Background

In December 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced proposed changes to the 2003 hours-of-service regulation. After 18 months, on July 1, 2013, the Agency promulgated the new HOS rule changes, which were designed to improve safety for the motoring public by reducing truck driver fatigue. According to FMCSA’s final rule,1 “the purpose of the rule is to limit the ability of drivers to work the maximum number of hours currently allowed, or close to the maximum, on a continuing basis to reduce the possibility of driver fatigue.” The Agency claimed that the new HOS regulations would save 19 lives and prevent approximately 560 injuries each year.

The former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated, “Safety is our highest priority. These rules make common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety for every traveler on our highways and roads.” FMCSA’s new hours-of service final rule:

  • Limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours. A driver may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in a 7/8 consecutive day period;
  • Truck drivers who reach the 70 hours maximum of driving within a week (168 hours) are allowed to restart if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. at their home terminal. The 34-hour restart can only be used once per week, 168 hours, and is measured from the beginning of the previous restart; and
  • Truck drivers are required to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift, which does not stop the 14 hour on-duty window.

Throughout the regulatory process, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has been in constant opposition to the new HOS rule changes. The U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced, “These rules make common sense.” However, the Association respectively disagrees. Todd Spencer, the executive vice president of OOIDA, has said, “Collectively, these changes will have a dramatic effect on the lives and livelihoods of small-business truckers, changes that are unwelcome and unnecessary.”2

OOIDA is the largest, national trade association representing the interests of small-business trucking professionals and professional truck drivers. OOIDA is a non-for-profit corporation incorporated in 1973 and currently has more than 150,000 members from across all 50 states and Canada. The Association’s members consist mainly of one-truck owner-operators, who represent half the total number of active motor carriers operating in the United States. As such, the Association does not believe the new HOS regulations “make common sense,” but just the opposite.

Therefore, the Association, utilizing the OODIA Foundation, designed and implemented a survey entitled, “OOIDA New HOS Regulations Survey,” in order to gather a snapshot of how the rule changes have affected the small business owner, the professional driver, and the people who truly drive the economy and represent the trucking industry. The results were both enlightening and interesting.

1 “Hours of Service of Drivers: Final Rule,” Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (Dec 2011)

2 Jami Jones, “Hours-of–service changes go into effect July 1,” Land Line Magazine (June 2013)

The Survey Results

The OOIDA Foundation, the research and education arm of the Association, emailed the hours-of-service survey to its members in October 2013, which generated over four thousand responses. The survey incorporated fourteen questions on the new HOS rule changes and included a section for truck driver comments. From the research analysis, the Foundation discovered the data largely agreed with Mr. Spencer’s comment, and that the rule changes have had a dramatic effect on the lives and livelihoods of small-business truckers and professional drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the purpose of the rule changes was to reduce the possibility of truck driver fatigue, however, the data shows differently. Approximately 53 percent of the respondents said the new regulations did not decrease nor increase their fatigue, but instead, they felt the same as before. Whereas 46 percent stated they actually felt more fatigued.

Many comments supported this conclusion with members saying the new rules caused “more fatigue, less home time, less flexibility, and less money.” Another member said, “The new 30 minute rule has had no positive effect on reducing my fatigue.” Further comments stated, “there will be more driver fatigue because of this rule, not less because drivers will try to cram as many miles and hours of driving in as possible because they can only get a reset once in a seven day period.”

In addition, the new 34-hour restart provision has shown to be very problematic for the Association’s members. In fact, 79 percent of the respondents claimed the one restart per week has affected their use of the 34-hour restart, with 31 percent stating they have been significantly impacted. “I haven’t used the new restart. I’ve chosen to use the recap because of the two options, it allows me more flexibility.” Other comments:

  • “I no longer get a 34 hour reset. I get home for about 40 hours, but I don’t get the two 1-5 time periods, so now I have to recap all the time.”
  • “The restrictive nature of only using the reset once every 168 hours not only has decreased the number of hours and miles I can drive but when I’d normally be off weekends, now if I experience a delay in getting home my reset keeps getting pushed back further and throwing off my schedule.”
  • “I used the 34 hr restart every weekend and it gave me more time to work thru the week, which increased my productivity and gave me more home time. With the new changes that you can only take it after 168 hrs has elapsed, means I have to watch my time even closer. Causing more stress as the weekends are almost dead for my business. I sometimes have to take the time off away from home. Bottom line is every driver deserves to have a life away from the truck. This has effectively taken Family Time away.”
  • “The 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. part has set me back a half day on my route several times and having to take 168 hours between restarts is absolutely ridiculous. The people coming up with these ideas have no clue what they are doing.”

