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8/29/2005
SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA petitions for changes to new HOS rule

OOIDA filed a petition Monday, Aug. 29, asking the government to reconsider the recently revised hours-of-service regulations.

Despite FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg's downplay of the changes in the revised regs, OOIDA has identified two specific changes that will have a significant impact on truckers and their operations.

"We're filing for two common sense changes to the new hours of service proposal," OOIDA CEO and President Jim Johnston said.

The new rules are set up in a way that if a trucker chooses to split up the required 10 hours of off-duty time, one of the two periods must be at least eight hours. The eight-hour rest off-duty period stops the 14-hour clock. The other two hours of off-duty time can be taken at another time, either in the sleeper or out, to fulfill the 10-hour off-duty requirement, but does not stop the 14-hour clock.

FMCSA stresses the importance of the two-hour portion of the split-sleeper berth provision in its rulemaking.

"The second period will allow a driver to have time for a nap or rest break or provide an opportunity to attend to personal matters. The opportunity to take a nap later in the day is an important benefit," the rulemaking states.

Elsewhere in the rulemaking, naps and rest breaks are called "an important tool in combating fatigue and the FMCSA encourages their use."

Despite the encouragement in the rulemaking for truckers to cash in the opportunity for a nap or short rest period, the fact that the two-hour break does not stop the 14-hour clock is a disincentive for truckers to utilize the break, according to OOIDA.

"We're simply asking that those two hours would also stop the clock, that the driver could take those off-duty and not count against his working time," Johnston said. "We think its common sense because it's consistent with the 10-hour off-duty requirement."

Johnston pointed out that allowing truckers to take a two-hour midday break to tend to personal affairs - eating, showering, etc. - is totally consistent with the rest of the regulation and should not count against the 14-hour clock.

"We think it's practical and makes plain common sense to do it that way," Johnston said.

The other change OOIDA will petition for involves split-sleeper berth provisions for team drivers.

Under the new HOS regulations, team drivers would have to take a minimum of eight consecutive hours off in the sleeper berth.

"That's impractical for most team operations," Johnston said. "We're asking in our petition that the DOT retain the current sleeper-berth exemption, which allows the drivers to take sleeper berth time in whatever increments they want as long as no period is less than two hours."

OOIDA contends that FMCSA's abandonment of the sleeper-berth rules, at least as far as team drivers go, was based in part on the assumption that a schedule, such as the one where the driver goes on duty for five hours and then off duty for five hours, only gives a driver a five-hour window of opportunity to obtain rest.

"This is simply not the case with team drivers," OOIDA's petition states. "Often the period of a driver's rest is a combination of the length of the other (team) driver's driving period plus that other driver's breaks to take care of business."

FMCSA posted the revised hours-of-service regulation on the Federal Register Thursday, Aug. 25. The public - individuals and groups alike - now have 30 days to petition for reconsideration or a redraft of the final rule.

The revised hours-of-service regulations go into effect Oct. 1.

To read OOIDA's petition for changes to new HOS rule in PDF format Click Here...

- By Jami Jones, staff editor
jami_jones@landlinemag.com

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