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Driver issuesLegal issuesNews

Legal challenges to HOS revisions likely, regulations expert predicts

The last time changes were made to hours-of-service (HOS) regulations in 2003, safety advocates succeeded in delaying implementation until 2011 through litigation in federal court that was based on claims the changes would be detrimental to truck driver health and highway safety.

Tim Wiseman, managing partner at the law firm Scopelitis, anticipates some kind of legal tie-up this time around as well, with the rollout today (Aug. 14) of the latest proposed HOS changes by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

“Based on the number of pages in the rulemaking devoted to research and studies supporting the changes, I think [the FMCSA] was anticipating legal challenges,” Wiseman told FreightWaves. “In the end, though, I don’t think it will matter, it will probably end up in litigation at some point, at least on some of the changes. I don’t think these revisions are going to become final any time soon.”

New flexibility in the 129-page proposed rulemaking does not sit well with either safety or labor advocates. The Truck Safety Coalition, whose members include truck crash survivors and their families, assert that rule changes run counter to the FMCSA’s mission to improve safety.

“Instead of moving forward on these rollbacks, the agency must produce compelling data to demonstrate that these changes will not lead to more health problems for truck drivers, more coercion of truck drivers, and more crashes involving truck drivers operating while fatigued,” the group stated. “The agency is offering flexibility without regard for the fact that it could be exploited by the worst actors in the industry, including drivers who will operate while fatigued and motor carriers who will coerce them to do so.”

The coalition said it plans to submit comments opposing the changes.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has union contracts in place with major less-than-truckload (LTL) haulers YRC [NASDAQ: YRCW], ArcBest [NASDAQ: ARCB] LTL unit ABF Freight, and UPS [NYSE: UPS] LTL unit UPS Freight, fears that the changes would lead to less safe roads and longer work days for drivers.

“While we continue to review these proposed regulatory changes by the FMCSA, the Teamsters have serious concerns about what we have seen thus far when it comes to these hours of service reforms,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa in a statement. “In an effort to increase so-called ‘flexibility’ for trucking companies, the FMCSA is abandoning safety and allowing drivers to push themselves to the limit even further.”

Hoffa pointed out that the proposed revision lengthening the maximum on-duty period for short-haul drivers from 12 to 14 hours would mean a “more exhausting workday” for workers. The union is also concerned about easing restrictions on the 30-minute rest break, and allowing drivers to pause their 14-hour driving window with an off-duty break.

“Trucking is already one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs. We shouldn’t be sacrificing the health and safety of drivers just to pad the profits of their big business bosses,” Hoffa said.

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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.

3 Comments

  1. If you are not a trucker you have no right to say what works for each individual. We value the time off but if it causes truckers to lose work you have very unhappy truckers. If they are frustrated with their income you lose in the end.

  2. The main issue is not the HOS and the current regulations. A real problem that needs addressing is the shippers and receivers and how they impede upon the rules and regulations on the books.

    Up and until the government, Teamsters, OIDA, and carriers can really address the detention issues there will always be those that are fighting against a ticking clock.

    For large carriers and LTL carriers this is not so much of an issue as they can set up drop and hooks, or pull drivers out of a long wait. But for smaller carriers and Owner Operators the long detentions at shippers and receivers force many a driver to run harder and in many cases more dangerous.

    I personally have sat in excess of 8 hrs at a stop multiple times. I have spoken with many drivers that have been detained even longer. When you factor in appointment times coming and going that clock always works against you in so many cases.

    Now mind you I am in full agreement with the 11/14 rule. But there also needs to be more flexibility when it comes to many circumstances and how we have to show what line we are on. For instance while you are sitting at these long detentions legally you have to show yourself — On Duty not driving which is working against your clock even if you are “for OTR and those who run local regional with a sleeper” in back resting.

    Flexibility in some cases needs to be addressed, but really the delays at the factories and freight houses is a real issue that never seems to make the radar in the bigger picture of things. Carriers will in many cases be fined for being late for an appointment, and sure there is detention pay in many cases. The detention pay and “hours” until it kicks in really doesn’t compensate for lost hrs and the fact that once released now you have to push that much harder.

    If you have ever done refrigerated you know what I am talking about. Dry is not much better, and freight forwarders especially air freight can be some of the worst.

    What could possibly be a solution? That is the million dollar question, but up and until detention is addressed you will always have carriers and drivers pushing that much harder and fighting against the clock.

    Again LTL and larger carriers have more flexibility and in many cases especially local P&D these shippers and receivers know that they have to get you in and out or else loose the service for the shipment. Even with that in mind they still play against your clock and overall ability of production and safety for the day.

    If you listen to Road Dog Radio on XM at all you will hear this issue often. Sure there are so many other factors involving saftey as well in the big over all picture such as the “puppy mills” turning out and letting loose 15 day wonder truckers with little experience and lots of demands and pressures. Over all the HOS and ELD’s are not a bad thing, flexibility for local drivers and hours of service and really addressing detention is a much larger issue that needs addressing.
     

    1. Regulating the shippers and receivers would be a step in the right direction.

      It should not just be one facet of this industry that is held accountable for all aspects that make up the entire industry as a whole.

      The general public and government only see one part of it, us the drivers, so when saftey is mentioned consideration of the entire scope of what actually is involved is never really looked at.

      I mentioned the fact that we have way to many drivers on the road with little to no training, this aspect also needs addressing. Sure we all start somewhere, but more training and actual real life training, not just classroom or parking lot as most driving schools offer, but real on the road behind the wheel training needs to be implemented.

      Much blame for safety continues to fall back upon the driver, but when it comes to just what may be behind that driver pushing it just a little to hard is never considered.

      The overall picture, and some of the elephants in the room do need to be addressed.

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