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RegulationTrucking

DOT to eliminate government’s “heavy hand” in HOS changes

A top Trump Administration official provided more context into the level of flexibility regulators will be considering when trucking hours of service (HOS) changes are rolled out in June.

Speaking on May 16 at the annual Global Supply Chain summit hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., Jannine Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), said HOS regulations – and making “common sense” changes to them – is one of the department’s near-term priorities.

DOT has been considering “rest breaks and what can occur during those breaks, the length of drive-time versus on-duty, personal conveyance, as well as something as simple as defining what an agricultural commodity is,” Miller said, while aiming to “take away the heavy-hand of government where it does not help the private sector, and make sure, obviously, we’re still protecting all the safety standards that we benefit from.”

Miller’s comments are in line with recent statements from her boss, DOT Secretary Elaine Chao, and from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Ray Martinez, regarding the tack the Trump Administration will likely be taking in its final proposed rulemaking as it strives to make HOS regulations more compatible for drivers.

“I can tell you the Department understands the importance of giving you the flexibility [to do your jobs],” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao told attendees at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March.

The HOS rulemaking is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and scheduled to be published for public comment in the federal register on June 7, although that could change depending on OMB’s review process.

FreightWaves SONAR data: average daily HOS utilization (in hours) over past year

Private companies, particularly startups, appreciate the flexible approach regulators under the Trump Administration have been taking on addressing new transportation technology. Speaking on the innovation panel alongside Miller, Jonny Morris, head of public policy at Embark, a developer of self-driving long-haul trucks, said it has been “really great” working with both Chao and Martinez.

“I think in the past the reaction has been, ‘we need new rules for this,’” Morris said. “But with Elaine Chao and her team, they’ve looked at all the existing rules dealing with equipment and operations and said, ‘which of these can we re-purpose, what existing authorities do we have that can ensure safety while allowing these [autonomous] vehicles to be developed and eventually deployed.’”

Morris cited the release in October 2018 of DOT’s AV 3.0 initiative, which includes guidance specifically addressing truck regulations. “We were pleased in that it held us to a very high safety standard that allowed a path forward for us, and resolved a lot of the uncertainty we had at the federal level,” he said.

Asked to comment on DOT’s approach toward autonomous long-haul truck technology such as that being developed by Embark, which claims to reduce costs and speed shipments by eliminating HOS limitations, “we definitely understand and are supporters of efficient freight flow, and the efficiencies that technology and automation can bring about – we’re laser focused on it,” Miller said.

“At the same time, safety is absolutely critical. What we’re really looking for are ways that autonomy can support safety. We think there are incredible safety gains that technology can bring that are maybe even beyond the efficiency gains.”

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John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.

75 Comments

  1. I was listening to WJR here in Detroit the other day, and the state of Michigan or AAA released the crash and fatality data for 2018… Accidents and fatalities with four wheelers were dow, big trucks, up 18% over 2017. What happened in the trucking industry in 2018? I like to set the cruise at 63 and try to stay out of everyone’s way. But, I find myself speeding right along with everyone else due to that stupid ELD counting down my hours. I have been lucky so far, and try to run at night when things are quite and less stressful. No more stopping to take that nap to let rush hour clear out, now it is Go Go GO!

  2. yes 17 hours is good for stupid drivers,,,,,, working 17 hours per fo 50000 per year,,,,,,,eld is last chence to fix problem ,,,,,,,.may one day they start paying hourly…… by eld ,,,,,,,,,,driving PLUS ON DUTY …PLUS SLLEPING IN TRUCK 15 ON HRS I ,PLUS FOOD 50 PER DAY,,,THEN WE CAN TALK……THX

  3. OOIDA president outlines hardships truckers face at House hearing
    By Mark Schremmer, Land Line associate editor | 6/12/2019
    756
    OOIDA’s Todd Spencer testifies to U.S. House subcommittee

    OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer explains during a June 12, 2019, U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing the regulatory burden that truck drivers must bear.

    In order to fix a broken trucking industry, Congress must first recognize the vital role of truck drivers, OOIDA President Todd Spencer told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee.

