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  • OTVI.USA
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  • TLT.USA
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  • WAIT.USA
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Driver issuesNewsRegulationTrucking

Insurance group cautions against FMCSA’s short-haul proposal

Federal regulators and a group representing auto insurers are backing conflicting data on the safety implications of new potential hours-of-service (HOS) exemptions for short-haul drivers.

The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which promotes motor vehicle crash safety and is backed by most major vehicle insurance companies, contends that the HOS changes proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in August could make the roads less safe.

“Driver fatigue is a major risk factor in large truck crashes,” IIHS senior statistician Eric Teoh said in a statement Sept. 9. “Creating more exceptions to the hours-of-service limits, which already allow drivers to log long hours, isn’t likely to improve safety and may well cause harm.”

IIHS is particularly concerned with the FMCSA’s proposal to change an exception for short-haul commercial drivers by lengthening the maximum on‑duty period for drivers from 12 to 14 hours and extending the 100 air-mile distance limit within which the driver can operate to 150 air miles.

Under current regulations, short-haul drivers moving freight who qualify for the exception don’t have to prepare record of duty status documentation (known as RODS), use an electronic logging device or take a 30-minute break after eight hours of duty as long as they return to a work-reporting location that is within 100 miles and leave work within 12 consecutive hours after their starting times.

While drivers who are eligible for the exemption would still need to limit their actual driving time to 11 hours, “since they don’t need to record their hours, compliance is impossible to verify,” IIHS asserted.

IIHS cited a study previously shared with regulators of large trucks involved in crashes with injuries or deaths in which IIHS and University of North Carolina researchers found that drivers using a short-haul exception “had a crash risk nearly five times as high” as those not using the exception.

But FMCSA’s review of the study found that it was “based on a very small sample size” that was not nationally representative and prevented the researchers from properly estimating the results. “Further, the authors noted that other related factors unobserved in the study may have led to this result. For example, it is possible that older or more poorly maintained trucks are used in local operations,” FMCSA stated in its proposed rulemaking.

The agency said that in proposing the changes to the short-haul exception, it relied on its own data looking at concrete mixer-truck crashes that showed increasing the duty day from 12 to 14 hours “did not statistically increase the share of concrete mixers involved in crashes.”

Ozzie Flores, safety and compliance manager for Teletrac Navman, which provides fleet tracking services, told FreightWaves that if FMCSA’s short-haul exception changes are made permanent, “I think the only way to validate safety concerns is to look at the data, such as crash data and roadside inspections, to see if you start seeing a spike in violations.” 

A former fleet supervisor, Flores pointed out that, as an example, data revealed a drop in HOS violations after the ELD mandate went into effect in April 2018. “So until you can quantify those safety concerns with hard data, I think it will be difficult to argue against” FMCSA’s proposed HOS changes, he said.

IIHS also took issue with the agency’s proposal to modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the current 14-hour maximum window during which driving is permitted if drivers encounter bad weather or heavy traffic.

“FMCSA says extending the driving window would encourage drivers to wait out the adverse conditions or drive slowly through them rather than attempting to drive quickly through them,” IIHS said. “However, it creates a longer work period and could therefore increase fatigue.” 

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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.

28 Comments

  1. Kind of funny that most short haul drivers in a lot of the U.S. are immigrants working for mob trucking operations. As otr drivers must suffer electronic monitoring like eld’s, cab cameras, Qualcomm’s, etc., the ‘townies’ are preparing to enjoy more privacy and freedom to get their work done and get paid than they already have!

    1. Been driving truck for 50 years have one of the best safety recorders doing long haul short haul you get just as tired in a 10-hour. On a short halt run as you do on a long haul the problem is they’re not getting paid enough that is your answer I work for a federal mail contractor and we get paid quite well and the short hauls are great and we have a good safety record because we’re not over tired

  2. Expanding the limit to 150 miles, and the driving hours to 14 players right into the hands of the carriers, who will now do everything they can (like FedEx, UPS, ODFL, etc) to put all drivers into day cabs & make them drive like hell from one side of that 150 mile limit to the other, without breaks and likely beyond the 14 hour limit, so they can get one more load out. Plus underpay the hell out of those drivers who will be so exhausted by not having enough rest after having to commute to work and back home, they’ll be falling asleep at the wheels.

  3. I love it! Get paid to create a problem then get paid to solve it. What a racket. It was never broken so why fix it? Now that we have the tool to enforce the rules let’s go back to the original HOS. I know it will never happen because once you spend millions on this study and that study, something, for better or worse, is going to change. Follow the money on this one folks.

  4. Been driving truck for 50 years have one of the best safety recorders doing long haul short haul you get just as tired in a 10-hour. On a short halt run as you do on a long haul the problem is they’re not getting paid enough that is your answer I work for a federal mail contractor and we get paid quite well and the short hauls are great and we have a good safety record because we’re not over tired

  5. There should be no exemptions…
    Either all use ELDs or nobody.

    Lyft, Uber, and taxi should also be on ELDs… Why is a cabbie working 20+ hours not a safety concern?

    How many motorists must die before it is a concern?

    1. I agree with you while heartled on that everyone use them are do away with them but we all know by know it’s not going to happen they are going to pick an choose who they want for the exemption an who gets what I’m sick off the fmcsa putting crap on here wanting our options on things it’s a joke an they know it

  6. Maybe all the dumb asses that tell us how and what to do should actually jump in a truck and drive for a year and see how this works. I can think of ten other things that make our roads unsafe before the “truck driver” should be blamed.

  7. How about a required driving safety course for all these idiots in four-wheelers whipping around me and diving into the off ramp? Of all the reasons I hear about what causes CMV accidents, I never hear any solutions that involve proper driver training for those who don’t have CDLs. Cars run into cars all the time, cars run into trucks all the time, but we rarely run into each other.
    Now, I see CMV drivers all the time on their phones. I’ve seen a driver watching TV on a tablet strapped to his sun visor. I’ve even seen a guy driving with a newspaper opened on his steering wheel. These are all problems, but none have anything to do with the driving/duty window.

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