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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.

29 Comments

  1. Jim G. IIhs sounds to me like a bunch of pencil pushers sitting behind a desk dictating what they think should happen. Until you have done the job as long as I have please don’t lump all of us drivers together and assume that we are all the same. Drivers are as different as night and day,just as in any occupation across this country you have good ones and bad ones. You have drivers out there driving commercial vehicles that cannot drive there own car safely much less a big truck! This problem is what needs to be addressed! Experience!!!

    1. Ya, author is a joke. He needs time behind the wheel to see what a mess the working people have to put up with. I’m with the government and here to help…..ha ha ha

    2. I totally agree. Someone who has been driving 20+ years knows when to pull over and sleep when tired. Unfortunately there is company’s out there that believes freight is more important than safety. There should be different levels of HOS for inexperienced drivers with severe penalties for at fault violations such as tailgating, distracted driving and for sure at fault accidents.

      1. Titian America, Is one of those company that believe delivery of fright is more important than life or safety.

  2. It is all about money. Insurers want to limit their risk to the point regulation is so restrictive that the cost per man hour is so high companies can’t afford normal business slow periods. Such as the concrete industry. To solve everything is to automate the industry and throw everyone on the government instead of government working for the people it is working for profit

  3. When you are a short hauler there’s a lot to consider in my case I haul cars from Massachusetts to New Jersey I spend more time waiting than actually driving. And not including the traffic situation we burn a lot of hrs in traffic and waiting the extra time will be helpful to not rush all the time before your ELD EXPIRES.

  4. Fatigue is NOT a major factor. There is no issue here. Drivers are still limited to 11 hours driving in 14 hours
    Heavy truck causation study results
    Vehicle: brake problems – 29 percent
    Driver: Travelling too fast for existing conditions – 23 percent
    Driver: Unfamiliar with roadway – 22 percent
    Environment: Roadway problems – 20 percent
    Driver: Over-the-counter drug use – 17 percent
    Driver: Inadequate surveillance – 14 percent
    Driver: Fatigue – 13 percent
    Driver: Felt pressure from carrier – 10 percent
    Driver: Illegal maneuver – 9 percent
    Driver: Inattention – 9 percent
    Driver: External distraction – 8 percent
    Vehicle: Tire problems – 6 percent
    Driver: Following too close – 5 percent
    Driver: Jackknifed – 5 percent
    Vehicle: Cargo shift – 4 percent
    Driver: Illness – 3 percent
    Driver: Internal distraction – 2 percent
    Driver: Illegal drugs – 2 percent
    Driver: Alcohol – 1 percent

  5. I am not a truck driver. I am not convinced any amount of law writing will ever “fix” any situation. I empathize with you drivers. I appreciate what you do for us.
    One of the things that is hard to take into account is accumulated fatigue. Only the driver knows when that is happening to him. And a lot of times we (I say we because this is not just a truck driver issue), fail to recognize it when it is happening. At this point we need to take a break (days off), get the rest and then go back to some reasonable schedule.

    I get it. Some guys can rest just fine waiting to get a load. Others need more complete rest. We need to know ourselves and don’t over do it. Now add a little common sense and courtesy all around and these things dont become issues.

  6. I tend to agree with some of you drivers that the regulators are pencil pushers that never drove a truck.
    For the log side of the picture, too many wrecks and fake logs but can’t find non compliance was the reason for electronic logs. Let’s face it how many of you have been hit by a foreigner that speaks ZERO English and refuses to exchange information with you. I have. Woke me up out of a sound sleep. No damage but my company requires documentation of all accidents no matter how severe.

    For short haul…I drove non CDL straight truck but still had to follow rules for short haul. Company made me work 18 hour days multiple occasions. I almost crashed on the way home one night because I was so tired.
    So in my opinion, they should have some type of accountability.

  7. Us truckers being able to operate our whole 14 hours would be great esspecially for short haul drivers we face so much dealing with traffic accidents construction traffic etc…Depending on location we dealing with weather depending upon the seasons, I mean it’s a variation of things short hauls have to deal with esspecially if your in the Intermodal Division having to deal with the ports ingating and outgating being able to use those 14 hours as driving time is very essential for us truckers. Will it increase driver fatigue ? Yes, a regular 8 hour 9 to 5 job anywhere in America today has people tired and sleepy and ready to go home and lay down but unlike us truckers most of us still have the option to pull over stop the truck and lay down in the sleeper for safety reasons. So it’s all on the trucker if you are responsible enough to pull over and alert your Terminal manager or supervisor and let them know what’s going on. Bottomline I’m for the FMCSA increasing the drive time to 14 hours itll help out alot I believe.

  8. In a free country eld shold be not mondatory. The government should not dictate in OWNER OPERTOR truck , eld is part of liberty violation. This country is born to be FREE. God bless USA and our freedom.

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