Truck safety groups are calling for a dramatic reduction in the time truck drivers are allowed to be behind the wheel, saying federal regulators should limit driving time to eight hours and a day and 40 hours a week.
The cutback from 11 hours a day would likely have a profound impact on the trucking industry and on shipping distribution networks now built around trucking networks that can stretch for hundreds of miles.
The Truck Safety Coalition, Public Citizen and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety detailed their vision of new driver hours of service rules in a comment filed June 17 with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which decided last year to re-open driver rules that have been contested and changed over the last 15 years.
The groups also said truck drivers should have a maximum 12-hour work day that includes loading and waiting.
The daily driving time available to truckers would be cut by 27 percent. That would likely shorten daily lengths of haul for many truckers by 100 to 150 miles, driving up company costs as they try to server longer supply chains and leaving more business likely to shift to railroads.
The comment is available at www.regulations.gov, a federal Web site.
The FMCSA is closing in on an August deadline for issuing a proposed hours rule for truckers. A final rule is due in 2011, under a settlement reached last October.
The settlement put a lawsuit by the Teamsters union and Public Citizen challenging Bush administration driver work rules on hold until FMCSA could craft new rules.
Since 2003, truckers have been allowed to drive 11 consecutive hours a day and work up to 14 hours, followed by a 10-hour off-duty period.
Trucking groups, including the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, support the 11-hour limit.
Prior to 2003, truckers were allowed to drive for 10 hours a day and to work an additional five hours. That 15-hour day could be extended by breaks.
Public Citizen has long advocated shorter driving times, with former President Joan Claybrook calling for an eight-hour driving limit for truckers in 2005.
"I'd have truckers drive eight hours, not 10 or 11," Claybrook said. "I'd have them on a circadian rhythm, with a 24-hour cycle, and knock out the 34-hour restart."
That's the essence of the proposed rule outlined in the one-sheet comment, filed by Washington attorney Henry Jasny on behalf of the organizations.
A driver¹s total driving time per seven-day week would be limited to 40 hours, with an additional 20 hours for non-driving on-duty time.
Drivers now are limited to 60 hours of total on-duty time -- both driving and non-driving -- in a seven-day period or 70 hours in an eight-day period.
In addition to cutting the daily driving time by three hours and total work day by two hours, the groups would increase daily off-duty time to 12 hours a day.
That would ensure a minimum of seven to eight hours sleep each night, and "allow time for drivers to perform other daily non-work tasks," the groups said.
The groups also seek a minimum 48-hour layover at the end of each week, rather than allowing truckers to start a new weekly cycle after spending 34 hours off duty.
--Contact William B. Cassidy at email@example.com.