Julie Cirillo, head of the Office of Motor Carrier Safety. She said her agency's proposed rulemaking should be ready soon, possibly by year-end.
OMCS officials are forbidden by law from revealing provisions of their HOS plan.
One key question: Will on-board recorders be mandated to track driver hours? The Department of Transportation earlier recommended mandating recorders in motor carrier safety legislation. But such a provision is not in either the current Senate or House versions of the legislation. However, it could be inserted before final action. It could also be in the still-under-wraps HOS proposal, but the feds won't comment on that.
Cirillo spoke with Newport editors following a speech at the Truckload Carriers Board meeting at the American Trucking Assns.' annual convention in Orlando, FL. Her brief presentation outlined the organization and the objectives for OMCS, which was recently moved out of the Federal Highway Administration and put directly under the Secretary of Transportation.
But what held the members' attention were Cirillo's comments about the basis for the proposed hours of service regulation.
The proposal is complete, but will not be published until it has been through the review process. In fact, said Cirillo, she is forbidden to reveal any of the substance of the proposal until it has completed the review. Then it will be published, possibly by the end of this year, with a 90-day comment period.
However, as she pointed out, that timetable may slip. Her agency has already missed earlier deadlines of August and September, so it may be next year before the proposal is made public. That may well delay the final rule until 2001.
However, she commented that the proposals are based on good science that would address fatigue issues. The hours proposals "will not suit those who want an 8-hour driving day, and they won't suit those who want no change," she said. However, she feels that the agency has come up with a proposal that will satisfy most of the industry, confirming that it is not a "one-size-fits-all," but rather a proposal that will address different needs of different types of trucking operations.
She was not specific about that, though she did say that the differences would not be based on carrier size or whether it was a truckload or less-than-truckload operation. She hinted that differences in type of haul and time away from home would be the sort of differences that the proposal would accommodate. A carrier that got drivers home every night would be different from a long-haul operation, for instance.
The recommendation for on-board recorders in the safety legislation would not require the sort of "black box" the National Transportation Safety Board has expressed interest in, Cirillo said. Rather, the preferred technology would be a recording device. She said that didn't mean a tachograph, necessarily, since the agency didn't want to limit the industry's options. She did say that the on-board recording devices would make conventional paper log and logbooks -- the drivers' comic books -- obsolete.