Federal trucking regulators are seeing some pushback to their changes proposed yesterday to Hours of Service (HOS) rules, with drivers’ groups like the Teamsters union saying the revisions threaten safety by enabling longer hours on the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), issued its final ruling on the potential changes following a lengthy public comment period. The ruling, which could become law as soon as September, earned applause from trucking industry groups such as the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), who said it provided more flexibility in allowing drivers to meet their mandated rest periods after periods spent behind the wheel.
According to FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen, the new policies were derived from listening to the concerns of truckers, and will improve safety on America’s roadways while strengthening the nation’s motor carrier industry.
However, truck drivers’ union International Brotherhood of Teamsters rebutted that claim, saying the new rules could lead to reduced roadway safety for drivers and the traveling public at large. "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," Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said in a release. "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."
Among other changes, the rules will now FMCSA will increase the short haul exemption to 14 hours on duty within a distance of 150 air miles, up from 100. Additionally, the new rules will alter the driver break rule to require a 30 minute rest break after eight hours of driving instead of eight hours on duty. It will also allow drivers to record 30 minutes as "on-duty non-driving" status to take a break, among other things, the Teamsters said.
The Teamsters’ position echoed concerns posted by several truck drivers on social media, including one who wrote that the new FMCSA policy “is not going to stop the clock racing that is causing the increased wrecks and deaths. The 14 hour no stop was the problem and will still be.”
Despite that skepticism from the driver community, the proposed regulations still have the support of politicians such as Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), ranking member on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “America’s truckers have been on the front lines in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and these regulatory improvements to help them do their jobs as effectively and safely as possible come at a critical time,” Graves said in a release. “These improvements to hours of service rules won’t increase driving time, but they recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach does not give drivers the necessary flexibility to make the right decisions to safely operate their vehicles.”
We strongly oppose new truck driving hours-of-service rules released yesterday by the @FMCSA. These new rules would lead to reduced roadway safety for drivers and the traveling public at large: https://t.co/mhk0ebK6Qg#ThankATrucker #Teamsters #1u— Teamsters (@Teamsters) May 15, 2020
? ? ? pic.twitter.com/Ks07KEntIk