The new hours-of-service (HOS) regulations implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have been criticized by trucking executives and industry groups that claim the rules are too restrictive and will hinder business. The rules, which went into effect July 1, limited maximum work week hours for drivers, required an off-duty break within the first eight hours of a shift and included a restart provision that aims to help drivers get more sleep. These rules apply to most transportation companies, even those that already require drivers to take the most direct route and stress good fatigue management practices to employees.
Though the industry has fought these regulations, they appear to have exhausted their options in regard to having them overturned. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently ruled the FMCSA has the authority to apply rules as it sees fit.
One component struck down
Many in the transportation field were dismayed at the court's decision, but they did note the ruling came with a small victory. The FMCSA's requirement for short-haul drivers to take 30-minute off-duty breaks was struck down, which could simplify regulatory compliance for fleets that don't travel long distances.
"While we are disappointed the court chose to give unlimited deference to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's agenda-driving rulemaking, the striking down of the short-haul break provision is an important victory," said Dave Osiecki, ATA senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs.
Industry needs to change strategies to comply
While the ATA blasted the ruling, some other groups have already stressed safety needs to be addressed in light of the decision. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), believes the ruling will allow federal agencies and the transportation industry to take up the issues of driver training, which it claims has been pushed to the sidelines in recent years. Even though the FMCSA rules aim to ensure safety is a priority on the road, the organization noted current regulations do not include specific training requirements for long-haul drivers, which can have an impact on overall road safety.
"As far as hours of service, we have long believed that drivers need flexibility to do their jobs safely," said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. "That hasn't changed. But the court's decision has put the issue to bed for now. That being said, hopefully we can now move on to addressing the biggest safety gap in the trucking industry and that's the lack of basic training standards for new drivers."
Implementing safety programs - and the new HOS requirements - can be a costly process for transportation companies, meaning they need to find other areas in which they can save. By turning to route planning software, teams can cut long-term fuel expenses and the hours necessary to plan runs, allowing them to spend more on safety training and compliance efforts.