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New rules start limiting truck driver hours

Jul 02, 2013 | 05:26 PM |

Tags  hours of service rules, truck drivers, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Admininstration, Ray LaHood, American Trucking Associations, Steve Williams, Corinna Petry

CHICAGO — New federal rules limiting the average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, intended to improve road safety, went into effect July 1.

"These rules make common-sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety for every traveler on our highways and roads," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

But the American Trucking Associations (ATA) said during a June 18 congressional hearing that the added burden is unnecessary, resulting in lost productivity.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new regulations limit the average work week to 70 hours, down from a maximum of 82 hours previously, to ensure drivers have adequate rest. Only the most extreme schedules will be impacted, according to the federal agency, and more than 85 percent of the truck driving work force will see no changes.

Working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of accidents and certain chronic health conditions among drivers, the agency said, projecting that the new regulations will save 19 lives and prevent 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries annually.

But the government’s "motivation to change the rules was not based on evidence demonstrating a problem," Steve Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of North Little Rock, Ark.-based trucking company Maverick USA Inc., told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s panel on highways and transit.

"(Its) three-paragraph statement in the rulemaking did not cite any research or data analysis showing a problem. That speaks volumes," according to Williams, a past chairman of the ATA and current chairman of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).

An ATRI report found "statistically significant" declines in the number of crashes under the basic framework of the old rules, he said.

"The industry will lose operating flexibility and productivity," Williams said, noting that an estimated 1.5- to 4-percent reduction in productivity will translate to between $500 million and $1.4 billion in lost business opportunity.

The final rules retain an 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day. Carriers that violate the rules face penalties of up to $11,000.

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