In comments filed this week, the National Tank Truck Conference asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to make a half-dozen major changes in its proposal, including giving local tanker drivers the option of continuing to use the current rules.
The NTTC suggestions came as the deadline nears for final comments in the massive proposal. Interested parties have until Dec. 15 to suggest changes.
The FMCSA proposal, made public last spring, would shorten the driver’s work day and require extended periods of rest in order to improve safety. Truckers have reacted strongly, claiming the proposal takes away the flexibility they need to operate efficiently, that it would not improve safety and that it is much more expensive than the agency believes.
The tank truck carriers told the agency that they have unique operating characteristics that merit changes in the proposal.
“For local tank truck delivery operations, the current regulations ‘ain’t broke,’ ” NTTC said in its comments.
Local tank drivers work regular shifts, get home each day, and can build schedules that accommodate their needs, the trade group said. They should have the option of sticking with current rules, which are more flexible than what the agency has proposed.
NTTC also wants a new “restart” provision in the proposed rules. The provision would let a driver restart his clock one time in a two-week period, if he has been on duty less than 36 hours and had 24 hours off duty. The point, the association explained, is to help drivers whose work week has been disrupted by weather or other interruptions.
A third request is that drivers who are on duty but not driving for extended periods – waiting to be loaded or unloaded, for example – be allowed to log that time as “off duty.”
NTTC also wants the safety agency to remove the proposal’s most controversial provision – the requirement that longhaul and regional operations use electronic onboard recorders to track driver hours. The group said there is no device on the market today that can do what the agency wants.
In addition, the tankers want changes in the proposal’s prohibition against employers contacting drivers when they are at home. That prohibition should apply only between midnight and 6 a.m. for day-shift drivers, NTTC said.
And on another point that has generated significant controversy, the tankers want drivers with sleeper tractors to have more say about their work-rest cycle than the proposal allows.