On the Road

What happens when the facts show FMCSA goofed?

August 7, 2013

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The new hours of service rules will cause more crashes than they prevent.
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."

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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.  

Comments

  1. 1. Dino [ August 08, 2013 @ 03:49AM ]

    what is happening too with the new HOS is our drivers are becoming MORE tired - giving them less hours to get the same loads and miles done - more rules to fulfill my guys are saying it is forcing them to drive at hours they would rather not be on the road, and keeping the door shut to get those miles in with less breaks then taking breaks when they don't need them right in the middle of traffic and no parking. This has been the worst rule change and most dangerous I have ever seen.

  2. 2. Dan Metzger [ August 08, 2013 @ 05:51AM ]

    Well said I agree all the way with this posting...

  3. 3. Kevin J. Reidy [ August 08, 2013 @ 08:40AM ]

    Drivers are forced to move once that clock starts. Forced to drive in rush-hour traffic. Forced to drive instead of waiting out weather. Forced to drive instead of taking a two-hour nap.

    The last set of new rules before the current changes forced drivers to become automatons instead of flesh-and-blood, forced to be nothing but cogs in the machine that never tire, never get sick, never are anything except 'data points' to some person doing a study that never spent one minute in this industry.

    And there isn't a regulator that gives a crap about drivers. Oh they say great words about how much they care about us, but their massive indifference to what we in the industry as drivers have pleaded for them to address goes totally ignored by them.

  4. 4. JR [ August 08, 2013 @ 03:21PM ]

    I sure am missing my afternoon nap. Zzzzzz down the road I guess!!!

  5. 5. Dave Wise [ August 09, 2013 @ 08:38AM ]

    Well thought out and true Jim.I just moved from the truck to a dispatch position.I wasn't tired of trucking but I was tired of the increased bs that does not;as you stated;improve safety. I have over 30 years of driving under my belt and was a much safer driver later in my career than earlier because I anticipated things much better. I also took a nap when I felt like I neede to and made the book look right. The 14 hour clock is a detriment to safety

  6. 6. Decker [ August 12, 2013 @ 06:42PM ]

    Politicians always feel responsible to do something, but never feel responsible when they screw things up.

  7. 7. OL [ August 21, 2013 @ 03:42AM ]

    I'm going out of business selling my equipment can't take it anymore..and might be on walfare is that what they want?

  8. 8. Connie [ April 02, 2014 @ 02:13PM ]

    Any time the government regulates an industry. it falls apart. I am about done with trucking, 34 years 3 million miles. I cant take all of the stupid rules any more. they have no idea how this world works. and how important trucks are in this world. you can't cure stupid. just sense the July 1 new hours I have lost $12,000 Dollars, of my INCOME and I am just a company driver. I can only think how hard it is hitting the owner operators. THE BACK BONE OF THIS COUNTRY.

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Author Bio

Jim Park

Equipment Editor

Truck journalist 13 years, commercial driver 20 years. Joined us in 2007. Specializes in technical/equipment material (including Tire Report), brings real-world perspective to test drives.

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