Those who've been waiting for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to issue its final rules governing truck drivers' "hours of service" will have to wait at least another month.
FMCSA, the truck-safety unit of the U.S. Department of Transportation, will not meet a court-ordered October 28 deadline for publishing new regulations covering drivers' working hours. In a statement, FMCSA said that parties opposed to the rule have agreed to extend the deadline for publication. "FMCSA will continue to work toward publishing a final rule as quickly as possible," the agency said. "The parties to the settlement agreement will file their next status report with the Court on November 28, 2011."
An agency spokeswoman would not elaborate on the statement.
Industry observers were not surprised by the delay, noting that FMCSA had telegraphed to the transportation community that it would not be able to meet the October 28 deadline. The agency's proposal has been controversial and has met with strong opposition from virtually all sides, including shippers, carriers, members of Congress, and state transportation departments.
The most contentious element of the proposal would cut the continuous driving limit from the current 11 hours to 10 hours. While FMCSA favors the reduction, it has waited for public comment before making a final decision.
Drivers would also be required to limit all driving to a 14-hour workday, completing all on-duty, work-related activities within 13 hours in order to allow for one hour of break time.
In a statement, the American Trucking Associations said it hopes FMCSA "uses this extra time to consider the overwhelming feedback they have received from professional truck drivers, safety professionals, and law enforcement officials that the current rules are working and not fix what clearly isn't broken."
The trucking industry claims that since the most recent changes to drivers' hours-of-service rules took effect in 2004, the number of truck-related highway fatalities has dropped by 36 percent and is at its lowest level in decades. Shippers and truckers warn that the changes proposed by FMCSA will cause enormous cost and compliance burdens, and will force the wholesale re-engineering of supply chains to meet the new requirements.