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December 22, 2011 4:45 PM, EST

First Reaction to HOS Rule Is Largely Negative from Trucking, Shippers

Groups Say Changes Will Cause Congestion, Won’t Improve Safety

Trucking and shippers groups reacted swiftly and negatively to the Department of Transportation’s final hours-of-service rule, citing the potential for more congestion and saying it will not improve highway safety.

On the other side of the issue, a citizens’ safety group also said the rule was flawed, though for different reasons.

Click here for TT’s Special Report on the HOS rule. (TT subscription or 14-day pass required.)

The final rule “puts safety in the back seat,” American Trucking Associations said in a statement following the rule’s release Thursday.

“Even with an uptick in truck-involved fatalities in 2010, since the current rules went into effect in 2004, fatalities have fallen 29.9%, even as overall miles traveled for trucks has risen by tens of billions of miles,” said ATA Chairman Dan England, chairman of truckload carrier C.R. England.

DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration “set itself on a course to fix a rule that’s not only not broken, but by all objective accounts is working to improve highway safety,” added ATA President Bill Graves.

“Unfortunately, along the way, FMCSA twisted data and, as part of this final rule, is using unjustified causal estimates to justify unnecessary changes,” Graves said in a statement.

Kelly Kolb, vice president of the a shippers’ group Retail Industry Leaders Association, said that “rather than encouraging greater efficiency, the [HOS rule] increase transportation costs, congestion and pollution by funneling more trucks onto the roads at peak times.”

DOT’s own studies show that traffic congestion costs the U.S. economy $87.2 billion per year, with 4.2 billion hours and 2.8 billion gallons of fuel spent sitting in traffic, RILA said.

The National Retail Federation, which also represents shippers, said it “welcomed” continuation of the 11-hours per day limit but but expressed concern over a new requirement for longer weekly breaks.

 

Another shippers’ group, NASSTRAC, said the rule’s restart provisions would “dramatically increase the disruptiveness of rest periods” by mandating that they take place between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., said John Cutler, the group’s counsel.

 

The leading group representing owner-operators also was not impressed, saying the rule “won’t improve highway safety.”

The rule “will have a dramatic effect on the lives and livelihoods of small-business truckers. The changes are unnecessary and unwelcome and will result in no significant safety gains,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The Teamsters union, for its part, said it would review the rule in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, consumer groups were not pleased that the final rule left in place the 11-hour daily driving limit, rather than reducing it to 10, Henry Jasny, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told Bloomberg News.