Countering a trend of increasing rigidness in regulations that subsequently are not improving the crash rates on the highways, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed a petition on Tuesday calling for a reform of the hours-of-service regulations.
OOIDA submitted the formal petition on Tuesday, Feb. 13, with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Deputy Administrator Cathy Gautreaux.
“Trucking is heavily regulated, and many of the regulations are strictly enforced. Yet, highway safety is getting worse, not better. Perhaps it’s time for a new approach, one that involves more input from truckers with millions of miles of safe driving experience and less input from those with little to no experience behind the wheel of a truck,” the petition states.
That new approach, driven by the calls of actual truck drivers and not so-called safety groups or mega fleet special interest groups, must start with the hours-of-service regulations.
“Over the years, DOT has significantly changed the HOS regulations. The current regulations are overly complex, provide no flexibility, and in no way reflect the physical capabilities or limitations of individual drivers,” the petition states.
“They force drivers to be on the road when they are tired or fatigued, during busy travel times and adverse weather and road conditions, or when they simply aren’t feeling well. In short, the current HOS regulations force truckers to comply with a regulatory framework that jeopardizes their safety and the safety of the traveling public.”
OOIDA’s petition targets the 14-hour on-duty clock and the 30-minute rest break.
Truckers have long contended with the disastrous effects of the rigid 14-hour ticking time bomb of on-duty time. Forced to continue working and maybe even driving when weather, traffic or their own personal physical conditions would dictate otherwise, drivers have long called for flexibility in the 14-hour clock.
To tackle this, OOIDA asks the agency to consider a revision to the inability of drivers to stop the 14-hour clock.
The petition suggests the regulations be modified to allow drivers to take a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for up to three consecutive hours as long as the driver is off-duty.
“This rest break would effectively stop the 14-hour clock. However, drivers would still need to log 10 consecutive hours off duty before the start of their next work shift,” the petition states.
OOIDA leadership points out that drivers could use the ability to stop the clock to avoid periods of high congestion or bad weather. That time would be off-duty, allowing the driver to take an extended rest break during the day without pushing through fatigue because of the unrelenting 14-hour on-duty clock.
The 30-minute rest break also is addressed in OOIDA’s petition. The Association asks the agency to consider simply eliminating the 30-minute mandatory rest break requirement.
“There are many operational situations where the 30-minute rest break requires drivers to stop when they simply do not need to. In addition, if drivers are allowed to stop the 14-hour clock for up to three consecutive hours, the 30-minute rest break is redundant and unnecessary,” the petition states.
Crash rates involving large trucks have been on the increase since the agency has last tinkered with the hours of service regulations, OOIDA points out.
“Providing drivers with more flexible hours-of-service regulations will improve highway safety, contrary to what anti-trucking advocates might believe. The federal HOS should foster safe driving habits, not prevent them. We believe DOT has regulatory authority to docket our petition, initiate a rulemaking, and amend the federal HOS. On behalf of our members, we urge you to do the right thing,” the petition concludes.
Editor’s note: Listen to OOIDA Acting President and CEO Todd Spencer discussing the petition and why lawmakers and regulators need to focus on drivers and what they know makes the roads safer on this Land Land Now podcast.
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