Driving Time

Driving Time

Copyright 2007, Traffic World, Inc.

To the editor,

Your Aug. 13 article "Time Waits for No One," makes an important point that trucking''s productivity could slow come mid-September because of the U.S. Court of Appeals'' decision to strike down two provisions of the current driver work and rest rules, known as hours of service.

Unfortunately, the article missed an equally important message by neglecting to highlight the potential effects the change will have on the safety of the trucking industry and the motoring public.

The 2005 HOS regulations should be reviewed in their totality.

The federal government has toughened and strengthened the rules that regulate truck drivers'' hours. In the process, it has improved safety on the nation''s roadways. In fact, those rules have contributed to a 4.7 percent decline in truck-involved fatalities in a single year.

Contrary to statements made by trucking''s critics, the court''s ruling was procedural in nature. It is misleading to suggest that the legal decision serves as evidence that the HOS regulations promulgated in 2005 are unsafe.

Under the current truck driver work rules the allowed driving time was increased by one hour to a total of 11 hours. Critics fixate on this change, but with the same rules, mandatory rest time was increased significantly and the overall length of a work shift was reduced.

Currently, drivers must take at least 10 hours of rest between every work shift. That is an increase of two hours of rest from the old rules. And, the overall length of a work shift is now capped at 14 consecutive hours, reduced from the previous 15 hours.

A provision also permits drivers to "restart" their work week after taking at least 34 consecutive off-duty hours. The current on-duty and off-duty requirement promotes a more regular work/-rest cycle for drivers. Unfortunately, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling actually will actually eliminate the ability to restart the driver''s clock after 34 consecutive hours of rest. Without it, truck drivers are more likely to have irregular work schedules, which will cause more fatigue.

For its part, the American Trucking Associations is seeking a stay from the Court to keep the current rules in place until the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration addresses the procedural flaws identified by the court.

ATA recently asked Transportation Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters to push for a stay of the Court court of Appeals ruling because there was no compelling safety reason to eliminate the two provisions the court challenged.

The transition to the current HOS rules required significant operational changes and challenges for the trucking industry. Now that these challenges have been overcome, the rules have been effective in enhancing truck safety. Statistics bear this out.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently issued its truck-involved fatality figures for 2006, the first full year that the 2005 HOS regulations were in effect. The number of fatalities declined by 4.7 percent, the largest drop in 14 years. The fatality rate is now at its lowest point ever. These facts speak volumes.

Furthermore, a study by the American Transportation Research Institute found that most drivers experienced less fatigue and preferred the 11 hours driving, 10 hours off, and 34-hour restart provisions.

The motor carrier industry and ATA''s members understand their responsibility to the motoring public and the competitive advantage of operating safely and securely.

The No. 1 commodity delivered by truck is safety.

Bill Graves

President and CEO

American Trucking Associations