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Fight Over 34-Hour Restart Heats Up as Deadline Nears

December 8, 2014

By Oliver Patton

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At issue are last year's changes to the 34-hour restart provision. Photo: Jim Park
At issue are last year's changes to the 34-hour restart provision. Photo: Jim Park

With Congress up against a December 11 deadline to pass an appropriations bill, trucking interests and safety groups are battling over an amendment that would suspend the current 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service rule.

American Trucking Associations and its affiliate, the Truckload Carriers Association, are challenging assertions of the safety groups that oppose the amendment.

And Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx registered his “strong objection” to the amendment.

At issue is the provision in the 2013 hours of service rule that requires drivers to take two periods off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during their 34-hour restart, and limits use of the restart to once a week.

ATA contends that the provision reduces productivity for some carriers and may increase risk by putting more trucks on the road during Monday morning rush hour.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says the provision will improve safety because nighttime sleep is more restorative than daytime sleep.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has championed ATA’s effort to suspend the provision and revert to the pre-2013 restart, which does not contain those restrictions.

Under her amendment to the appropriations bill, FMCSA would study the restart by comparing the work schedules and fatigue of drivers who operate under the old restart and the new one. The study also would compare five months of work schedules and safety critical events, such as crashes and near-crashes, for fleets of all sizes and types of operations.

As decision time approaches this week, safety groups have been pressing Congress to reject the amendment.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Advocates for Highway Safety and other groups described the suspension as an “assault” on truck safety that would significantly increase working hours for truck drivers.

“While the proposed change to the HOS rule has been portrayed as a ‘minor tweak’ to the rule, it is, in fact, a major change,” said Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advocates and numerous other signatories to the letter. “Working and driving hours will increase from 70 to 84 hours.”

ATA responded with a letter to the same leaders saying that the safety groups are attempting to mislead Congress.

“This language does not, as critics suggest, eliminate use of this rest provision,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “Instead, it would suspend unwarranted restrictions on the use of the provision while FMCSA conducts a mandated study of the net safety impacts of them.”

Over the weekend, the Truckload Carriers Association joined the fray with a call for a grassroots effort to support the amendment.

Meanwhile, DOT Secretary Foxx registered his strong objections to the amendment in a letter to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chair of the Appropriations Committee.

“The provision at issue is a central element of a comprehensive rule that ensures that truck drivers have adequate rest,” he said.

“The evidence clearly shows that truck drivers are better rested and more alert after two night of sleep than one night, and that unending 80-hour work weeks lead to driver fatigue and compromise highway safety,” he said.

FMCSA wants to keep the provision in place while it conducts the study that Collins called for in her amendment.

More details about the appropriations bill will come clear this week as the Thursday deadline nears.

Comments

  1. 1. GREG FOREMAN [ December 08, 2014 @ 06:24AM ]

    In the brief period of time I drove commercially, one aspect of the HOS regulations always intrigued me, the disaster exemption. The FMCSA swears by their “circadian rhythms” logic, which is really based on “bozo science”, but in times of disaster, hurricanes for example, their “precious” HOS regulations are suspended for “disaster relief” loads. The driver can drive whatever hours necessary to make the delivery just so long as a “permit” number is shown in the window and the BOL identifies the load as disaster relief. I can't help but wonder, has the FMCSA every compiled the statistics associated with such loads? This is “real world” data that could provide the bases for underscoring and evaluating any current or proposed HOS regulations. I wonder, under such “emergency exemptions”, how many accidents occurred? It is a simple question and even easier to answer-from the FMCSA standpoint. I doubt if they've even tried such an analysis.

  2. 2. Larry Morrison [ December 08, 2014 @ 07:10AM ]

    This just another waste of time and our money. The study will indicate, driver's should be rested after 34 hour restart. This comes with maturity of the driver's, given time off doesn't mean their going to be rested when returning to work. If everyone was really interested in highway safety, here's a few rules maybe they should pass.
    1) convicted of driving under the influence, loose your license for 5 years, doesn't matter auto or truck. Involved in an accident causing a death, 20 years minimum sentence. If caught driving while suspended, loose your license for life.
    2) all vehicles traveling on a 2 lane highway during daylight hours must use headlights, not parking lights so on coming vehicles can be seen.
    3) wipers on, headlights on. Dark colored cars are hard to see with road spray, light colored cars in fog are also a hazardous situration in traffic.
    Here are 3 simple rules that could save many lives every year, but I don't hear the advocates of let's screw with trucking industry actually come up any small rules that would actually save lives and put some of the responsibly on everyone, since cars cause over 80% of the accidents.

  3. 3. James Alford [ December 08, 2014 @ 08:40AM ]

    If you are really concerned about safety, and not just making the states money off of fines. Teach drivers how to drive, require all drivers to go through a one year apprenticeship before getting a full cal license. Make carriers train them. But it will not happen, because it is about money and adding enough rules that only the large carriers can afford to stay in business.

  4. 4. W.B Smith [ December 08, 2014 @ 05:55PM ]

    They talk about driver fatigue but increase the weekly hours Lets think an average American workers drives 10,000-12,000 a year we do that in a month they work 2080 hours in there 52 weeks we do that in under 30 weeks we work 3400 hours a year or 70 hours a week and get one and half days off they work 40 hours and get 48 hours off. my neighbors bitch because someone started there mower early and couldn't sleep in. Meanwhile I just got done driving my 11 hrs after a sleepless night because somebody's reefer with a broken exhaust is on my left and somebody is high idling all night is on my right and knowing in my I have less than 34 hours to get my weeks worth of chores done. Leave the laws alone say no to 84 hrs a week or 4368 hours a year it's tough enough with the current laws. If they want to pass a law make it a zero hour detention time it's not our fault the warehouses and ports are behind schedule just think if you work for a company that's has 1000 trucks and you give them 1 hour for detention times that by 1000 trucks that's 1000 hrs times that by the average hourly pay $16.25 and that equals $16,250.00 and times that 365 and you get 5,931,250.00 chump change for corporate It is time to start having better respect for the drivers I believe Washington get out from behind the desk and a few days behind the wheel
    Then we will see some real laws passed

  5. 5. Michael [ December 09, 2014 @ 08:52PM ]

    There asking the wrong people about this! an seriously the wrong companies....You have to be out here to find out what is really going on down these roads an there going at it all wrong!!!!

  6. 6. Lee Lenard [ December 10, 2014 @ 03:40PM ]

    Not a single group calling themselves "advocates for Safety" or "highway Safety" have any true understanding of this issue. They make up their own data and convince themselves they are doing something for safety. I had hopes that Sec. Foxx would be "open minded" and truly "think" and study "the real Issues". Apparently not! They absolutely do not understand that the 2013 mandate made the life of the driver more danger0us along with the safety of the public.

  7. 7. paul clark [ December 10, 2014 @ 11:23PM ]

    The rule is a farce. The old way was better by far. I used to make good miles daily and was never fatigued. My family didn't have to struggle with trying to figure out what money needs to go where this week. These people makeing the decisions for truck drivers have never had to make them choices I bet. By choices I mean...do we buy groceries this week...or do we keep the electric on. They say it is all to "help" us drivers on the road. But it seems like with all the regs and rules and you can stop at this time but not that time to me is more cutting us off at the knees than helping us. They need to make it simple make it straight forward and make it for a driver...cause without us folks the country stops period.

 

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