    Spencer served as one of eight witnesses for the Highways and Transit subcommittee hearing titled “Under Pressure: The State of Trucking in America” on Wednesday, June 12, in Washington, D.C.

    “Unfortunately, trucking has been fundamentally broken for years, and conditions show little sign of improving,” Spencer said.

    “Until Congress understands the most important component in trucking is the driver, very little will change. The next steps you must take are clear – help make trucking an appealing, safe and sustainable career.”

    The subcommittee spent about three hours listening to the witnesses’ testimony and discussing the trucking industry’s most pressing issues. Joining Spencer on the panel were Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; Chris Spear, president of American Trucking Associations; LaMont Byrd, director of the health and safety department for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Jason Craig, director of government affairs for C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc.; Rodney Noble, senior director of transportation global procurement for PepsiCo; Deputy Chief Mark Savage of the Colorado Highway Patrol; and Andy Young, a truck safety advocate.

    Spencer, who was speaking on behalf of OOIDA’s more than 160,000 members, focused on informing lawmakers about the hardships and challenges truckers face every day and asking Congress to recognize that many current trucking regulations do little or nothing to improve highway safety.

    “Our typical members spend 250 nights or more away from home and family each year,” Spencer said. “They deal with way too much traffic and congestion and bad and unpredictable weather while working around the schedules of all others in the supply chain.”

    Driver pay
    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for heavy-duty truck drivers was $43,680 in 2018. While that equals $21 per hour based on a typical 40-hour workweek, it must be noted that it is not uncommon for a trucker to work 80 hours in a week. As truck drivers are exempt from overtime pay, hourly rate for an 80-hour week drops to $10.50.

    “There is a growing recognition that the way drivers are compensated – by the load or mile, not by the hour – is a problem,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. “Drivers face increased pressure to deliver goods … many factors are beyond their control. For example, congested roads and delays and shipper facilities.”

    Detention time
    In direct relation to driver pay, detention time is a big issue for truck drivers. Many truck drivers spend hours every week waiting to be loaded or unloaded while receiving no compensation for that time.

    “It is a monstrous problem that has actually cost trucking as much as $3 billion a year,” Spencer said. “The way it works out it means that driver workweeks are always going to be 70-80 hours and sometimes more. They are not always working all of those hours, but their time is being controlled by others. The biggest bandits are shippers and receivers, and I should point out that some of them actually have the gall to charge drivers for late deliveries.”

    Young added that detention time can lead to negative safety outcomes.

    “The detention time issue is really key,” he said. “The shippers and receivers aren’t regulated like the truck driver. So, ultimately, the shippers and receivers can abuse the entire federal motor carrier safety regulatory code and then escape liability.”

    Chase recently received a firsthand account of the problem.

    “It struck me as I went on a ride-along and we were sitting there waiting for the load to arrive and be loaded, that I was getting paid and the driver was not,” she said. “There was some irony there.”

    ‘Burdensome’ regulations
    Spencer expressed to lawmakers that more regulations do not lead to more safety on the highways. At one point, Spencer picked up a copy of the 700-page Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Handbook to give lawmakers an idea about how many regulations truck drivers are forced to follow. However, the regulations have not led to a decrease in fatal crashes. Spencer used the electronic logging mandate as an example. In January, a preliminary study revealed that the ELD mandate has not reduced crashes.

    “Looking at what the data shows, there is a disconnect between compliance with the regulations and improved safety outcomes,” Spencer said. “Most of the regulations that are enforced that make up CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability scores) have nothing to do with safety, but that has been the focus.

    “The rigidity of the regulations sometimes force drivers to do things they don’t want to do.”

    Retaining drivers
    Several members of the panel agreed that increasing pay is a good place to start in the effort to keep experienced and safe drivers on the road. The turnover rate for large motor carriers has consistently been 90% or more.

    “The reasons drivers stay is because of pay, benefits and working conditions,” Spencer said. “The reasons they leave are for the lack thereof. Many of the regulations that are on the books today hold drivers for everything that could possibly go wrong, but none of those really address the frustrations the lost time that drivers will spend in shipping and receiving facilities. We’re talking about anywhere from 10 to 45 hours per week. That puts the work week for a truck driver to 80 or sometimes more hours a week.

