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Hours of Service Reg Likely to Take Effect As-Is, NPTC Legal Counsel Says

May 1, 2013

By Tom Berg

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Revised hours-of-service rules being contested by trucking and outside parties will probably be adopted as presented by federal authorities, the National Private Trucking Council’s staff lawyer, Rick Schweitzer, told attendees at the group’s annual meeting this week in Cincinnati.

Court of Appeals judges did not seem inclined to change anything during a March 15 hearing considering the American Trucking Associations’ suit against a 30-minute break provision in the rule, he said.  Nor did they seem sympathetic toward a complaint against the 11-hour driving period by the safety advocacy group, Public Citizen.

In a long legal saga, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had revised its Hours of Service proposals after suits from Public Citizen and others. The revisions issued last December by FMCSA failed to completely please anyone, thus the latest suits.

Public Citizen’s complaint had been consolidated with the ATA suit, and ATA, NPTC and other groups contested it, thereby supporting the 11-hour driving time.

One non-trucking group arguing for the 11-hour rule in the federal court proceedings was the United States Chamber of Commerce, which stated that shortening a driver’s time at the wheel would have adverse impact on the national economy, Schweitzer said.

“This is not just a trucking rule, but affects the cost of every product manufactured and distributed in the U.S.,” the Chamber argued in its brief.

“So,” Schweitzer said, “plan on the rules going into effect on July 1as written,” but keep in mind that it might change before then.

The HOS developments were among the NPTC staff legal counsel’s annual legislative and regulatory update to the group’s members. Other activities, he said, include:

  • Electronic on-board recorders, or EOBRs – The agency is preparing regs that guard against harassment of drivers by inspectors and law enforcement people. Lack of harassment safeguards caused FMCSA to withdraw a proposed rule in the face of legal challenges.
  • Electronic logging devices, or ELDs – ATA has sued over whether paperwork supporting off-duty time is required. As of now, FMCSA’s rule on ELDs does not require it. This is proceeding in court.
  • Driver training – A proposed rule requiring minimum training for new drivers of heavy trucks would have required 76 hours of classroom instruction and 44 hours of behind-the-wheel training to earn a Class A Commercial Driver’s License. A final rule was to be published last year and go into effect in July of this year, but FMCSA has withdrawn it because it cannot show how the training would enhance safety.

“This agency is scrambling and, frankly, floundering, in trying to come up with a rule” that would accomplish its goals, Schweitzer said. Meanwhile, FMCSA is holding listening sessions with affected parties around the country to learn about training that actually works. And it is seeking advice from a safety advisory committee.

  • National registry of certified medical examiners – Starting in May 2014, truck operators must use an examiner from this registry and not family doctors or other familiar physicians unless they are certified and on the registry.
  • Drug and alcohol testing data base – A notice of proposed rule-making is due out this summer on this project, which will make testing results on prospective employees available to employers. This should reduce the chance of hiring drug and alcohol abusers because former employers declined to provide accurate information, which has become the norm as companies seek to avoid being sued by former employees.
  • Sleep apnea – FMCSA is working on revised guidance involving drivers who might be suffering from the debilitating and possibly dangerous sleep disorder. First issued in 2008, the guidance will be aimed at medical examiners and employers for screening, testing, diagnosis, treatment and qualification or disqualification of driver applicants.

These won’t be rules, “but will have tremendous potential to affect your driver population,” Schweitzer said, because 20% to 40% of drivers may suffer from apnea.

  •  Speed limiters – Would be required on Class 7 and 8 commercial trucks built in 1992 or later under a rule being prepared by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The limiters would be set at 65 mph, which should have fuel economy, safety and public image benefits for the industry, and that’s why ATA petitioned for it, he said.  NHTSA is expected to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking this July and will set an effective date for some time next year. 
  • Compliance, Safety and Accountability – FMCSA has changed its methods for intervening with carriers over safety violations. CSA enforcement tools range from warning letters to targeted inspections, and allow voluntary compliance agreements. Among other things, carriers have complained about CSA rankings based on all accidents a company might have had vs. only those for which its drivers were at fault. Aside from at-fault data, carriers want information kept away from shippers and insurance companies.

