Restart rule could be suspended

WASHINGTON, DC- The trucking industry’s effort to suspend the current 34-hour restart is inching closer to victory.

Opponents of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s restart regulation have succeeded in attaching a clause to the current U.S. Federal funding bill that will cut off funding for enforcement of the restart while the FMCSA studies its impact. (The bill must first be voted on by both the Senate and House and signed by Obama).

At issue is the provision in the 2013 hours of service (HOS) rule that requires drivers to take two periods off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during their 34-hour restart, and limits use of the restart to once a week.

According to trucking industry analysts FTR, “those periods mean that truckers are unable to resume their work cycle in the evening or at night, a major hindrance to many schedules.  Given the need for a study, followed by several steps in the regulatory process, FTR has estimated that modified regulations would be in place no earlier than early-2017.”

The suspension would last until the agency finishes the study or September 30 of next year, whichever comes later. Meanwhile the earlier version of the restart, which does not contain the restrictions mentioned earlier, would be in effect.

The change would improve industry productivity by two percent immediately, FTR claims, and the modified regulation will lower productivity by 1.5 percent, if the sleep timing issues are solved, which is a 50- basis-point improvement over the current regulation. 

In the meantime, the 2015 productivity benefit will noticeably affect truckload capacity usage, joining an already moderating trend to lower capacity utilization to near 96 percent, FTR claims.

That’s high by historical standards, but 300-basis-points under the critical level of 2013. 

“This means that the industry will have an important reserve of surge capacity to handle seasonal peaks or other issues in 2015,” FTR claims, adding that they expect price increases to moderate as a result, especially for spot markets.

Noël Perry, FTR’s senior consultant and managing director, commented: “This change does not reduce the impending wave of regulatory drag still scheduled for late 2016 and beyond.  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 percent 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,” Perry said. “Should recession occur – at FTR we think this is likely – that simply will push the crisis out a year or two. At that time, the problem will be worsened by a surge in recovery freight.”

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