    “When someone is considering a career, do they take one that works 40-45 hours a week and you’re home or one that’s 80 hours or more with you being away from home and you don’t make more money? I don’t think that’s a real tough decision … We have to address the economic issues for drivers, how they are paid and the quirks that allow them to work unlimited hours without any kind of overtime compensation.”

    Spencer’s complete written testimony can be found here. The complete hearing can be viewed here.

    Copyright © OOIDA

  4. I LIKE THE KEEP IT SIMPLE SOLUTION, 24 HRS YOU MUST TAKE 10 HR BREAK SPLIT HOWEVR YOU WANT BUT YOU MUST HAVE A 10 HR BREAK. THE OTHER 14 ARE YOURS, LOADING, UNLOADING DRIVING, BUT IT WILL TAKE GOVERNMENT YEARS TO FIGURE IT OUT WHY THE INDUSTRY IS SUFFERING.

  5. Autonomous trucks are not safe you idiots all your trying to do is lower your cost to ship loads by taking jobs from people so you can line your pockets with more profits!!!! And as for you hos no one can predict when someone is going to be tired and you can’t control when someone sleeps you arrogant asses I know when I’m tired and when I’m not besides who are you to control when I work and when I don’t who are you to dictate what I can generate in income each year? Because that’s all your hos do nothing more it’s all about control you want safer roadways then quit allowing these companies to turn these morons out of these so called trucking schools and put them in a truck and send them down the road with no experience whatso ever force these companies to return to the old way of training put a man I. A truck with a veteran driver of at least 5- 10 yrs and force that person to run teams with him for no less than a year or two then if he hasn’t had any problems on roadways or in docking trailer or backing in parking spots basically proving that he or her can safely operate a truck and trailer then turn them loose on there own other than that you b.s. has no bearing on safety!!!

  6. While my comment is not directly about break times, I need a platform to spew. My husband is a driver, has been for 25 years now. These recent changes in DOT exams these past couple of years has cost us literally thousands of dollars in uncovered, un-reimbursed medical. Every exam they tell him he needs a sleep study because of “the circumference” of his neck. Every year we pay out of pocket (on top of the strangling cost of our health care insurance each week). This year they found a hernia. Hasn’t bothered him and even the medical doctor and the surgeon told us that it was not necessary at this time to operate as it was stable. But nooooo that wasn’t good enough for DOT docs. An healthy man who had never had a surgery in his entire life was FORCED to have a hernia surgery. And the hospital, although “participating” in our insurance plan said between our left over deductible (RIDICULOUSLY HIGH because that’s the only plan we could afford to have and still have him go to work!!!) and the co-pay that we had to PREPAY those amounts BEFORE the surgery just 2 days before it was scheduled. So far, this year alone (not counting the previous years), and not counting in entirety because ALL of those little people in between have yet to send us their bills…..so far we are OUT OF POCKET over $5,000 in less than 3 weeks for what NON DOT doctors said was not medically necessary at this time. Literally THOUSANDS of dollars in MEDICAL DEBT so that he can keep his CDL and his job that he has put 25 years into. HOW are they allowed to ruin families like this?? WHY are they allowed to do this??

    1. This may sound flippant, but it is what I have told my friends to do, find a different clinic/doctor to get that DOT physical. A little late now, but it still applies. These medical exams have gotten out of hand, especially with these younger doctors and kids they have working in these offices.

  7. Autonomous self driving trucks you want to talk about safety those trucks can’t react to real world situations. The politics are the ones making driving unsafe with there commercial truck posted speed limits and regulating of hos I mean you want the freight to move faster increase the rates cause right now truck drivers are slaves of the highways. All these foreigners coming over here from Canada and Mexico and Russia not being able to speak english but can take America jobs and haul for cheap. Thank you America for making me a slave to my debt. You want freight to move increase the price it is so low right now I can barely afford diesel and I have three kids at home who I can barley provide for because the government won’t regulate the rates and won’t keep foreigners out of the country

    1. Autonomous vehicles are coming, and they will be able to respond to real world situations faster than a human and with more precision. Every automotive manufacturer in the world, and the largest tech companies, are all researching and investing in this technology. It will take some time for sure, but there is no stopping them.

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