There are some accident data that seem counterintuitive, Schweitzer said. For example, one of seven “improvement” categories under the so-called BASICs requirements is controlled substances; yet the accident numbers show that the more violations a company’s drivers have, the less likely it is to see crashes and the better it is as a safety risk.

Consequently, CSA rules are being reviewed by several agencies, Congress, and the courts.

Comments

  1. 1. Thomas J. Morrissy sr. [ May 01, 2013 @ 07:51AM ]

    We are getting legislated out of business. This sleep apnea scare is nonsence. I had one doctor demand the test because I am over 50 and overweight...not obese...just not a stick. I have no symptoms but this is just an income gathering attempt by the medical industry for unnessary EXPENSIVE testing.

  2. 2. Al Williams [ May 01, 2013 @ 10:05AM ]

    I was an owner operator for the 24 years from 1981 to 2005. This was when the hours of service rules were so ridiculous that they were seldom enforced part of which was due to the fact that officers didn't know how to figure them ut either. But the thing on the side of safety was that it was our own necks and equipment that were on the line. We knew that any accident at all was a huge dent in our financial situation that could end our career or worse. Other than that, it was a good to feel like one of the last "almost" free American--a dying breed then, and perhaps long dead now. That alone was incentive to work hard, but smart, which is what all this is really about.

  3. 3. J Benson [ May 01, 2013 @ 10:50AM ]

    Enough is enough, if a quarter of the people trying to push us all out of business had a few actual hours behind what we do daily ...things would be alot different. So much for the Ole Rubber ducky...just call us Billy Bob bendover 10-4

  4. 4. Justin Steenhoven [ May 31, 2013 @ 12:06PM ]

    This Hos Is So Stupid. If Anyone At The Fmcsa Had A Brain They Would Realize To Cure Sleepy Driver All U Have To Do Is Make The 14 Hour Clock Stop With Anything More The Half An Hour Of Sleeper An Let Us Split Sleeper In Two Parts, You Could Drive 5 Hrs Sleep 4 Drive 6 Sleep6 An U Would Be Pushing To Get It In 14 Hrs But I Guess Thats To Hard For The To Figure Out,

  5. 5. Jack B. [ June 12, 2013 @ 09:26PM ]

    The government is out of control and becoming increasingly tyrannical and corrupt. There are agendas at work in the transportation industry that are using safety as a cover story. The FMCSA is nothing but an insurance industry front group that has been given way too much power. The time is long over due for major structural reform of the FMCSA. It has been caught distorting data, hiding studies and outright lying. It was order to stop telling companies to adopt EOBRS when it lost the court case but it ignored the law and kept right on going with it's agenda. So, it's also above the law. When this country revolts it's going to be because of people like the ones staffing the FMCSA.

  6. 6. Burlwood Barry [ June 15, 2013 @ 06:31AM ]

    in the land of the free and the home of the brave, where people's inalienable rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (wow, sounds great so far, doesn't it!?), there's no place for a government such as the one we have today. they are out of control, like Jack B. was saying. hundreds of years ago in this country, people removed corrupt representatives by force. today we sit around and complain and do everything those corrupt people want us to do. is this progress, really? looks like the opposite of progress to me. so the person to blame is in the mirror, unless you are marching on Washington today

  7. 7. Rick I [ August 16, 2013 @ 10:56AM ]

    The most dangerous thing in trucking is the logbook, forcing drivers to drive when they may be tired. I recently got a violation because I took a nap! This put me over the 14 hour rule. Today I am forced to stay at a weigh station for 24 hours, because I had several cans of beer left over from my last break (I was in a hotel) under the sleeper birth. $2200 fine! Somebody please tell me , how does having beer in the trunk of a commercial truck make a driver less safe? There is no food here, no water, and all night no bathroom! People in jail have more rights! This Govt. has become totally tyrannical!

  8. 8. chris. [ September 28, 2013 @ 03:26PM ]

    it is fact that the government has gone tyrannical; however we never notice the fact that cause the drivers to go into violation. The government need to look at the third parties (brokers) who give wrong mileage which pushes any one into violation. To correct all the issues about log books and road safety the government has to pay attention to the source. The source is not drivers, it is Brokers, Shipper who lie on the mileages.
    Yes, all these new rules and regulation are just monetary for whomever is getting the kick back from them.

 

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