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ATA pushes for HOS restart rules to remain intact

May 20 2016

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) said today it is calling on Congress to take action on maintaining the current motor carrier hours-of-service (HOS) restart rule, which it said provided truck drivers with the flexibility and opportunity to take extended off-duty periods without restriction.


The 34-hour restart rule took effect in June 2013. The restart rules require truckers who maximize their weekly work hours must take at least two nights’ rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most—from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. This rest requirement allows drivers to restart the clock on their workweek by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period.


This restart rule has been shelved since December 2014, with the objective to 

suspend the new HOS restart rules for one year and during that time have the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study the rule during that time to analyze its safety benefits and provide an understanding if how the restart changes impact drivers, as well as safety and productivity issues in trucking.


But more than a year has gone by and there is still no formal FMCSA study out there at least publicly, with any type of findings in regards to the suspension of the 34-hours restart for better or worse.


“We have said since the broad framework of the current hours-of-service rules went into effect in 2004 – complying with these rules improves safety,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves in a statement. “The flexibility to take additional rest that the restart provided for a decade, and is providing now, allows drivers to get additional off-duty time and rest, and we shouldn’t be putting restrictions on that – certainly not ones that have been shown to push truck traffic into riskier daytime hours.”


ATA explained that the restart has aided in facilitating trucking sector safety improvements over the last ten-to-12 years, citing various data points to support its thesis, including: 

-Truck-involved fatal crashes are down 21 percent since the current hours-of-service and restart rule framework went into effect in 2004;

-Fatigue is not the leading cause of truck-involved crashes according to the federal government; speeding and aggressive driving by other vehicles far outpaces truck driver fatigue as a contributor to crashes; 

-The American Transportation Research Institute found an uptick in crashes after the restart restrictions were imposed in 2013 as a result of a shift of more truck traffic to daytime hours; and 

-In surveys, professional drivers consistently say the current restart rules aid them in getting more rest and allowing them more time at home


What’s more, the federal omnibus spending bill passed in late December and signed into law by President Obama included language intended to scrap only the provision that truck drivers working overnight would be required to take at least two 30-minute rest breaks between 1 a.m. and 5 p.m.


The trucking lobby viewed that requirement as burdensome and costly – and won a reprieve pending a thorough study now being completed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Unless that study of more than 250 truck drivers can show a direct correlation between those rest breaks and trucking safety – which most observers say will be nearly impossible – that provision will be scrapped entirely.


And the ATA said at the time there is another problem in that the exact language of Section 133 of the omnibus spending bill did not include a provision “specifically stipulating” that the industry would continue to operate under the old restart rules if the study does not show significant benefits from the new restrictions.


If the restart were to be entirely scrapped, ATA said that it could lead to millions of drivers being deprived of needed flexibility and forced to use a complex and antiquated system, known as a “rolling recap,” to monitor their hours.


And language in the Senate’s Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill would enable drivers to reset their weekly on-duty totals to zero, following an extended off-duty rest period, according to Dave Osiecki, ATA Executive Vice President & Chief of National Advocacy, Policy & Regulatory Affairs.


Earlier this month, The Trucking Alliance, a concern comprised of large truckload carriers JB Hunt Transport, Maverick Transportation, Dupre Logistics, and Knight Transportation, spoke out against a proposed 73-hour cap that precludes the possibility that any driver could drive after having worked 73 hours, with drivers required to take a break, a 34-hour restart, when they reach 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days.  One of its main reasons for opposing it was that it said it would “create widespread confusion throughout the industry since drivers operate under either a 60-hour/7 days limit or a 70-hour/8 days limit currently.


This move was led by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Collins oversees transportation funding measures as chair of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (T-HUD). The funding measure was part of a $56 billion transportation funding bill approved by a 30-0 vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month. The 73-hour cap is in the bill that recently passed out of Committee 30-0.


A Collins’ staffer told LM that the 73-hour cap does not make any changes to the current maximum mandatory hours a commercial truck driver can drive in a current week without taking a restart.


ATA’s Osiecki said that ATA does not support the proposed 73-hour cap, but said it does “appreciate and understand the Senate’s reason for including this weekly hours cap.”

Logistics Management | May 19, 2016 | Jeff Berman

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