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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