The hours-of-service rules must be much easier to understand and simpler to use, says the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, in formal written comments submitted to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Dec. 15. In addition to directly addressing the individual points of the FMCSA's proposed rules in detail, the 46-page OOIDA document suggests an alternative hours-of-service proposal for consideration.
According to OOIDA President Jim Johnston, "It is clear that the government's number one concern is with highway safety. Unfortunately, the major failing of the FMCSA's proposed regulation is that its authors are trying to achieve greater highway safety by micro-managing the work and personal habits of one sector of the driving public. In doing so, they have assembled large amounts of questionable academic research on fatigue to create an unworkable plan that disregards elements of common sense, the economic impact of their proposals and the realities of the trucking industry."
OOIDA's response document contends that data on truck accidents is woefully incomplete in illuminating their connection with fatigue. Another issue strongly criticized by OOIDA in its comments is the proposed introduction of on-board recording devices, or so-called "black boxes" into trucks. OOIDA's formal response goes so far as to outline its anticipated legal challenge to the implementation of such provisions as a violation of a trucker's privacy and his constitutional rights.
In the alternative proposal contained in the response, OOIDA recommends:
1. ten hours off-duty during each 24 hour period,
2. on-duty and off-duty time to be scheduled at the driver's discretion,
3. no maximum number of on-duty hours or days in a week,
4. no mandatory off-duty weekends, and
5. no electronic on-board recording devices.
The motivation behind OOIDA's alternative proposal is to make hours-of-service rules much easier to understand and simpler to use. Working on a 24-hour cycle "will allow drivers to adopt a more regular schedule than allowed under the current rules," according to OOIDA comments. "A rule that does not micro-manage a driver's schedules, but gives the driver the flexibility to sleep when they are tired, and adjust their schedules to the reasonable needs of their customers and unpredictable road, weather, and traffic conditions will be easy to comply with."
Considering the recent hold put on the hours-of-service issue by Congress and the possible change in regulatory philosophy by the new incoming administration, it is unclear as to when work will resume on redrafting the proposed rules.
The full text of the OOIDA response document can be accessed at www.ooida.com.