OOIDA president: Current HOS regs force truckers to drive in dangerous situations

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line associate editor | Monday, October 01, 2018

JOPLIN, Mo. – Current hours-of-service regulations force truck drivers to operate in adverse conditions or when they are tired, OOIDA President Todd Spencer told FMCSA leaders during a public listening session on Friday, Sept. 29 at the Guilty By Association Truck Show.

The listening session was conducted to discuss an advance notice of proposed rulemaking regarding possible changes to FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations. OOIDA has asked the agency to allow more flexibility within the hours of service in order to enhance safety.

FMCSA published the advance notice of proposed rulemaking on Aug. 23, and has conducted public listening sessions in Dallas; Reno, Nev.; and Joplin, Mo. Additional listening sessions are scheduled Oct. 2 in Orlando, Fla., and Oct. 10 in Washington, D.C.

Spencer thanked FMCSA leadership, including administrator Ray Martinez, for taking the time to listen to truck drivers’ ideas on how to improve the hours-of-service regulations and increase safety.

“The regulation shouldn’t force you to drive when you don’t want to or when it doesn’t make sense. Too often, that happens now,” Spencer said. “I think we can do better. I applaud the agency for recognizing that.

“When you talk about drivers that measure their safety by millions of miles, they probably have figured a few things out. You can probably learn a lot, so I want to thank you for doing that.”

OOIDA petitioned the FMCSA in February, asking for regulations to allow drivers to take a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for three consecutive hours if the driver is off-duty. OOIDA also asked for the agency to eliminate the 30-minute rest break requirement.

The Association said that giving professional drivers the option to avoid rush-hour traffic, inclement weather, or to stop when they feel fatigued would benefit safety.

“My background is trucking,” Spencer said. “I started as an owner-operator, and the happiest trucking I ever did was for a long-haul carrier where I had the total flexibility to pick my day, pick my time … to drive when it made sense to drive. I wasn’t going to drive a million hours. I was going to drive when it made sense to drive.”

Spencer told the agency’s leaders that no one wants highways to be safe more than professional truck drivers.

“You’re at a place surrounded by some of the most beautiful equipment you will run into anywhere and it’s owned and operated by professionals,” Spencer said on the second day of GBATS, which hosted nearly 700 trucks. “And I doubt you can find a single (truck driver) who will attribute their success or their safety to any of the regulations.

“To tell them that they should operate safely is almost an insult. There’s nobody out there who wants to get close to anything, let alone another vehicle. The vast majority of these folks, our members and owner-operators overall, they are all family people. Their wives, their kids, their spouses, their mothers – they all run the same roads. Every time they move, they think more about the safety of others than they quite likely do for themselves.”

Doug Smith, an OOIDA board member from Utah, said he agreed with FMCSA’s idea to extend the 12-hour short-haul exception to 14 hours.

“It’s taken a long time for someone to put that together, but that’s brilliant,” Smith said. “I support that whole-heartedly. When you just barely cross over that 12-hour line and you have to back up and do a logbook, it’s pretty frustrating. So that 14-hour rule makes a lot of sense.”

Mark Elrod, an OOIDA board member from Indiana, asked the agency for some clarification on its guidance regarding personal conveyance.

“You can use a commercial motor vehicle for personal conveyance when you are not in commerce and not making any money,” said Bill Quade, FMCSA’s associate administrator for enforcement and program delivery.

“There is no specific hours limitation. I was at a CVSA meeting last week, and law enforcement was asking for a distance. But we can’t give a distance. If I am an owner-operator for Landstar and I finish in Jackson, Fla., and then I’m going on vacation to California, and my vehicle is my truck, then I can go to California. You’re not making any money. It is not in commerce. Our regulations do not apply.”

Several other truck drivers spoke in favor of eliminating the 30-minute mandatory rest break and adding flexibility into the sleeper berth provision.

Martinez told the audience that the agency plans to move forward with changes to the HOS rules as soon as possible. The comment period goes through Oct. 10. Comments can be made here.

“We are on a very aggressive timeline here,” Martinez said.

“We want to make sure that any changes to these rules continue to protect public safety and provide the flexibility the industry needs to maintain to maximize an efficient and safe transportation system in the United States.”

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