Hours-of-Service Rule Delay Rejected, Raising Capacity Fears

Hours-of-Service Rule Delay Rejected, Raising Capacity Fears

Shippers hoping for an extra three months of breathing room before new hours-of-service rules take effect — potentially reducing truck capacity — will be dismayed after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rejected the American Trucking Associations’ delay request. 

FMCSA Chief Counsel T.F. Scott Darling denied ATA’s request to delay HOS implementation until three months after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rules on challenges to the regulation. The agency’s decision to deny the dealy also suggests it is confident that the court will block the two challenges to the HOS rule after hearing oral arguments March 15.

“Basically, your request to delay the compliance date of the rule is really a request for a stay pending a decision by the Court, plus an additional three months of non-compliance,” Darling wrote in a strongly-worded Feb. 22 letter to ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.

The ATA responded that the rejection will mean “carriers, shippers and FMCSA-funded State enforcement agencies will have to spend time and money on training and adapting systems to a rule whose final form will not be certain until the court issues its decision.” The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the National Industrial Transportation League and the National Association of Manufacturers also back the delay.

“Especially in the current economic climate, carriers and shippers can ill afford to squander resources on a moving target like this,” ATA said in a statement.  “We’re disappointed that FMCSA is willing to risk squandering public training and enforcement funds this way.”

If the Court of Appeals sides with FMCSA, the final hours-of-service regulation will take effect July 1. Under the new rules, drivers will have to be off duty for two consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods before a restart of the 34-hour provision. Drivers will also only be allowed to use the restart once in a seven-day period, which is expected to drop the most time they can spend behind the wheel from 82 hours to 70 hours a week.

Shippers’ capacity concerns are exacerbated by other federal regulations that could reduce the availability of truck services, including the Compliance Safety and Accountability program, and the trucking industry’s reluctance to expand its fleets. The quarterly Journal of Commerce Truckload Capacity Index hit a new low in the fourth quarter of 2012, falling 1.3 percentage points to a preliminary reading of 82.4.

Contact Mark Szakonyi at mszakonyi@joc.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/szakonyi_joc.