The new hours of service rules will cause more crashes than they prevent.
Take it from someone with 20 years and 2 million over-the-road miles; FMCSA's new HOS rules will not lower trucking's crash rate. They'll do nothing to improve safety, and they won't make drivers less tired. A more likely outcome will be an increase in the number of crashes. Then what?
Dateline: WASHINGTON, August 2, 2015 -- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration today unveiled a supplementary rule to The Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule that went into effect July 1, 2013. In an effort to combat the increasing number of truck crashes in the 48 months since the new rule was announced, the Agency says it will limit driving hours to 8 per day following a minimum of 12 hours off duty. The new rule will limit nighttime driving 6 hours between the hours of 10 PM and 6 AM, and drivers will be limited to no more than 48 hours of driving in a 7-day period.
FMCSA says the shocking increase in the number of truck crashes calls for harsh and decisive action to curb what it calls a "flagrant and callous disregard for the safety of the motoring public."
Citing crash statistics gathered over the previous 18 months, the Agency says truck drivers have been involved in a rash of side-swipe, follow-to-close and right-turn crashes, which it blames on inattentiveness brought on by driving in a fatigued state...
That's a fictious press clipping, of course, but I have every reason to believe we will see an increase in the crash rate over the next few years, to which FMCSA is bound to respond with harsher and more restrictive rules.
That potential increase in the crash rate will have little to do with fatigue, rather, the influx of newer and inexperienced drivers recruited to replace the senior and seasoned drivers who have abandoned trucking in search of greener, less restrictive and less punitive pastures.
What FMCSA has chosen to ignore in its rush to save the motoring public from itself by restricting trucking's ability to move freight, is that more drivers will be required to make up for the reductions in productivity. More importantly, and clearly completely unconsidered by our regulators, is that drivers who face increased trip times for the same wage, restrictive rest requirements and more fines for inconsequential administrative violations will leave the industry to find gainful employment elsewhere.
What the brain trust over at 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE has ignored or forgotten is that we already have a shortage of qualified drivers. Working the existing labor pool to more exacting schedules to meet the constraints imposed by the new HOS rules isn't going to improve their already bottomed-out morale.
Bringing new drivers on-line is going to increase risk. Bless their hearts, new drivers -- even the well trained ones -- lack the experience of the drivers who will be packing up and leaving. You can't just replace one body with another and expect the same performance -- witness the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain.
New drivers will knock things over, they will get themselves into situations experienced drivers would naturally avoid and they will make mistakes. That's not a condemnation of new drivers; it's reality. New workers in any field face a steep learning curve for the first few years. Stuff is going to happen.
I worry about how the regulators and the press will spin such 'stuff.' An increase in crashes calls for action. What that action might be is frightening. A knee-jerk response is likely, and those typically are not well thought out. With the safety advocates howling outside the door, FMCSA isn't likely to respond warmly to an I-told-you-so admonishment from trucking.
I think these new rules are completely uncalled for and will hurt trucking's productivity, along with its ability to retain skilled drivers -- at least not without corresponding increases in compensation.
For all the bluster about HOS making highways safer -- even more so with EOBRs -- the new HOS rules will prove a classic regulatory fail. Like Prohibition and all its noble but misguided intentions, all the time and money spent justifying this ill-considered and agenda-driven rule, all the lost productivity (“between $500 million and $1.4 billion” if ATA has it right), and all the hoops industry will jump through will go up in smoke only because a handful of militant idealists think the way to make trucking safer is to nail one of our feet to the floor.