SPECIAL REPORT: FMCSA’s Sandberg greets O/O’s at OOIDA headquarters

| 11/14/2003

Grain Valley, MO – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Annette Sandberg Nov. 14 told owner-operators she is well aware that new hours-of-service rules may need to address long waiting times drivers spend while loading and unloading.

Annette Sandberg, FMCSA Administrator, at OOIDA headquarters

That unpaid time must be logged as on-duty, and counts against the new rule’s 14-hour provision. Meanwhile, carriers said the 14-hour clock rule would increase freight rates across the nation in order to compensate for increases in driver pay.

"We know there are concerns that shippers will need to change their loading and unloading times," Sandberg said. "We won't wait - if we have good data to show that changes should be made, we will make them."

Earlier, Sandberg told Land Line in an interview: “One of the things I’ve been told is that a lot of the shippers are just simply not aware of the new HOS changes and their impact on drivers. We probably need to make sure they understand the implications if they can’t get a driver in and out fairly quickly – that is clearly something we need to take a look at.”

Sandberg also reiterated FMCSA’s goal of reducing accidents on the nation’s highways – there were 43,000 deaths last year and 5,000 of them involved truck-related crashes.

"We're beginning to see a downward decline in truck-related crashes," she said, while emphasizing the importance of wearing seat belts.

Sandberg’s remarks came as OOIDA celebrated its 30th anniversary and the expansion of its Grain Valley headquarters.

Also on hand were members of OOIDA’s board of directors, who attended a session Nov. 13 with Terry L. Graham, FMCSA’s Kansas division administrator, who discussed the effects of the agency’s new HOS rules on truck drivers.

During the meeting, Graham acknowledged there are many unanswered questions related to the new rules, which go into effect Jan. 4, 2004.

One crucial issue is that states have anywhere from six months to three years after Jan. 4, 2004, to adopt the new federal rule. This leaves drivers in a precarious situation during this “phase-in period” as they drive from state to state, not knowing whether the old or new regulations are being enforced.

For example, some states may not adopt the new federal rule and continue to enforce the old rules. But is this legal, since traditionally, federal law trumps or pre-empts state law?

Graham said officials at the federal and state level are working to iron out this problem, and glitches related to the new rule’s sleeper berth provision.

--by Dick Larsen, senior editor