House Subcommittee Hears Pros, Cons of Proposed Changes to Trucking Hours

The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee held a hearing last week about a proposed rule to limit truck driver time.

The rule, proposed by the Transportation Department, is an effort to reduce the risk and prevalence of fatigue-related truck crashes through improvements in the hours of service (HOS) regulations. Under the proposal, the current 11-hour HOS daily limit for drivers would be reduced to a 10-hour limit. In addition, the 34 hours of time off currently required between each week of driving would have to include at least two midnight-to-6 a.m. periods of nighttime rest.

In a statement, Anne S. Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, offered detailed historical perspective on this rulemaking, as well as an analysis of its economic impact.

From the statement:

With regard to the economic impact of the proposed rule, FMCSA estimated that the regulatory option that included a 10-hour limit on driving time during the work day would impose costs of approximately $1 billion per year with annual safety and economic benefits of approximately $1.4 billion. The net benefits would be $380 million per year. The regulatory option that included an 11-hour limit on driving time during the work day would impose costs of approximately $520 million per year with annual safety and economic benefits slightly greater than $1 billion. The net benefits for this option would be $560 million per year. FMCSA acknowledged that the 10-hour driving time component of the rulemaking contributed more than $500 million to the estimated cost of the rule while providing only $330 million in safety and economic benefits. However, taken as a whole, the regulatory option that included a 10-hour driving time limit was cost-beneficial, based on the Agency's analysis of the crash data and research.

Not everyone agrees the changes would be beneficial. Opponents of the proposed rule say shortening the daily driving limit would:

require more drivers and trucks to move the same volume of goods during the same time period,

increase traffic on the nation's highways,

increase the potential for accidents and

drive up transportation costs.

Testifying on behalf of the National Retail Federation, Frank Miller, director of logistics for W.S. Badcock Corp., a furniture retailer, said the proposal would result in significant cost increases for the industry as a whole and would adversely impact the US economy across all sectors.

"As a result of the current 11-hour daily driving limit, U.S. retailers have been able to achieve significant efficiencies within their supply chains and distribution networks," Miller explained. "They have been able to work with their transportation providers to appropriately plan for the safe and efficient delivery of goods to their distribution centers and retail stores with a significantly high on-time delivery rate. Any change to this daily driving limit will upset the careful balance and efficiencies that have been achieved and require changes to current systems and processes."

In a press release, the American Trucking Association estimates that if enacted, these new rules will reduce productivity by a minimum of 5 percent, which artificially creates a need for at least 115,000 additional trucks to haul the nation's freight. These trucks will need to travel an estimated five billion miles to deliver their goods and, given the most recent crash rates, could lead to an additional 52 fatal crashes, and nearly 900 injury crashes, according to the ATA.

TAGS: Finance
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