Shaping hours-of-service regulations

by Jason Cisper

For the past several months, there has been much speculation regarding the proposal. Rumors and published reports ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. And as might be expected, all major trucking-related associations have made known their own theories on what should be contained within the new hours of service.

The American Trucking Associations made their comments to the OMB on Dec. 15 regarding how to reform the current regulations. Based on a 24-hour clock, drivers should be limited to 14 hours of on-duty time (with no distinction between driving and non-driving time) and 10 hours of off-duty time.

ATA also recommended that drivers be given "flex time," thus allowing a driver to "borrow" as many as two hours against the next day's cycle. The idea is to give a driver added time in special situations where more time is needed to complete a given task on time. In other words, if a driver borrows two hours against the following day's cycle, his next on-duty cycle would be a maximum of 12 hours. ATA does not support mandatory rest breaks during on-duty time.

ATA has also stated that drivers should be allowed to "restart" their on-duty clocks following 34 consecutive off-duty hours.

The Virginia-based Truckload Carriers Association says they have adopted the same position on hours of service as ATA.

Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) has published their position regarding hours of service on their web site ( Michael Scippa, executive director of CRASH told Land Line the responsibility of implementing new regulations should, in general, fall on the shoulders of dispatchers, receivers and carriers. Stipulations regarding loading and unloading of freight and transportation and lodging for drivers, the association says, should be the responsibility of the employer (carrier). A copy of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 (as presented in the OSHA poster 3113), should likewise be posted in a prominent location by all shippers, receivers and carriers.

CRASH also states that truckers should be included under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and paid hourly for their on-duty time. Furthermore, each respective trucker should be given a rough schedule of time that he/she may be required to work during a given period of time. The idea is to allow the driver to establish a semi-regular shift (and thus, a regular sleeping pattern).

With regard to on-duty time, CRASH says a driver should not be required to work more than 12 consecutive hours (with a maximum of 10 hours spent driving). For every 120 hours of on-duty time, a driver should be entitled to 60 hours of off-duty time (to be spent at home, or a location acceptable to the driver).

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has chosen to remain silent regarding their opinion of viable hours-of-service options. According to Don Owens, a Teamster representative, it is not their intention to "influence the outcome of proposed rule changes before the Federal Highway Administration has issued its notice."

"The commercial motor vehicle industry has undergone considerable changes since the 1930s, but commercial driver fatigue has, and will remain a top safety issue," he adds. "The Teamsters remain committed to ensuring that any future hours-of-service regulations do not adversely affect highway safety."

Like CRASH, Parents Against Tired Truckers (based in Lisbon, ME) agrees that drivers should be paid by the hour for all hours worked. According to Daphne Izer, co-chair of the association, paying drivers an hourly wage will cut back on outside "incentives" to bend or break the regs.

"Without pay by the hour, safety will still go by the wayside, with shippers and receivers still demanding goods be delivered in totally unreasonable amounts of time," she says. "Schedules beyond human capabilities."

PATT also agrees that truckers should have 12 hours of on-duty time, with no more than 10 of those hours spent driving. Break time, they say, should be mandatory in order to prevent the expectation that truckers will drive every possible hour allotted.

Finally, PATT says that regardless of the new hours-of-service regulations, they should come under review again no later than three years after adoption. "To let counter-productive rules go without change for 60 years is a testament to a failed system," Izer says.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association holds a position on revisions to the hours-of-service regulations similar to those currently in place in Canada. The OOIDA position is based on lengthy discussion of all currently-available considerations, and the views of the membership of OOIDA and the board of directors. Here are the main points:

• Allow 15 hours on duty with 13 consecutive hours of driving time split by meal breaks at times left to the discretion of the driver.

• The off-duty time should be 8 hours.

• Limits on cumulative hours should be relaxed, allowing a restart of time after any consecutive 24-hour off-duty time.

• Flexibility must also be provided to the driver in regard to the 13 hours driving time. This is to allow him/her to proceed home, to pick up/delivery points, or to a safe location to go off duty when out of hours and only a short distance from his/her destination - as long as he/she does not exceed the 15 hours total on-duty time.

• The logbook should be revised and simplified to eliminate all unnecessary or redundant information. The sleeper berth line should be eliminated, leaving only off duty, on duty not driving, driving. Also the cumulative hours recap should be eliminated.

OOIDA's position is that the regulations' work hours must be considered the maximum allowed. Actual hours below the maximum must be left totally to the discretion of the driver.

"The greatest impact on driver fatigue and risk to highway safety is not from drivers not knowing when they need to rest, but rather from outside pressures to exceed their limits," says Jim Johnston, OOIDA president. "We intend to use all of our resources to assure that the revisions made to the hours-of-service regulations allow trucking to go forward with a rule that provides realistic solutions. We must have rules that permit truckers to determine the best and safest time for them to drive and also permit them to make money doing this job. What we don't want is for this long, drawn-out affair to result in another bad rule that sets us back. It's a rule that we'll have to live with for a long time."

Proposed rules: What the insiders are saying

Proposed hours-of-service regs now being reviewed by the White House

On Dec. 3, the White House Office of Management and Budget officially received DOT's hours-of-service rules for review. Details of the proposed rules have not been publicized, but various sources indicate the rules will be based on a 24-hour clock, with 14 hours on duty and 10 hours off.

Julie Cirillo, program manager of the DOT's Office of Motor Carrier Safety, has called the proposal "a very good rule." Although Cirillo and the DOT staffers have been tight-lipped about the details, she has said she feels that DOT has struck a balance in formulating the new rules.

Speculation is that the rules would require drivers to take two hours of break time during their 14 hours on-duty time. This break time would be taken whenever the driver chooses and would be included against the 14 hours on-duty time. Also, it is likely that the rules may give special attention to the flexibility issues required in order to harmonize with the diversity of today's trucking applications.

After the OMB reviews the proposal, it will be published in the Federal Register as a proposed rule, subject to revision or adjustment based on comments and evidence received. At that point, a series of hearings will be scheduled in about eight cities where truckers will have the opportunity to voice their opinion. 

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