US Trucking News — New Anti-Fatigue Rules in US Trucking Industry

Recent road regulations implemented by the Department of Transportation are tiresome, according to commercial truck drivers in the US. They said this leads to more downtime in driving, instead of successfully reducing the number of fatigued drivers on the road.

 

Members of the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association were against these new rules, which were created in December 2011. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration attempted to roll back the decision, but to no avail.

 

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The new ruling has decreased driving time among truck drivers and resulted to an average maximum workweek of 70 hours. This is a 12-hour drop from the usual 82-hour weekly drive. It has been estimated that the changes will prevent 1400 truck crashes, 560 injuries and 19 deaths per year. Figures showed that there were about 320,000 crashes in 2011, which resulted to 4,000 deaths. A study done by the DOT concluded that 13 percent of commercial drivers involved in the crashes were fatigued at the time of the accidents.

 

Norita Taylor said “What they are doing is applying rigidity where there actually needs to be flexibility,” and Taylor is a spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. Taylor also said that trucking businesses do not operate in the same ways, and that not all people have the same body clocks.

 

Charles Ryser, a truck driver, said that there are factors that can affect road operations. These may include delay in the shippers, receivers, traffic jams and accidents, he said.

 

However, there are those who support the new ruling. Henry Jasny, vice president of the Advocates for Highway and Road Safety said that the trucking industry has put forward economic profits of the industry before the safety of the American public. Jasny’s point was supported by studies saying that long working hours contribute to fatigue among truck drivers on the road, which increased the probability of crashes and developed a number of drivers with chronic diseases due to fatigue.

 

The constant bone of contention between the industry and safety advocates revolve around issues on the number of hours truckers should drive, how long do they rest and when. The Federal Motor Safety Carriers Administration won in this last contention.

 

In August 2013, the Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. implemented revised ruling with the following points:

 

  • A 34-hour restart must include 1 AM to 5 AM periods and can only be used once in 7 days;
  • A 30-minute break period after 8 hours; and
  • Retention of the rule that a trucker can only drive 11 hours within a 14 day period before going off duty.

 

*** However, there is an exception for short haul drivers where the 30-minute requirement does not apply within 100 miles of their reporting location.

 

This fight between industry and safety advocates over drive-time regulations is not just about road safety, but also for the health of the drivers. Industry fights over a 3% productivity reduction for longer rest breaks. This could mean an additional $18 million company expense that could be passed on to the consumers as cost of the new regulations.

 

Safety advocates continue to fight for the safety of the drivers and the public. Joan Claybrook said “Upholding this rule will continue to make our trucks rolling sweatshops,” and Claybrook is the chairman of the board of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways. “Truck drivers will continue to be pushed beyond their limits and will imperil not just their own lives but the safety of all of us sharing the roads,” Claybrook added.

 

With these developments, companies may consider increasing the driver’s pay to keep manpower. Drivers may even become harder to hire and keep them on payroll.

 

Shippers have to adjust operations, specifically with their supply chains and should work closely with their carriers. They may even consider paying higher rates.

 

Certainly, there are changes in the origin-destination cost of shipment to the shipper. Despite the adjustments, cargo owners and carriers should work hand in hand to keep supply chains always running on time.

 

In January 26, 1935, recommendations of the National Safety Council had a similar tone. The report said that 1% of all vehicle accidents were attributed to incidents when a driver fell asleep behind the wheel, or when extremely fatigued.

 

The council said that many of the companies adopted measures  preventing accidents due to long driving hours. They recommended that the element of fatigue should be given more importance in reports and for a scientific study to be conducted, in order to see the effects of continuous driving and the value of rest in between driving hours. The council also recommended companies to log trips and update reports, in order to track conditions that drivers are exposed to.

 

In his commentary ‘Metamorphosis’, Anthony Vitiello said that changes to the federal hours of service rules can be a catalyst to trucking needs. Vitiello added that the challenge includes keeping up with the modern, up-to-date, global supply chain management, which is from expert manipulation of transportation management to the optimization of technologies.

 

Companies should consider adjustments on planning systems for improved efficiency. Vitiello’s point drives all managing and support groups, in order to help in world-class logistics, and to minimize pain and damage in the trucking  system upon the implementation of the new guiding rules.

 

In as much as the driver shortage may be inevitable for quite some time, the average US wage rose by 1.2% in 2012, while the average truck driver wage rose by 1.3%, breaking the $40,000 ceiling.

 

Driver turnover climbed at the first quarter of 2010. This was when the turnover rate of truckload carriers rose to 39%.

 

As mentioned earlier, companies may consider raising the pay for drivers to make them stay. Since 2012, the average tractor-trailer driver wage is US $40,360, as against US $34,350 in 2002.

 

At the time of this writing, there is still a need for a great number of truck drivers across the United States. This holds true despite the contentions between trucking industry players and safety advocate groups.

 

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