Or maybe it won’t be the final hearing after all. Several witnesses at yesterday’s opening session asked the safety agency to schedule yet another hearing so that shippers could get their views into the record.
Only now, almost three months into the comment period, are shippers beginning to get a sense of what the proposal will mean to them, said John Wade, logistics director, Wilson Sporting Goods.
The agency has not yet responded to that suggestion.
Actually, truckers, too, are still getting information together on the proposal. Most witnesses said they intended to use the full comment period – up until Oct. 30 – to gather and analyze data on how the proposal would affect safety and operations.
Henry Seaton, general counsel of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, suggested that the agency support a pilot program to test the proposal. Meanwhile, the association is asking some of its members to test aspects of the proposed rule. In one two-week test of the scheduling requirements in the proposal, an association member experienced a 35% loss in productivity, Seaton said.
The general themes from trucking interests remained the same as they have throughout the hearings: The proposal may be well-meaning but it is too complicated, would harm rather than improve safety and is much too expensive.
American Trucking Associations President Walter McCormick reiterated ATA’s hard-line stance: The proposal should be withdrawn and replaced with a rule similar to one ATA has drafted, permitting 14 hours on duty.
McCormick repeated his call for a negotiated rulemaking to work out the details, but at least one organization that would be party to those negotiations remains adamantly opposed. Gerald Donaldson, research director for Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, said he could not support the idea because he does not have the resources to match what ATA could bring to the negotiation. “We would not be able to come up with a consensus,” he said.
Most truckers remain opposed to the proposed onboard recorder requirement, but some accept the idea if not the details. Philip Warren, vice president of safety at Overnite Transportation, said the recorders will help with enforcement. He objected, however, to phasing in the recorders starting with the largest fleets. There should be a three-year phase-in for all long-haul and regional fleets, he said.
Greer Woodruff, corporate director of safety for J.B. Hunt Transport, suggested that the recorders be phased in by requiring the least safe carriers to get them first.