Controversial US hours-of-service reset provisions suspended for two years

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two of the more contentious elements of the US hours-of-service regulations put into place in 2013 has been suspended for two years as part of an omnibus spending bill voted through late Saturday night.

President Barack Obama must sign the bill and the FMCSA and states adopt the revisions before the changes go into effect. Once these formalities have been completed, drivers will no longer have to include two overnight periods of 1-5 a.m. during their 34-hour reset. They will also no longer be limited to one reset period per week.

The American Trucking Associations, one of the most vocal critics of those aspects of the regulations, which it argues force drivers to end their reset when traffic tends to be busier, applauded the development.

“We have known since the beginning that the federal government did not properly evaluate the potential impacts of the changes it made in July 2013,” said ATA president and CEO Bill Graves. “Now, thanks to the hard work of Senator (Susan) Collins and many others, we have a common sense solution. Suspending these restrictions until all the proper research can be done is a reasonable step.”

Sen. Collins tabled the amendments, which were part of a broader $1-trillion spending bill. The ATA in recent months has brought forward many reasons why the existing rules were flawed – and continued to do so late Saturday night after Congress and the Senate approved the bill.

“One of our members told us several of his drivers took four days off for the recent Thanksgiving holiday, yet when they returned to work, their hours were limited because that 96-hour break could not count as a 34-hour restart,” Graves said. “That’s just one of the impacts FMCSA failed to research that we hope they fully examine as a result of this congressional mandate.”

“Fleets from around the country, including mine, tried to tell FMCSA that the previous rules were working just fine and that these new restart provisions were going to cause unintended problems,” added ATA chairman Duane Long, chairman of Longistics. “Those warnings went unheeded at the time, but we’re glad Senator Collins and others in Congress listened to us and that we’ll finally get a full examination of the potential impacts of these rules. We call on President Obama to quickly sign this omnibus spending bill, which will immediately enact this suspension.”

The restart provisions were opposed by both the ATA and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).

“Small business truckers know from personal experience that current restart restrictions compromise safety by forcing them onto the roads during the most congested and dangerous hours of morning traffic,” said OOIDA executive vice-president Todd Spencer.

When the changes take effect, the trucking industry will see an immediate boost to its productivity, according to an analysis by FTR. Because the suspended rules did not allow drivers to resume their work cycle in the evening or at night following a reset, many were forced to take additional time off and then were caught in heavy morning traffic as they headed back out onto the road.

FTR said trucking productivity will immediately improve by 2% for the two-year period during which the rules are suspended.

This will noticeably affect truckload capacity utilization, FTR reported, giving the industry an important reserve of surge capacity to handle seasonal peaks and other issues. Price increases could moderate as a result, FTR indicated.

“It is important to note that this change does not reduce the impending wave of regulatory drag still scheduled for late 2016 and beyond,” said Noel Perry, senior consultant and managing director, FTR. “Indeed it makes it worse, because the revised regs will hit just when a bunch of other regulatory changes appear as well. At that point, capacity will move above 100% and stay there for a year or more, unless the FMCSA doesn’t do what it says it will do, or if recession appears to blunt demand.”

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  • It is always the one that do not drive that make up the regs., then they wonder why there is protests. There has never since the beginning of the industry, HoS’ s, that have been set, started, right from the begining, there has always, had too be tweeks, done too them, till the next set of new ones, comes, out. They, needm too, get, a driver, in that seat, (pun intented), do the HoS’ s, then they might be, right, along, with expenses, right off.

  • The entire industry has been regulated to death, and sadly, the ones that make the decisions are the ones that really have no clue or first hand knowledge. Imagine passing a law that requires a regular employee in another line of work to play along with the nonsense drivers are forced too?… ( Sorry sir, you stayed late at the office last night and you’re back in this morning?, well, that’s going to cost you this fine and we will expect you to stay home until you comply …report back to your desk at 2pm, but still finish the same amount of work!!) There would be more backlash than you could imagine, yet this battered industry is always under pressure from the outside by people who frankly just don’t understand it. This is a step in the right direction, however, an extemely small one, and so many more are needed that its painful to watch and wait. I think we all agree that safety is important and accountability needs to be in place , but the entire HOS and log book system needs to be torn down, SIMPLIFIED greatly, and start over with a more reasonable approach with major input from the industry itself and not just an overzealous group at a round table that think they know what is good for an entire group.

  • Well it’s good to see that some of the women in government (WIG) have enough common sense to see the stupidity of this reg!
    Log books have nothing to do with safety if they did there wouldn’t be so many variations .
    Here in Canada we have 3 different driving hours 13 for the lower part 15 hours of driving if your running out of Whitehorse YK and 20 up in the far north.
    The only reason we have 13 hours of driving time is when these rules were set up there was no place to park trucks along the major truck routes so instead of setting up parking places, the powers that be decided to just give us more driving time.
    The log book has nothing to do with safety its only a source of revenue.

    Bev Plummer

  • The real issue is that honest and safe drivers such as yourselves are forced to operate at the lowest common denominator. Rules are introduced in order to control the worst of the worst drivers and honest law-abiding drivers lose freedom to do what they do in the way they want to do it. Log books were brought in to control drivers who drive to the point of danger to themselves and others. Drug testing was brought in, not because the odd driver smoked pot on his day off, but because the worst of the worst drivers were doing hardcore speed and meth in order to make more money. In light of the fact that innocent people have been killed by over-tired or drug filled drivers (the worst of the worst…) these laws have been initiated to protect the public and other drivers. If no problem existed in the first place, no one would have ever thought to bring these laws into effect. There are no laws against hitting yourself with a hammer, why?; because people hitting themselves with a hammer is not a huge problem! I agree with Lee that the laws should be revamped and simplified, but we also need to remember that the need for these laws was not caused by you and me, but by the really stupid people that should never have been allowed into a truck in the first place. It is because of them that we now have to deal with the restrictions we are faced with today. It is because of them that we are forced to review these laws and their effectiveness and adjust them as seen fit. It is the drivers who consider it a challenge to break the law without getting caught as much as possible. It is these drivers that cheat on their logbooks, skirt the drug testing system, routinely avoid scales because they are overloaded, and drive with serious defects in their equipment, that provoke the authorities and cause them to react with more restrictive legislation. If your job was to protect the public from danger, I think you would do the same. If everyone were to act in a reasonably safe and honest way, we would have NO REGULATION WHATSOEVER would we?

  • Couldn’t agree more with you Doug. You’ve covered it well. The industry in general has been in a tailspin in my opinion since the late 80s. I’ve been looking to hire a few good drivers for a very good job, and sadly just can’t find any. Makes you wonder just where this will end as the once sought after , respected and well paid driver career has all but gone away. There is no lure for a young person to step into this field anymore, or at least in very few cases. The quality of applicants is down to the point where I may as well just park the trucks. Painless to big business and government as the little guy falls away, but as it extends to the major carriers even worse than it already is, I’m not sure the future is looking very bright for transportation. They made the bed , the reality comes when it’s time to for everybody to get in it