Limit Driver Hours – DOT Proposal Provokes Stiff Opposition

If your favorite driver is looking a little more chipper these days, it could be because of the Department of Transportation’s proposal to cut an hour from his current 11-hour per day driving limit, and impose other restrictions on driver work standards.

The DOT action, which was issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), was not unexpected, but has been met with fierce resistance by many members of Congress and by industry-watchdog, American Trucking Associations.

Among FMCSA’s recommendations:

  • Limit daily driving time to 10 hours, rather than the current 11 hours.
  • Require drivers to be released from duty after 14 consecutive hours, rather than maintain the current option of remaining on duty, but not driving.
  • Modify the current regulation that requires a 34-hour period before a trucker “restarts“ a workweek.  Under FMCSA’s proposal, the 34-hour period would have to include two periods between midnight and 6am, and could be used only once a week;
  • Limit drivers to 7 consecutive hours behind the wheel.  Currently there are no restrictions on consecutive driving hours.

Opponents of the new regulations, including at least 120 members of Congress who expressed opposition to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, claim that the changes are not necessary, and would cause excessive disruption to the nation’s trucking industry.

Among opponents’ claims:

  • The system ain’t broke.  Opponents claim that existing regulations are working well, and do not need amending.  They cite statistics showing that the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks have actually fallen to historic lows, since existing regulations took effect in 2004.
  • Cutting drivers’ time behind the wheel would force carriers to put more trucks on the road, thereby adding to congestion on the nation’s already-overcrowded highways.
  • Hours-of-Service changes could have dramatic effects on retailers’ supply chains.  The National Retail Federationreported that transportation costs could rise by as much as 20 percent if the proposed changes take effect.

FCMSA ended a public comment period on March 4.  In addition, a heavily-attended comment session was held in mid-February.   No word yet on when the agency expects to issue a “final” recommendation, but expect that any changes will be closely monitored and scrutinized.

Are you a driver who would be directly impacted by this proposal?  Do you feel that these measures will make the roads safer for the average driver?