Tag Archives: 34 Hour Restart

Truckers’ Concerns, 2014 Edition

A recent study highlighted a number of truckers’ concerns, and some of the issues raised aren’t surprising. Research conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute shows that, though there are many standard transportation problems on the list, the most important are those relating to the current status of trucking regulations.

Leading off the list of truckers’ concerns was the 34 Hour Restart regulations enacted in 2013. We’ve already discussed those regulations in detail in a previous post, but it isn’t surprising that truck drivers are bothered by regulations that, they claim, make roads less safe while hampering productivity. Right behind 34 Hour Restart on the list was a similar issue: the “Compliance, Safety, Accountability” program that heightens safety requirements (and monitoring) related to freight movement. Perhaps the biggest questions surrounding the CSA program relate to enforcement, which hasn’t been consistent in the two years since it began. Other regulatory issues making the list included electronic logbook recording requirements (coming in at 5th) and truck fuel prices (8th), which may become more important as lawmakers debate whether to increase the fuel tax by twelve cents.

The remainder of the list indicates economic concerns: The driver shortage and driver retention; general concern about the state of the national economy; and transportation funding. (Contact us if you’re concerned about that last one — we can help!)

But what a difference a decade makes. In 2005, truckers’ concerns focused primarily on general economic issues. Today, while economic issues still make the list, it’s traffic and safety regulations that lead the way.

34 Hour Restart; Other Legislative Rumblings

In the last few weeks, there have been rumblings in Washington that might lead to regulatory changes for truckers.

In a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on June 30, representatives from the FMCSA and the trucking industry sparred over current safety regulations. The primary bone of contention, not surprisingly, was the 34 Hour Restart, a rule that took effect one year ago and limited the number of hours in a week that drivers can operate. Competing proposals before the Senate include one from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) that would put the 34 Hour Restart on hold until research into its effect was completed. On the other hand, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has proposed a bill that would keep the Restart in place permanently. Not surprisingly, truckers and trucking industry advocates remain unsatisfied with the 34 Hour Restart rules, which they suggest puts more trucks on the road during higher traffic times (and are actually less safe).

One way to adjust to the 34 Hour Restart Rules / CC BY-SA 3.0 by Fourthords

One way to adjust to the 34 Hour Restart Rules / CC BY-SA 3.0 by Fourthords

Another issue mentioned during the July 30 hearing, by Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, concerned the FMCSA’s drug and alcohol testing rates. According to the FMCSA’s regulations (in 49 C.F.R. 382), though the initial required rate for drug and alcohol testing was 50% of the average number of drivers per year, the testing rate can be reduced to 25%. That is, if the trucking industry as a whole passes the random tests more than 99% of the time for two years, the head of the FMCSA may lower the rate of testing. Though the industry has passed the test each of the last two years, the rate of testing remains at 50%. As Sen. Blunt suggested, “there’s some point where that number goes down to 25%.”

Both of these topics arose in the wake of the resignation of Anne Ferro, the FMCSA chief, announced July 25 and effective at the end of August. Ferro’s tenure was marked by a notable increase in regulations aimed at promoting safety (including both of those discussed above, and the “Compliance, Safety, Accountability” program, which has had some notable issues of its own). The industry will undoubtedly watch closely as Ms. Ferro’s successor is chosen, and as Congress deliberates over the state of trucking regulations.