Industry associations and safety groups all reacted negatively to the new hours of service rules proposed yesterday by the Dept. of Transportation. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates the rule will cost $3.4 billion over 10 years but that 2,600 crashes, 115 fatalities and almost 3,000 injuries will be avoided. It estimates that the benefits will be $ 6.8 billion.
But the American Trucking Assns. opposed the new rules, saying they would require thousands of additional drivers and trucks to meet current delivery schedules.
Last fall, ATA announced its own proposal to increase rest time for drivers: 14 hours on-duty in 24 hours, requiring at least 10 hours off between shifts.
Industry officials also expressed concern about recording devices invading the privacy of truckers and said anyone who would fail to keep an honest logbook could also tamper with a recorder.
''This proposal could mean a 50 percent increase in the number of refrigerated and dry van trucks on our already crowded highways; that translates into as many as 180,000 additional drivers and trucks on the road just to keep the current economy moving,'' said ATA president Walter B. McCormick, Jr. ''This all adds up to a threat to the U.S. economy and American jobs.''
The current ''just-in-time'' operations that depend on arrival of parts at factories and goods at stores when needed require flexible trucking schedules, he said.
Safety groups like giving drivers more rest time and putting them on a 24-hour cycle. But they worry that the cumulative effect of 12-hour driving days will result in a significant increase of hours over two-week periods.
"The bad thing is that drivers become fatigued after the sixth, seventh or eighth hour. Rest breaks do not promote recovery," said Gerald Donaldson, senior research director of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
Jackie Gillan of AHAS said allowing 12 consecutive hours of driving would make ''drivers even more exhausted and will result in an increased risk of fatigue-related crashes.''
And Parents Against Tired Truckers issued a statement saying the group was ''stunned'' that the department was proposing to allow longer hours.
But the American Insurance Association backed the new government proposal as a needed step in reducing highway fatalities and injuries.
FMSCA is now seeking comments on the proposal. ''We are open to suggestions and we will be listening,'' Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said.
The agency hopes to have work on the rule completed by the end of the year and plans to schedule hearings in Atlanta, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Mo., Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and the Springfield, Mass.-Hartford, CT. area.