U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao described the current hours-of-service regulations as “inflexible” during a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, March 27.
The comment was in response to a question from Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., about the Modernizing Agricultural Transportation Act, which would provide regulatory relief for the transportation of agricultural products.
“Well, this is what happens when there’s a one-size-fits-all solution – it doesn’t work across the country because our country is so diverse,” Chao said. “And obviously with electronic logging devices, that created hardships for small truckers and also created hardships for agricultural interests, farmers, people who are hauling in rural areas.
“But the issue, as it turned out, is not the electronic logging device, it’s the hours of service. So we are actually looking at that as well on a bipartisan basis, and we hope to come out with some conclusions on that. But, again, we’re very much aware of the hardship that these inflexible rules have placed on rural and agricultural interests.”
The testimony came only days before Chao is scheduled to provide a regulatory update on Friday, March 29, at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. According to a news release, Chao “will be providing an update on the Department of Transportation’s efforts on safety, infrastructure, truck parking, and reducing burdensome regulations on truck drivers.”
Many truck drivers hope the speech will provide some details regarding hours-of-service reform.
In August, FMCSA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking regarding possible changes to the hours of service. The agency hosted five public listening sessions, and a common response from OOIDA and truck drivers was that there needed to be more flexibility within the rules.
The FMCSA received about 5,200 comments on the possible rulemaking, and the agency is expected to announce its proposed changes to the hours of service soon.
OOIDA said it is hopeful that Chao’s testimony hints at positive changes regarding the hours of service.
“We appreciate the Secretary’s conclusion that inflexible rules like the ELD mandate present distinct hardships for segments of the trucking industry, especially small businesses,” said Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs. “We hope this is an indication that the Department will follow the advice of truckers and push for greater flexibility in the current hours-of-service regulations when they issue a notice of proposed rulemaking in the near future.
“Modernizing hours of service will not resolve our outstanding concerns with the ELD mandate, but it will be an important step in providing drivers greater control over their own schedules and improving highway safety.”
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