Thursday, December 29, 2011

Trucking Industry Slams New Federal Regulations

The American Trucking Associations and other industry advocates are slamming newly announced federal regulations that govern the hours long-haul drivers can be on the road, and how long they’re allowed to drive each week.

The regulations, once enforced, are expected to have at least a small effect on the work schedules of drayage truckers who haul goods between West Coast ports and other regions of the US and Canada.

Under the new rules, which were announced Dec. 22 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truckers can’t drive more than 11 hours in a single day, nor be on the road more than 70 hours a week. Under the current rules, drivers can work up to 82 hours within a seven-day period.

The new rules also decree that two days a week, drivers cannot start their shifts between 1 am and 5 am. It’s this particular provision that has raised the ire of trucking industry advocates, particularly since a number of drivers prefer to work early to beat traffic, particularly in California, where traffic snarls are frequent on freeways that service the ports.

“It makes no sense to impose rules that will force more trucks onto the roads at peak drive times thus raising the risk of crashes and increasing congestion and emissions from all vehicles,” Michael Campbell, executive vice president and CEO of the California Trucking Association, said in a statement.

Commercial truck drivers and companies have to comply with the final rule by July 1, 2013, according to the FMCSA. Companies that break the 11-hour driving limit rule by three or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense. Drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 per offense.

The American Trucking Associations has also slammed the regulations, saying they would likely increase the risk of accidents. According to the ATA, the largest percentage of truck-involved crashes takes place between 6 am and noon.
This, according to the organizations, means the new rules would put more trucks on the road during the statistically riskiest time of the day.

“This rule will put more truck traffic onto the roadways during morning rush hour, frustrate other motorists and increase the risk of crashes,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said in a statement.

“By mandating drivers include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. as part of a ‘restart’ period, FMCSA is assuring that every day as America is commuting to work, thousands of truck drivers will be joining them, creating additional and unnecessary congestion and putting motorists and those professional drivers at greater risk,” Graves said.

But US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement that the new rules will help protect drivers.

“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” he said. “This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives.”