Less Time To Keep On Truckin'

New rules aimed at reducing truck-driver fatigue could raise costs for manufacturers.

For the past 64 years truck drivers have been following hours-of-service rules put in place by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). On Jan. 4, 2004, those rules will change, and according to some in the industry, the changes will produce speed bumps not only for truck drivers, but for the manufacturing industry as well. According to the FMCSA, the current rules, which were adopted in 1939, allow drivers to drive 10 hours after an eight-hour break and state that drivers may not drive after 15 hours on duty. However, breaks and delays may extend time on duty. The new regulations, which aim to reduce fatigue-related accidents, enable drivers to drive 11 hours after a 10-hour break and state that drivers may not drive after 14 hours on duty. Breaks and delays can not extend time on duty. The 14 hours of work are consecutive. For the trucking industry, the new rules mean drivers will lose driving time. What does it mean for manufacturers? It could mean money. "Issues that cause driver delays, such as multiple-stop shipments, unloading/loading delays and equipment maintenance, could result in a reduction in driver miles . . . [and] the competitive market would likely require carriers to raise the rate of pay per mile to drivers if miles decline," according to Werner Enterprises Inc., an Omaha, Neb.-based transportation company. Those increased costs could be passed on to customers. For example, to brace itself for the oncoming rule changes, Werner is increasing charges for multiple-stop shipments. Also, "if a customer's freight system causes a driver delay that results in a reduction of the driver's driving hours under the new hours-of-service rules, carriers will need to work with customers to minimize such delays, such as improving the efficiency of the loading or unloading process," the company contends. If no improvements are made, Werner said it will make the customer compensate for the mileage shortfall. Schneider National Inc., a Green Bay Wis.-based transportation services provider, also has alerted its customers of the potential downfalls -- and penalty fees -- associated with the new regulations. While the company agrees with the reasoning behind the regulation changes, it notes that the changes will impact productivity. "We did a pilot with about 100 units that we have in operation," says Bill Matheson, vice president and general manager, truckload services at Schneider. "In that 100-unit fleet under the new hours-of-service rules we had to inject 17 more units into the business to haul the same amount of freight. "The objective [of the new regulation] is to drive fatigue off the roadways, which we agree is a good thing," says Matheson. "What caught people off guard was the one word consecutive."

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