A long-awaited proposal to reform the truck driver hours of service rules is finally moving. Last week the Department of Transportation forwarded its comprehensive reform plan to the White House Office of Management and Budget for political and financial review.
The OMB review process is expected to take a month to six weeks, barring any snags, according to a DOT insider.
When OMB is done, the proposal will be published and DOT will seek comments. The comment period will include a series of a half-dozen hearings this spring, held in various cities around the country.
If DOT’s timetable holds, the final rule will be posted late next year.
Details are still closely held, but a source at DOT said truckers will find cause to both love and hate the proposal. Early reports indicate that the rules will be based on a 24-hour clock, divided into 14 hours on-duty and 10 hours off. Drivers would get two hours of break time during their 14 hours on-duty, to be taken at the driver’s discretion. Also, the proposal may include different rules for different kinds of trucking operations. For example, long-haul drivers who are on the road for several nights would get additional time off.
Considering the significance of the proposal, there is the chance of a slowdown at OMB. One industry lobbyist, Timothy Lynch of the Motor Freight Carriers Assn., points out that the rules affect the productivity of an industry that moves 80% of the value of the nation’s goods. Lynch, who represents the major unionized LTL carriers, says the rules don’t need to be changed and plans to enlist shippers and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in his effort to preserve the status quo (see previous story).
The proposal’s move to OMB came over the opposition of American Trucking Associations. ATA President Walter B. McCormick had called on DOT Secretary Rodney Slater to postpone reforms until the new chief of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been confirmed (see previous story).
A DOT source said the proposed rules are based on science, are cost-justified and will set a new standard for hours of service regulation among the transportation modes.