WASHINGTON — The American Bakers Association said it was disappointed in the final Hours of Service (H.O.S.) rule announced Dec. 22 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (F.M.C.S.A.).
“There is no safety benefit or documented rationale to change the existing rules," said Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A. “This rule will require significant changes to current baking industry distribution systems that will affect employee work hours and increase the cost of transporting and delivering fresh bakery products. With high unemployment and elevated food inflation, now is the worst time to be pushing regulation for regulation's sake.”
The proposed regulations were published in December 2010, and since that time the A.B.A. has been communicating the baking industry’s concerns with the rules. On Nov. 30, 2011, Mr. MacKie testified at a hearing to examine the impact of the H.O.S. rules held by the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
“This marks the fourth major rewrite of these rules by F.M.C.S.A. in 12 years,” Mr. MacKie said. “The current Hours of Service regulations have been effective in improving safety. The safety performance for trucks has improved at unprecedented rates. Fatal accidents and injuries involving large trucks have declined more than one-third to historically low levels.
“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.”
As part of the H.O.S. rulemaking process, the F.M.C.S.A. held six public listening sessions across the United States and encouraged safety advocates, drivers, truck company owners, law enforcement and the public to share their input on the requirements.
“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives. Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely.”
The F.M.C.S.A.’s new H.O.S. final rule reduces by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver may work within a week. Under the old rule, truck drivers could work on average up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new H.O.S. final rule limits a driver’s work week to 70 hours.
In addition, truck drivers may not drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Drivers may take the 30-minute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window.
The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit. The F.M.C.S.A. will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time.
The rule requires truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights’ rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most — from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. This rest requirement is part of the rule’s “34-hour restart” provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period.
The F.M.C.S.A. said companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule may face the maximum penalties for each offense. Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by 3 or more hours may be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves may face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.
Commercial truck drivers and companies must comply with the H.O.S. final rule by July 1, 2013. The rule has been sent to the Federal Register and is available on the F.M.C.S.A.’s web site at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/HOSFinalRule.