The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has sent a letter to key members of the Senate and House appropriations committees urging them to back language in the 2015 appropriations bill that would set aside the current 34-hour restart rule in hours-of-service regulations.
The restart provision was authored earlier this year by Sen. Susan Collins, (R-Maine), and approved on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The trucking organization’s letter was in response to a message sent to the committees from Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx who asked them to reject the bill’s language.
Among the comments in the letter from Foxx were his “serious concerns that this suspension will put lives at risk, as it will increase the maximum allowable work limits for truck drivers from an average of 70 hours a week to over 82.”
In its letter to the committees, OOIDA disagreed, saying the restart provision is a common-sense approach to the concerns of thousands of safe and professional drivers who claim the current rule forces them on the highways during the most congested and dangerous hours of morning traffic.
And the association said it considers comments made by those opposed to the Collins Amendment that claim truckers will otherwise work 80 hours or more per week, “a misleading scare tactic.”
Since the restart rule went into effect, OOIDA said it has been contacted by many of its professional drivers citing the negative impacts resulting from restrictions on their ability to control when they take a 34-hour restart break.
“These are drivers who want to use provisions within the HOS rules designed to allow them to take meaningful time off the road, yet the new regulations force them to drive in heavier traffic situations during rush hour by mandating that the 34-hour restart period include two consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. windows,” the OOIDA letter reads. “Not only does this requirement have a negative impact on efficient freight movement, but it results in more trucks on the road at the busiest times of the day.”
In a survey by the OOIDA Foundation completed last year, about 46 percent of respondents reported feeling more fatigued since the changes, and 65 percent said they receive less income. The report also says that the one 34-hour restart per week provision has caused 56 percent of the respondents to lose mileage and loads hauled per week.
In comments, many respondents said they experience less time at home and increased stress. OOIDA says the evidence of personal experience compels professional drivers to support removal of the restart restriction.
As part of an overall safety agenda, OOIDA launched the “Truckers for Safety” campaign, urging policymakers to take action on many common-sense improvements, including finalizing long-overdue training standards for new truck drivers.