off-duty time required to start a new week, the proposal mandates two of those periods be between midnight and 6 a.m.  Since many drivers drive through the night and sleep in the day, this will be a major disruption to their sleep cycles.  It will also increase daytime traffic, crowding the roads at rush hours and significantly compromising the revision’s intended safety goal.  Furthermore, any driver can attest to the limited amount of overnight parking, which will be additionally challenged by this revision.

These regulatory changes will have negligible effect on reducing the likelihood of fatigued drivers causing accidents, yet they will heap additional challenges on drivers, carriers, shippers, and the economy-at-large as our nation and the world struggle to tentatively emerge from a historic recession we won’t soon forget.

There’s still time to take action!  The FMCSA is taking comments on this proposal through Feb 28thSubmit your thoughts to the FMCSA here.