ATA continuing to promote changes in HOS restart provision

SOMETIMES serendipity intervenes.

While Sean Garney, manager of safety policy for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), was giving his “Trucking Industry Regulatory Update” and making a case against the new Hours of Service restart, he got word that the Senate Appropriations Committee had approved by a 21-9 vote an amendment to suspend two provisions of the 34-hour restart.

“That’s great news for the industry,” he said. “I’m so optimistic. From what I had heard from my colleagues at ATA, if we were able to get this done, our chances increase exponentially to get enforcement of the restart stayed.”

The provisions in question limit drivers to one re-start per week and require that the re-start include two periods of rest between 1 am and 5 am. The full Senate currently is considering the FY 2015 DOT-HUD Appropriations bill, which includes the amendment introduced by Sen Susan Collins (R-ME) at the request of the ATA, National Tank Truck Carriers, and other Hours of Service Coalition partners.

“I know we have supporters on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “I know Senator Collins is strongly in our camp. There are some other organizations taking an opposing view. But I do know if we are able to get this appropriations though the Senate, we stand a good chance of having a measurable impact.”

Garney said the latest restart study, mandated by MAP-21, was conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) and involved 106 drivers, half using the old restart and half using the new restart. It showed that drivers with two or more nights of sleep have a marginally better safety performance.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) analyzed FMCSA’s study and found that FMCSA justified the new rules based on a “marginally better performance on a psycho-vigilance test.”

“Six more minutes a week—that’s what the new restart gives our drivers,” Garney said. “They said drivers with two or more nights of sleep had less lane deviation by one millimeter. That was the measured lane deviation that justified the safety improvements on Hours of Service. I think ATA has some valid concerns.

“Obviously, there are a lot of continued problems. When the rule came out, everybody was concerned about the 34-hour restart and two periods of time between 1 and 5 am. There is a measurable impact here. It’s putting more drivers on the road at rush hour. If you don’t manage the restart, you can lose 17 hours a week. At 168 hours, you can only use the restart once every week. That’s causing a lot of concern.

“From our standpoint, there is considerable industry impact, with marginal, if any, safety benefit. ATRI also has done its own research on cost and benefits. They said the benefits grossly are overstated and the costs are understated.”

What is the impact of HOS?

“I think it’s fair to say that most drivers in the industry were taking a rest break before the rule,” he said. “The difference is, when we were able to take it made more sense for drivers. Now we have to take it before having worked eight hours. No longer can we take a break while fueling or doing other things. This is causing certain restrictions for us and creating a logistical challenge. The restart restriction is a bit more measurable.

“Anne Ferro (who recently resigned as FMCSA administrator) always says, ‘This restart rule doesn’t affect that many people. There aren’t that many people running excessive hours.’ And she’s absolutely right. Not a lot of drivers are running to the limit. But there are a lot of drivers out there using the restart. Because it just makes sense from a recordkeeping standpoint. Who wants to recap their hours? That’s a challenge. Because of that, it’s causing all of these added costs without the safety benefits. Our drivers were running safe before. They were under hours before. But now they have extra additional restrictions.”

ATRI found that 80% of the carriers reported a loss of productivity.

“We’re looking at a 3% to 4% loss in productivity,” Garney said. “There’s an annual cost to the industry—and this takes into account the perceived safety benefits—of between $95 million and $376 million. This is vastly different than what FMCSA said, because they contended that there was a net safety benefit to the industry.

“The driver pay impacts are so important. Nowadays, they have to run fewer hours, they deliver fewer loads, so they’re going to be paid less. Seventy percent of drivers reported a pay decrease—somewhere between 3.2% and 7.7%. That represents between $1.6 and $3.9 billion in lost wages. That’s a significant impact. That’s an impact that everybody across both aisles should really care about.

“It’s also increasing driver shortages and turnover. Drivers are making less and are less willing to drive. Some are exiting the industry.”

He said the safety impacts are a little unclear right now because the rule has been in effect for less than a year.

“Accidents are random, unpredictable events, so it’s tough to know how many lives have been saved,” he said. “Drivers are spending more time away from home, driving during rush hour. As part of the restart rule, in order to have a qualifying restart, it has impacted Monday morning. Now that puts them in the middle of rush hour.”

Garney said he supports the Compliance, Safety, Accountability program (CSA) because he thinks the data-driven solution is the right way to go. But he also has concerns because of what he says is the “shame game” that is being played.

“They want us all to be worried about everybody else’s CSA scores, so they’re making them public, but most importantly to our customers,” he said. “That’s a concern because there are some serious limitations to this program about the conclusions you can draw about individual motor carriers using CSA.”

His concerns:

•  Data quality. “There are two parts to this: Are we getting all the information we need into the CSA system? There are three parts: accidents, inspections, violations. We have two-thirds of the accidents. We have a lot of inspections not going into the system. And that’s probably because there are only two ways to make a CSA score better: clean inspections and time. There are a lot of screenings and Level 3s that aren’t making it into the system.”

•  Crash accountability. “If I did not cause a crash, if I could not have prevented a crash, it is not indicative of the safety posture of my company. That’s a fact. Currently, all crashes are in CSA.”

•  Compliance versus safety. “There’s not a single study that says there’s a positive correlation between driver fitness and crashes. There’s a problem somewhere in the system. And they don’t know how to fix it. In the hazardous material BASIC, there’s no discernible correlation between safety or crash risk. One thing that FMCSA has proven with the hazardous material compliance BASIC is that it measures hazardous materials paperwork compliance. Are you good at paperwork or not? What types of commodities do you haul? This BASIC is not public for a reason. It will remain that way in the foreseeable future.”

•  Regional enforcement disparity. “If you run in some states, you’re more likely to get violations. In Texas, the ratio of lane violations to speed violations is 321-to-1. Now if you’re running a lot in Texas and being compared to somebody running in Indiana (where the ratio is 1.91-to-1), how do you think that affects your CSA score?”    ♦

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