Oops: Appropriations bill may have done away with 34-hour restart entirely

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Todd Dills|February 12, 2016

Turns out the 34-hour restart-related item inthe late-2015 Congressional appropriations bill may have done a little more than was intended. The intent of the item was to reinforce the stay of enforcement of limitations on use of the 34-hour restart that were implemented in 2013 and which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrationcontinues to study as to their effectiveness, as required by law.

But read what the appropriations bill actually states relative to the restart, and it becomes clear that not only did it extend that stay and put limitations on FMCSA’s ability to reinstate the restrictions — once-per-week use of the restart and inclusion of two 1-5 a.m. periods — it essentially nullified the restart entirely.

None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act or any other Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce sections 395.3(c) and 395.3(d) of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, and such section shall have no force or effect on submission of the final report issued by the Secretary…

 

RELATED

 

Required 34-hour restart study finished, advances to next step, says FMCSA boss

That’s the key part of this, and what exactly does 395.3(c) and 395.3(d) refer to? Those are, essentially, everything in the regulations pertaining to the restart. And since the appropriations bill’s language doesn’t specify an alternative to those regulations, as the Truckload Carriers Association noted this afternoon in a message to members…

 

…then there is no restart provision to abide by.

 

That’s DOT’s recent interpretation at least, according to TCA. Now, before you go back to recapping entirely, take note of the rest of that message from TCA:

 

As discussions around this issue remain fluid, we are instructing our carrier members to keep their fleets operating as they have always been as members of Congress seek to reach an agreement on the best way to proceed. In an email to its Executive Committee, of which TCA is part, ATA has put forth options which they can use to negotiate with lawmakers. Of those options, the parties involved, including TCA representatives, have selected what ATA perceives to be the most flexible option on the table. The selected option consists of the following:

 

Total weekly cap of 75 hours in any 7 calendar days Retains 60/7, 70/8 rules.Taking an off-duty period of 34 consecutive hours or more allows the driver to exceed the 60/7 & 70/8 limits, up to the 75-hour, 7-calendar-day cap.

We’ll update more when we have word of any final solution, as changes wouldn’t go into effect until certified by DOT in concert with lawmakers. As TCA noted, “as of today, we are continuing to operate as we did yesterday.”

At once, reminds me of Tom Strese‘s sage words from about a year ago as the exemptions to the milk-and-cookie break really started to pile up: If we’re not careful, Strese said, “pretty soon our HOS rules are going to look like the tax code.”

Can you live without the restart? Keep it simple, so to speak — or as simple as recapping can be? Stay tuned for more…

Rollback of 34-hour restart regs further entrenched by Congressional budget deal.

FMCSA will have to prove its 2013-implemented rules are better for driver fatigue and highway safety than previous hours rules before they can go back …

 

The undeclared war on owner-operators

July 30, 2013

Why would our government make war on one of the most productive and safest groups in the transportation sector?   While there is no declared or undeclared war on owner-operators and independent drivers by government, it sure feels like it for many of them.   How else can one explain the variety of laws, regulations, and rules that have come out or are pending that may adversely affect them?   The title of this op-ed for Overdrive by Colorado Motor Carriers Association President Greg Fulton, he says, is “a phrase that I heard from a frustrated owner-operator.”   Let’s look at what this undeclared war looks like.   First, we have the federal and many state governments seeking to redefine and reinterpret what constitutes an independent contractor in trucking and the relationship between motor carriers and owner-operators.   The independent contractor model and use of owner-operators in the trucking industry has  been in place for more than 50 years, and many of the owners of the largest trucking companies in the country started as independent drivers.   While this model is not perfect, it has generally worked well for both independent drivers and companies.   Now we have a number of states pushing for these owner-operators to be considered employees instead of independent contractors.   This concept fails to recognize that there are thousands of employee-driving jobs available across the country that these talented individuals could accept. Instead, they choose to be  owner-operators because of the freedom it provides them and the opportunities (and risks) of being their own boss and running their own small business.   Unfortunately, this push by some state governments and other interest groups has had a chilling effect as some companies reconsider the use of owner-operators for fear that they may be subject to unwarranted investigations and fines.   In the end this push by government acts to limit the opportunities for owner-operators and independent drivers.Second, there are the new hours of service (HOS) rules, which have disproportionately affected many owner-operators.   The timing of these rules is particularly frustrating as those independent drivers, who recently survived the country’s worst recession in our generation and are still struggling, now face another  blow to their financial well-being.   Probably even more vexing is that the new rules are not based on sound science and offer little benefit in their eyes in the way of safety.While the new HOS rules are disconcerting, more regulations are on the way. The recent federal highway reauthorization (MAP-21)  requires FMCSA  to complete 29 new safety regulations within 27 months.   Included in this list are several that will affect owner-operators, including rules for electronic logging devices, a national clearinghouse for drug and alcohol test results, new guidelines for safety inspections and others. While many of these proposed regulations and rules may have value in improving safety, the sheer volume of them will pose a further challenge for owner-operators in the way of costs and trying to stay compliant.   Third, the changing standards for vehicles have increased costs while posing a challenge in reliability.   The 2014 engine standards are estimated to increase costs for a tractor by thousands of dollars. Based on the fact that large fleets buy significant numbers of new trucks, their costs will be substantially less per truck than those of an owner-operator buying one vehicle. Unfortunately, these new engines come on the heels of the 2010 models, which have had their share of problems from a reliability standpoint.   New standards for brakes and other safety features will further push up vehicle costs in the near term, creating an even greater cost gap between owner-operators and fleets.   Finally, there is the staggering number of new state and local regulations targeted at trucking.   These include local air quality regulations, idling standards, parking restrictions, noise ordinances, new fees and etc.   The changes created by these new regulations are usually poorly communicated to the trucking industry and even more so to independents.   In many cases, the fines for violating one of these laws can be very steep, as local governments equate big trucks with big income.   In many cases independents only find out about a new regulation after they have been fined for it, which may wipe out the entire profit from a run for an owner-operator.How do we get to a truce in this undeclared war? As in any battle, one stops firing the weapons.   In this case, the weapons happen to be regulations and laws that are ill-considered and lack input from the people most affected.   We need the government at all levels to “disarm” by curtailing new regulations and rules and reconsidering some of the existing ones, such as the new hours of service.   Owner-operators and independent drivers have helped to build the trucking industry in our country into the most efficient freight operation in the world.   Let’s not strangle these industrious and hardworking individuals with voluminous rules which are long on paper and short on benefit.

