New focus needed after HOS decision

| Friday, December 21, 2007

If the federal government ever wants to make meaningful strides in reducing driver fatigue, OOIDA says the lack of regard for drivers’ time must still be addressed.

Trucker Walter Krupski delivered that message for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Wednesday, Dec. 19, in his testimony in a hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Safety, Security, and Infrastructure on the hours-of-service regulations.

Krupski, a senior member of OOIDA, told committee members that the Association supports the decision of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to keep both the 11-hour option and allowing the more widely used 34-hour restart. But, in order for driver fatigue to become a non-issue, there is much more that FMCSA must address, according to Krupski and OOIDA leaders.

Under the current hours-of-service rule, OOIDA contends, drivers must give up work and compensation if they pull off the road to rest during the work day.

“If all stakeholders were fully vested in the rules and all drivers were able to fully comply with the regulations without fear of some type reprisal, there would be a sea change in the industry,” said Krupski.

“If drivers were compensated for all of the work they do, drivers’ time would become valuable and shippers would be forced to streamline their operations to minimize loading and unloading time. A new approach is needed if Congress and the agency truly wish to make significant improvements in driver fatigue.”

The Association has pointed out that shippers and receivers routinely make truckers wait from two hours to two days before they are allowed to load or unload their trucks. Some even require drivers to perform warehouse work such as restacking pallets. Not only is such work unpaid, but it essentially steals the time that drivers have under the HOS rules to do the work they are actually paid for; driving the truck.

In 1995, Congress asked the Department of Transportation to examine whether it should have authority over shippers and receivers to effectively enforce the safety regulations.

“The DOT never submitted to Congress or otherwise published an examination of this issue,” testified Krupski. “Motor carriers have historically been unwilling to remedy the problems associated with loading and unloading abuses, and drivers are powerless to resolve them.”

The Association also believes that if drivers were compensated for both their driving and non-driving on-duty work, they would have every incentive to record all of their on-duty time, and problems with the accuracy of logbooks would disappear.

“Unless these economic issues are addressed, drivers who become disqualified from driving for violating the hours-of-service rules will simply be replaced by a new driver facing the same economic pressures,” Krupski testified.

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