USDOT Drops Three Big Chunks of Coal Under Trucking's Christmas Tree

Dec 23, 2010, 15:29 ET from American Trucking Associations

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 23, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a self-described effort to get the hours of service rules "right" for professional truck drivers, the Obama Administration missed the mark in many ways with their December 23, 2010 proposal.

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The Obama Administration's proposal is "overly complex, chock full of unnecessary restrictions on professional truck drivers and, at its core, would substantially reduce trucking's productivity," commented Bill Graves, President and CEO of the American Trucking Associations.

The proposal has three main elements. It would: (1) likely reduce the maximum daily driving time to 10 hours; (2) reduce the maximum daily working time window by an additional hour; and, (3) counter to the government's news release, abolish the 34-hour restart as it exists today.

The trucking industry's safety performance while operating under the hours of service rules in place since 2004 "has been remarkable," said Graves. Crash-related fatalities are down 33 percent from the 2003 level; both fatality and injury crash rates are at their lowest level since the USDOT began keeping records. Trucking's never been safer.

"When viewed against trucking's sterling safety record," said Graves, "it's plain that the Obama Administration's willingness to break something that's not broken likely has everything to do with politics and little or nothing to do with highway safety or driver health."

Hard-pressed to argue safety benefits of further restricting truck driver productivity, the Obama Administration is trying to justify its proposed changes as needed to improve driver health. A big problem for the Obama Administration, however, is that FMCSA has consistently gone on record over the last 5 years, with supporting information and data, stating the current rules are having no negative effect on driver health.

Especially troubling is this Administration's disregard for the negative safety impacts the proposed changes would have – impacts expressly recognized by FMCSA in the past. For example, FMCSA previously found that the 11th hour of driving time does not increase driver weekly hours; is used for flexibility purposes; does not increase driver-fatigue risks; and that eliminating it would promote more aggressive driving (to meet time constraints) and lead to placing tens of thousands of less experienced drivers on the road who would pose greater crash risks. With respect to the 34 hour restart, FMCSA has correctly found in the past that requiring two nights of sleep would disrupt drivers' circadian cycle and add to more daytime driving in congested periods, again increasing crashes. FMCSA's reversal on these crucial matters is hard to explain in other than political terms.

The changes proposed today "will be enormously expensive for trucking and the economy," said ATA's Graves. FMCSA estimated, just two years ago, costs of over $2.2 billion if the daily drive time was reduced by 1 hour and the restart provision was significantly changed. In fact, FMCSA had concluded that "eliminating the 11th hour is unlikely to be cost effective under any reasonable set of circumstances." "This proposal includes even more restrictions than what FMCSA previously considered," said Graves, and "as a result, we will be evaluating FMCSA's proposed costs and benefits very carefully."

For more information on the Hours of Service rules for professional truck drivers, visit www.SafeDriverHours.com.

The American Trucking Associations (www.truckline.com) is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of other trucking groups, industry-related conferences, and its 50 affiliated state trucking associations, ATA represents more than 37,000 members covering every type of motor carrier in the United States. Follow ATA on Twitter @TruckingMatters (www.twitter.com/truckingmatters), or become a fan on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/y4qwp6h).

SOURCE American Trucking Associations



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