July 29, 2014 5:00 PM, EDT

FMCSA Chief Anne Ferro Defends Agency’s HOS Rule

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

Outgoing Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration head Anne Ferro defended her agency’s regulations limiting the amount of time drivers are allowed to work, during what probably was her last appearance before Congress as the agency’s chief. 

At a two-hour July 29 hearing of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, Ferro said she has seen no evidence to support the agency’s hours-of-service rules discriminate against nighttime drivers. She also objected to proposals backed by senators to undo the rules, claiming that they improve highway safety.

“We are concerned about legislative efforts to increase, even temporarily, the number of hours a truck driver could work from the 70-hour maximum on the books today,” Ferro said. “Whatever the limits on driving and work hours may be, if the motor carrier and driver plan their schedule so tightly that the driver can barely complete the run legally, then problems with completing runs inevitably will occur.”

The HOS rules that took effect July 1, 2013, mandate that truckers who reach a maximum of 70 hours of driving in a week account for a 34-hour restart between their workweeks. That includes at least two periods of rest from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. during that time off.

Earlier this year, a Senate funding panel adopted a proposal to a bill that would suspend the rules for a year while FMCSA reviews the safety effects of the changes and justifies safety claims to Congress. The proposal, offered by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), is backed by American Trucking Associations.

Dave Osiecki, ATA executive vice president and chief of national advocacy, told senators July 29 the trucking industry is “justifiably proud of its commitment to safety and long-term safety record.”

Last week, Ferro announced she would step down as FMCSA administrator next month to begin a leadership post with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.