A recurring theme in recent weeks has been the importance of reducing uncertainty to promote economic growth. Congress recessed for the November 2 elections without producing a new federal budget, or addressing the future of the Bush tax cuts or the estate tax, or making progress toward a new Highway Bill.
A key area of uncertainty for carriers and shippers is the next proposal for truck driver Hours of Service rules.’ According to Mike Regan, chairman of NASSTRAC’s advocacy committee, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should publish its proposal now, to allow public comment and debate. NASSTRAC is an industry association providing advocacy, education, and provider relations to transportation executives.
The proposed rules went to the Office of Management and Budget for its review on July 26, 2010. This process normally takes 90 days but was extended, raising questions of whether the rules were delayed to avoid added controversy before the elections. ‘The elections are now over,’ said Regan, ‘and we are still waiting for FMCSA’s proposal.’
Since 2003, carriers and shippers have been operating under rules that allow no more than 11 hours driving time per shift, and no less than 34 hours time off between workweeks.’ Under those rules, highway fatalities have dropped, and the reduction from 2008 to 2009 was particularly dramatic.’ Despite these facts, certain groups want to see a reduction in the hours a driver can work. This will have a significant impact on trucking companies and what a truck driver can earn.
Under a court settlement, FMCSA must issue its final rules by July 2011, with implementation by December 2011.’ NASSTRAC intends to oppose any reduction in driver Hours of Service, but is concerned that continued delay in releasing the latest proposal will give the public limited time to develop arguments against the proposed reductions FMCSA is reportedly planning.’ ‘How can motor carriers create business plans, make capital investments or hire drivers when they have no idea what rules will apply in 2012 and beyond?’ asked Regan. ‘It is imperative for the Obama Administration and FMCSA to stop sitting on the HOS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Let the HOS debate begin.’