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Controversial hours of service changes now in effect

Despite vigorous trucking industry objections, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented changes to driver hours of service changes that many in the industry believe will hurt the US economy and create even more traffic congestion. The changes took effect July 1. 

A recent survey by Transport Capital Partners (TCP) shows three-quarters of carriers expecting lower utilization with the new hours of service (HOS) regulations. Almost 40% of carriers expect utilization to drop more than 5%; just over 38% expect under a 5% change; only 3% expect no impact; and, almost 19% still had not determined the full impact of these new regulations.  

“This potential reduction in truck capacity is hitting at the same time as spot rates are climbing, reflecting a stronger demand in June, says Richard Mikes, TCP Partner. “Rates will likely increase further in the months ahead.”

Carriers report a variety of potential solutions to mitigating the new rules. Half of those surveryed say they will need to rework routing and load assignments; three-fourths expect new scheduling and detention charges; and half want to seek rate increases on impacted lanes.

“Despite the loss of utilization and productivity, many shippers have yet to recognize that they also must be part of the solution,” says Steven Dutro, TCP Partner. “Sixty percent of the carriers report that shippers are still not working with them to minimize impacts,” 

Driver earnings may be squeezed if their miles are reduced because of new hours of service regulations. Few carriers (only 13%) plan to raise driver wages to compensate for fewer miles. In the same survey, more than 80% of carriers said they would need to see rates increase before they could raise wages.

FMCSA officials contend that trucking companies had plenty of time to plan for the rule changes. First announced in December 2011 by FMCSA, the new rules limit the average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours to ensure that all truck operators have adequate rest. Only the most extreme schedules will be impacted, and more than 85% of the truck driving workforce will see no changes, according to FMCSA. FMCSA's new hours-of-service final rule:

*Limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours;

*Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most--from 1-5 am, and;

*Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.

Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense. Trucking companies and passenger carriers that allow drivers to exceed driving limits by more than three hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Further information, including "Hours-of-Service Logbook Examples," is available on FMCSA's web site at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/HOS.

 

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