Wednesday, June 26, 2013

US Truck Group Fights Proposed Road Haulage Drivers Hours of Service Changes

Appeal Court Decision Awaited After ATA Speaks Out at House Committee Hearing
Shipping News Feature

US - In a direct attack on the judgement of the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA), Steve Williams, Chairman and CEO of Maverick USA, a truckload and logistics provider and representing the American Trucking Associations (ATA), called the changes in road haulage drivers Hours of Service, due to become law on July 1st, a ‘1930’s Band Aid approach’ and a ‘solution in search of a problem’, and said that a recent examination and replication of FMCSA’s regulatory impact analysis (i.e. its cost-benefit analysis) conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), found the agency’s assessment to be fundamentally flawed and unreliable.

Williams was speaking last week before a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s panel on highways and transit, and his evidence was both critical and persuasive. European readers might allow themselves a wry smile when hearing his comment that, four years ago, the ATA, in tandem with the law enforcement community, pressed the FMCSA and the Department of Transportation to first mandate electronic logging devices (tachographs) to improve compliance with the existing rules.

Williams pointed out that there have been dramatic improvements in safety since the new Hours of Service regulations were introduced in 2003. The problem, he pointed out, is much more about how a driver uses his rest time than the amount he is supposed to take. Whilst acknowledging that driver fatigue is still a critical factor in many serious accidents he opined that tweaking drivers hours will not remove the problem of what individuals get up to when they are off duty.

The FMCSA’s case for the revision of hours is currently subject to a challenge from the truckers in the District of Columbia Court of Appeal but the past chairman of the ATA (and current chairman of the ATRI), was determined to win over the Committee members in a bid to persuade Congress to intervene before the ATA’s appeal was decided. Williams, whose company employs 1,600 staff controlling 1,400 trucks, pointed out that the FMCSA had proposed changes that would inevitably result in extra costs and delays to freight, without any evidential basis for doing so.

For more than a decade prior to publication of the 2003 rule changes the FMCSA sponsored multiple, large-scale, driver fatigue-related research studies and collected data on the efficacy of the existing rules. Leading up to this latest proposal Williams says no such research was undertaken, and the FMCSA’s statement entitled ‘The Purpose and Need for Regulatory Action’ did not cite any research or data analysis showing a problem. A recent Wells Fargo Securities analysis predicts that the productivity loss under the new regulations will be in the order of 1.5 – 4% dependent on the type of operation.

Williams had a study made of his own company’s records to judge the effect of the changes and found up to 47% of the firm's service books showed drivers would have infringed the new regulations without a change in their behaviour. Meanwhile the ATA have prepared for the changes, should its legal challenge fail, by hosting a series of hints and tips for road haulage operators on its website which can be accessed HERE.

To read Steve Williams’ testimony to the House Committee in full click HERE. To read the Committee’s opening statement HERE and to see the full proceedings of the Committee a video is viewable HERE.

Photo: Steve Williams gives his evidence to the Committee.