Leaders of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) on Wednesday thanked Congress for recognizing what it terms “the harm done” by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours-of-service restart restrictions and the legislators’ decision requiring the agency to meet an appropriate safety, driver health and driver longevity standard before re-imposing those restrictions.
“We’re pleased that in the omnibus spending compromise released today (Wednesday), Congress has seen fit to demand that FMCSA ‘show its work,’ before imposing unnecessary and onerous restrictions on the use of the 34-hour restart by commercial drivers,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.
“FMCSA foisted these restrictions on the industry without doing a proper investigation into how they might impact trucking safety and truck drivers’ health and longevity, so it is completely appropriate for Congress to establish a safety and health standard.”
In 2013, the FMCSA required that drivers using a 34-hour restart to reset their weekly allotment of hours have two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. in their extended off-duty period and artificially limited the use of those extended rests to once a week.
The ATA believed at the time — and claims it was shown to be correct based on American Transportation Research Institute analysis of FMCSA crash data — that these restrictions would push more truck traffic into riskier daytime hours, thus increasing instead of decreasing, the risk of truck-involved crashes. ATA also believed that FMCSA’s driver health and longevity theory had no basis in reality.
“We greatly appreciate Congress’ attention into this important matter and its insistence that FMCSA properly vet and support the rules they promulgate,” said Dave Osiecki, ATA executive vice president and chief of national advocacy.
In addition to the hours-of-service language, ATA also expressed disappointment that the omnibus bill does not allow for the modest increase in tandem trailer length that had achieved bipartisan support in the House and the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“We’re disheartened that Congress allowed itself to be cowed by the fear-mongering tactics of anti-truck lobbyists,” said ATA Chairman Pat Thomas, senior vice president of state government affairs for UPS. “By removing language that would have allowed twin 33s on U.S. highways, Congress has passed up a huge opportunity to improve highway safety and trucking’s efficiency.”