— Varying opinions can be found at truck stops on a government regulation that aims to keep truckers from driving more than 70 hours a week.
Truckers have had more than a year to adjust to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Hours of Service Rule, and while some drivers see it as a good rule that gives them more time to rest, others find it impractical in an industry that has a wide variety of types of carriers and methods.
“You have people making rules on us that have never even been in a truck,” wide-load specialist Daniel Nephew of Waterford, Mich., said last week at the Interstate 40 Travel Center. “They’re just looking at statistics.”
Nephew said the rules have made the roads more congested during the daytime, and made finding a parking space at a truck stop more difficult at night. In trucks without electronic recordkeeping, there is no sure way of proving adherence anyway, Nephew points out.
“We feel that it is a productivity cut without the safety benefit,” Sean McNally of the American Trucking Association said Wednesday. “We don’t believe there’s a safety impact, but there is no data out to support it. As a matter of fact it could be detrimental to safety because of the restart provision. Because of that, we’re seeing increased truck traffic between 5 and 7 a.m. when everybody is going to school and work.”
The “restart” provision in the current Hours of Service rules says that a truck driver who reaches the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week can only resume if he or she rests for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights “when their body clock demands sleep the most — from 1-5 a.m.” Truckers previously had a maximum of 82 hours, with no limitations on 34-hour restarts. The rules went into effect July 1, 2013.
Two days before a June 7 truck accident that injured comedian Tracy Morgan on the New Jersey Turnpike, Land Line magazine managing editor Jami Jones wrote about an amendment that Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill. Collins’ proposal would suspend the requirement of two 1-5 a.m.overnights during the “restart” and would allow more than one “restart” in a seven-day period. The amendment passed and was rolled into the appropriations bill on a vote of 21-9.
The Senate has not acted on the bill. McNally said the ATA hopes it will be enacted into law.
Also June 5, the National Transportation Safety Board released findings of a four-year study that called for more safety features in big rigs.
“Crashes involving single-unit trucks resulted in about 1,800 deaths each year during 2005-2009 and also caused thousands of injuries,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman. “These trucks are ubiquitous in our communities, yet they are exempted from many safety rules. We must do better for our citizens.”
The study used a variety of data sources, including state records of police and hospital reports, federal databases, and case reviews of selected single-unit truck crashes.
This summer, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pushed the U.S. Department of Transportation to speed up a requirement that companies and drivers use electronic devices to log driving hours.
“It’s just common sense. If you’re tired, you pull over and rest,” veteran driver of 28 years Wendell Ahrens said last week at the I-40 Travel Center in Ozark. “Life is more important than money.”
Ahrens lives in Missouri and works out of North Carolina near Asheville. He stays out for 10-day stretches and said he’d rather have the old rules back with less regulation.
“I may drive 11 hours in one day with ease, but if I have to stay in traffic a long time, I might just end up only driving five hours,” Ahrens said.
The Hours of Service rule for truck drivers also contains an 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day limit, so basically the 11 hours of driving has to be done in 14 hours, Ahrens said. Some truckers would like to see the 14-hour rule eliminated because it reduces stress by allowing them to be able to stop the clock when they need or want to.
Essentially, there seems to be no simple way to make a blanket rule for the 3.2 million truck drivers on American highways. McNally said “trucking is such a diverse industry flexibility is needed” with the regulations.
Not every driver is upset with the new rules.
Bruce Rogers, a solo long-haul carrier, said he favors the regulation. He owns and operates R-Way Express out of Spencer, Tenn.
“I think it cuts down on accidents and it works good,” Rogers said last week while filling up at Loves Truck Stop in Ozark. “A lot of truckers don’t like it, but if you do it right and take a 34-hour break, you get more rest time. “
Rogers said he would like to expand his operation but can’t afford to hire a new drivers.
Doug Clayton of Miller Transports in Pryor, Okla., said he doesn’t stay out for extensive long hauls often, but was in favor of the “restart” rules.
“With the old rules, I could barely get enough time to rest after working,” Pryor said. “By the time I got my head down a few hours, it would be time to go again.”
Trucking On The Move
The ATA’s American Trucking Trends 2014 report says truck freight volumes had slowed from the previous couple of years, but still rose in 2012 and boomed in 2013 thanks to energy and housing.
Freight movement by truck is only expected to increase. According to Forecast, a collaboration between ATA and IHS Global Insight, overall freight tonnage will grow 23.5 percent from now until 2025 and freight revenues will be up 72 percent.
Truck transportation’s average annual growth rate over the next five years is projected to be 3.3 percent, with 11,587.1 million tons moving behind trucks by 2019. By 2025, trucking is projected to occupy 71.4 percent of the transportation market, moving 12,358.8 million tons at a revenue of $ 1.177 trillion.
Last year, trucking’s revenue was $681.7 billion. In 2019 it is projected to be $954.9 billion. Truckload volume is expected to grow 3.5 percent a year through 2019, then 1.2 percent annually from 2020 to 2025 – however, truckload carriers will make greater use of intermodal rail for intermediate and long-distance hauls, the Forecast report added.
At 15 percent, the Okla-Ark-La-Tex region has the second-highest amount of outbound tonnage transported by truck in the nation. The Great Lakes states have the highest inbound and outbound truck tonnage.
Todd E. Smith