FMCSA issues guidance on breaks in on-duty time

| July 12, 2013

tuck stop

In a language clarification from the 1997 guidance on hours of service rules, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is issuing Friday, July 12, an updated version of regulatory guidance concerning breaks for drivers.

The guidance comes on the heels of the July 1 effective date of hours of service rule changes and clarifies guidance it says has an “effect of discouraging drivers from taking breaks during the work day, or documenting such breaks in their logbooks.” Among other changes, the new regulations require drivers take a 30-minute break every eight hours on duty.

The two new conditions that FMCSA says must be met to record meal and other routine stops made during on-duty hours as off-duty break time:

(1)”The driver is relieved of all duty and responsibility for the care and custody of the vehicle, its accessories, and any cargo or passengers it may be carrying.”

(2) “During the stop, and for the duration of the stop, the driver must be at liberty to pursue activities of his/her own choosing.

The 1997 guidance includes requirements for written instructions from a drivers’ employers concerning breaks and are inconsistent with FMCSA rules, the agency says. The new guidance, says the agency’s notice, attempts to make clear to carriers that they do not need to provide guidance to drivers — written or verbal — regarding specifics as to when and where they can take rest breaks.

“While FMCSA has not received any requests for clarification of the guidance, the agency believes it is out-of-date and no longer provides practical assistance to motor carriers attempting to achieve compliance with HOS rules,” says FMCSA’s notice.

Hours of Service: Changing It Again?

An example of a truck driver log book in the U...

An example of a truck driver log book in the United States. “PTI” is short for “pre-trip inspection”, as the driver is responsible for ensuring that the vehicle is fit to be driven (i.e., no flat tires, loose bolts, or broken parts). “On duty” time includes fueling, repairs, loading and unloading. “Off duty” time incudes meals and rest stops. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This blog is about Hours of Service which the professional driver has to deal with everyday.  Like most drivers, company drivers and owner operators, changing this rule affects us all.  Every few years the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Association (FMCSA) decides to change the rules, they say will help the trucking industry.  Before the driver can get used to the new rule, it is changed again.  When a groups like The Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways Foundation (CRASH), The Truck Safety Coalition, and The Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), get information on an accident involving a truck, they automatically think the truck driver is at fault.  In most cases, when their accidents, the police will give the truck driver a ticket without knowing the full details of the accident.

Not all accidents are caused by tired truck drivers, some of them could have come off a 10 hour break and has been driving 2 hours or less.  Accidents happen because someone, whether it be the trucker or the person in the car, has made a mistake.  Because the truck is so much bigger, it is automatically thought of as being at fault.  In 1998, I had an accident by rear ending a car that ducked between me and the truck in front of me, to get off the exit.  Because it was done so fast, the car slammed on breaks causing me to hit them, consequently, I was charged with that accident even though a witness told them what happened.  I was charged with following too close!  I was not tired and my logbook was legal.

The new rules come into effect on July 1, 2013 and every driver and company needs to get used to them.  It states that you must start your hours reset between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.  If you calculate this right, the driver is forced to take a consecutive 48 hours off instead of 34 hours.  This time must start on the weekend.  In actuality, it means that truck drivers will work a 5 day work week, Monday thru Friday.  If the FMCSA keeps this up, the owner operator will be gone.  Every company will be running regionally instead of cross country, that leaves the owner operator out.  Companies will not need them because they will be able to move their own freight.  Shippers on the other hand will have a hard time keeping up with the cost of shipping their freight, unless they use a company that have locations across the U.S. or use a company that have team drivers.  In some cases, one trailer could be switched out up to 4 times before it gets to it destination.  How many shippers are going to go for that?

It is also stated in the new rule that a driver must take a 30 minute break after 8 consecutive hours of driving, most drivers do that anyway. The driver just has to make sure they put it on the logbook. Making so many changes to the rules and regulations, discourages a lot of drivers from staying in the industry. Drivers that has been in the industry as long as I have are looking into leaving because of the many changes, we can’t keep up! People that are coming in for the first time don’t know what it was like before all the new rules. I hope as a professional truck driver that the rules will remain this way for a while.