WASHINGTON — Proposed changes to Hours of Service regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration would do little to enhance safety and would do much to burden short haul carriers such as bakers, said Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the American Bakers Association.
Mr. MacKie offered his comments in testimony Nov. 30 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending.
Offering perspective on the proposed changes, Mr. MacKie said the agency recommendations would mark “the fourth major rewrite of this regulation by the F.M.C.S.A. in the past 12 years.”
Critical of the proposal, Mr. MacKie said it offers neither a safety benefit nor a documented rationale, versus existing rules.
“The proposal, as written, would require significant changes to current baking industry distribution systems; would affect employee work hours; and increase the cost of transporting and delivering fresh bakery products,” Mr. MacKie said.
The testimony was delivered specifically in response to a proposed rule published last December in the Federal Register by the Department of Transportation. Changes proposed to Hours of Service regulations included:
1) Would limit drivers to either 10 or 11 hours of driving time after no fewer than 10 consecutive hours off duty;
2) Would limit the standard “driving window” to 14 hours, extended to 16 twice a week;
3) Actual driving time in the driving window would not exceed 13 hours;
4) “Drivers would be permitted to drive only if seven hours or less have passed since their last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes;
5) Drivers are allowed to drive a maximum of 60 hours in a seven-day period or 70 hours in an eight-day period. A 34-hour restart (which permits drivers to restart the 60- or 70-hour ‘‘clock’’ by taking a break of at least 34 consecutive hours off duty) would be retained within certain limits:
a. Restart would have to include two rest periods between midnight and 6 a.m.
b. Restart may be started no sooner than 168 hours (7 days) after the beginning of the previously designated restart;
6) Definition of “on duty” would be revised to allow some time spent in or on the commercial motor vehicle to be logged as off duty.
The third proposal, limiting actual driving time to 13 hours from 14, would be onerous for the baking industry, Mr. MacKie said.
“The nature of many of our members’ distribution operations is such that operators make repeated and sometimes lengthy stops during the course of their workday,” he said. “For example, route sales representatives may make a couple dozen or more stops in a day with the operators spending more than half of their available time in non-driving activities such as serving the customer, stocking store shelves or in-store marketing activities.”
The proposal perhaps would make sense if there were evidence it would help make roads safer, but that does not seem to be the case, Mr. MacKie said.
“Current hours of service regulations, properly enforced, have been effective in improving safety as demonstrated by current crash data trends,” he said.
Under the current rules, fatalities involving large trucks have declined by more than one third to historically low levels, he said.
“Given these facts, we find it difficult to understand the rationale for additional regulation, especially one that even F.M.C.S.A. recognized would disproportionately negatively impact the short-haul segment of the trucking industry of which the baking industry is a part.
“According to F.M.C.S.A., the relative costs and benefits differ considerably between the long-haul and short-haul segments. Most of the costs arise in the short-haul segment, but all of the benefits come from reducing long-haul crashes. Fatigue and fatigue related crashes are considerably less common in short-haul operations.”
Mr. MacKie cited data indicating smaller trucks, usually used for short-haul transport, represent 52% of registered trucks but account for 10% of fatal and 14% of non-fatal accidents.
“Simple logic and cost-benefit analysis dictates that the regulatory emphasis and scarce resources should be devoted to areas of greatest risk,” he said.
Mr. MacKie voiced alarm over the proposed change in the 34-hour restart provision, requiring drivers to rest a minimum of two consecutive complete nights.
“This would do very little to promote driver safety in the short-haul industry but wreak havoc with our business operations,” he said. “Most deliveries in the baking industry take place in the early morning hours — the very hours required by the rule for “rest” — to ensure local grocery store shelves are well-stocked with the freshest possible products for customers.
“The change to the 34-hour restart provision outlined in the rules could also require short-haul operators to deploy more equipment and resources during peak commuter driving ours. This could adversely impact safety and air emissions while also negatively impacting productivity both for the drivers and customers.”
He went on to explain that the regulations, if they become effective, could increase the number of drivers on roads during the most congested time of day. This added congestion, in turn, could “ultimately result in more dangerous roads and highways,” Mr. MacKie said.