27. November 2013 10:30
When the U.S. District Court of Appeals rather forcefully allowed the new trucker hours of service rules to go into effect on July 1 of this year, I thought it was finally over. The amended regulations reduced a driver's work week from 82 to 70 hours, limited on the road hours to 11 out of a 14 hour workday, mandated 10 consecutive off duty hours after the workday ended, and required a 30 minute break during the first 8 hours of a shift. The required 34 hour break between work weeks must extend over 2 nights and include the hours from 1:00 am – 5:00 am.
These new rules had been opposed by many, including the American Trucking Associations, motor carriers and drivers; but with the court's decision the matter appeared to be settled. Now I am not so sure. There has been so much pressure brought to bear recently, the entire issue could be attacked again. A bill called the TRUE Safety Act has been introduced in Congress and would roll back the 34 hour provision back to its pre-July 1 language until the Government Accountability office can review the data and rationale. This bill is strongly supported by the ATA, and the American Transportation Research Institute (the research arm of ATA) just released a report on the operational and economic impact of the new rules. Some of the key findings were:
- More than 80% of motor carriers have experienced a productivity loss. Schneider National has experienced a loss over 3% as have other carriers surveyed.
- More drivers have been added to carry the same amount of freight.
- 82.5% of the drivers reported a negative impact on their quality of life and increased fatigue.
- Lost wages have totaled $1.6 – 3.9 billion (on an annualized basis).
Even the Wall Street Journal has gotten into the act, with an article following a driver through a trip which is made more difficult by the new rules, while yielding less pay. Over the road drivers are paid by the mile, and in this case driving miles were reduced by about 1500 per week.
And of course, all this is going on while we already are experiencing a driver shortage which will surely increase as the economy improves. Something has to give. Either the rules should be changed so a driver can log more miles, or the pay per mile must increase. Both these options have significant downsides, however. More miles could mean increased fatigue and more accidents, and increased pay will lead to increased rates. The latter option seems to be the most reasonable, although it no doubt would meet with strenuous shipper resistence.