Hours of service regulations for drivers of large, heavy trucks were created to keep fatigued drivers off the road in order to prevent accidents, as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) writes in its Interstate Truck Driver’s Guide to Hours of Service. For example, as the FMCSA states on its website:
60/70-Hour Limit: [Drivers] may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
“President Barack Obama Dec. 16 signed the appropriations bill that halts enforcement of the requirement that a driver’s 34-hour restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods and the once-per-week limit of the restart,” James Jaillet wrote in December 2014 for Overdrive. That stay of enforcement meant that truck drivers did not have to heed the restart provisions that were adopted in July 2013.
This same law required the FMCSA to study the impact of the restart rules on drivers, carriers, and safety, Jaillet wrote. If the FMCSA found that the rules indeed made for safer driving, then the restart provisions could go back into effect, Jaillet wrote. Congress said FMCSA would have to report back to them on the safety implications by Sept. 30, 2015, writes Reynolds Hutchins for JOC. The final report is expected to be delivered to Congress by February, he adds.
As James Jaillet wrote recently: “The current stay of enforcement of the 2013-implemented rules governing truckers’ use of a 34-hour hours-of-service restart could be removed as soon as Sept. 30, 2015, according to the text of the law that temporarily suspended the rules.” Jaillet quotes FMCSA spokesperson Duane DeBruyne as saying the FMCSA is still collecting data in the study and has not yet begun to analyze it. He added that he hopes the agency will provide an update soon.
Truck drivers and their employers say that the stricter restart rules would limit their productivity, Hutchins writes. Bill Matheson, president of intermodal and logistics services at the trucking firm Schneider, said all of the changes in rules are “extraordinarily disruptive.” New rules will cause delays by increasing transit times, which is especially detrimental for long haul vehicle shipping companies.
In its 2016 DOT-funding bill, the House said the suspended regulations can only go back into effect “if FMCSA’s study shows the 2013 rules ‘demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in all outcomes related to safety, operator fatigue, driver health and longevity and work schedules’ when compared to drivers operating under pre-2013 rules,” Jaillett reports. The Senate version of the bill also requires the study to show that the 2013 rules provide greater safety benefits than the pre-2013 rules, however it has not been passed by the full Senate yet, Jaillet writes. He notes that President Obama has said he may veto the House version of the bill, partly because of the hours-of-service sections.