Further, the one 34-hour restart per week provision has caused 56% of the respondents to lose mileage and loads hauled per week, and another 65 percent have lost income. Many members disliked the inflexibility because of the new provision. On several occasions, members had long wait periods between loads but were unable to utilize the restart either because the 34 hours did not cover two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., or because 168 hours had not elapsed since their previous restart. In general, this forced members to lose time at home, which caused them to take on shorter hauls and reduced their income.

  • “The new 34 hour restart allows no flexibility for me to change my scheduling hours to match my workload. Where before I could rest due to shipper/receiver delays, weather, or whatever, now it’s run, run, run till 7 days have passed then get a rest or slow down till hours catch up.
  • “Since shippers and receivers control my hours of service, my time is no longer as flexible, I must enter larger cities/more traffic areas in the morning & evening rush hour times instead of regulating my own time and working around traffic. There is no excuse for not being able to use more than one 34 hour restart, and the 1/2 hr off in the middle of the day just makes one more tired when he must drive after that time.”

 

  • “Under the new rules, when I am detained for extended periods between loads, I get plenty of rest but not the ability to restart my hours until the approved time one week from the start of my previous restart. Then when that time arrives, I have to waste 2 more days to get a restart.”
  • “I do not have a weekly routine. I often have 1-2 days between loads. I need the 34 hr restart because there are often gaps where I am not “getting any hours back”, therefore, I can not drive and have to take the restart. It was easy to get a restart, but now with the 1am to 5am restriction, it is difficult since I primarily drive at night. If I had a 34 hrs restart on Monday, then have 34 hours off on Thursday, I am as rested as I was on Monday, and I SHOULD regain my 70, so unproductive!”

Other members mentioned that the new 34-hour restart provision was unsafe because it forced them to drive during rush hour traffic. “The result of the 34-hour restart requiring 2 periods from 1am-5am insures that I am ALWAYS driving in the heaviest rush hour traffic on Monday mornings. Definitely not safer, in my opinion.”

The new regulations added a mandatory 30-minute break during the 14-hour workday, which requires a truck driver to take at least one break after eight hour of on-duty time. The mandatory break has impacted 86 percent of the respondents, and over 60 percent stated that their operations were either moderately or significantly affected by the regulation. Numerous truck drivers commented that this new rule was unnecessary and unsafe.

Frequently, members stated they felt more fatigued because of the mandatory break. Members scarcely used the 30-minute break to sleep, but instead, simply sat in the truck waiting for their break to end. Perhaps one of the biggest concerns was taking the time to find parking just in order to take the 30-minute break. “Most of the time my 30 minutes turns into 60 minutes or more by the time you find parking and get back on the road.” One member stated the “half hour break has increased stress, cut down time to drive, cut down on the ability to find a parking spot, and extended my day, increasing fatigue.”

Another area of concern with the mandatory break was safety and stress. Some members talked about a change in their driving habits and day-to-day operations because of the mandatory break. One member commented that the “new rules have not reduced stress and fatigue, but they’ve increased both.” Another driver stated, “The 30 minute mandated break has extended my work week and has added stress to my daily routine.”

A few members confessed that because of the new mandatory break, they were forced to drive faster and longer than they use to in order to make their delivery times. One member in particular said, “I now drive about 5 miles per hour faster in order to make up for the 30 minute mandatory break.”

It is important to note that team and night drivers were both affected in particular with the new HOS regulation changes. The nighttime drivers commented that they were being discriminated against, while team drivers stated that it was hard for their operations to function properly. Both sets of drivers stated that the new 34-hour restart regulation forced them to take off at least 48 hours, therefore causing a significant drop off in productivity. In addition, both said that the new rules increased their fatigue. Nighttime drivers also discussed a difficulty to find adequate safe parking for their 30-minute break.

The majority of respondents stated that they have been negatively impacted by the new HOS regulations. Some of the affects included:

  • Less flexibility
  • Increased fatigue
  • Increased stress
  • Forced to drive in rush hour traffic
  • Difficulties finding safe and adequate parking
  • Forced to drive longer and faster to make up time
  • Less time at home with their families
  • Loss of loads and mileage
  • Reduced income

The final question proposed, “If you could change one hours-of-service regulation, what and how would you change it.” The two largest responses were changing the 34-hour regulations back to the 2003 regulation (46%) and eliminating the 14-hour running clock provision (30%).