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Truck Coalition Opposes Proposal

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WWMT) Truck Coalition opposes proposal – A recent proposal by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department, would change drive-time rules for truckers. The trucking industry supports the proposal, while critics worry the change could lead to more accidents involving truck drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said its 129-page proposal, published Wednesday, provides more options for drivers while maintaining safety standards.

Current hours of service regulations allow long-haul drivers up to 11 hours of time behind the wheel each day. Regardless of how much of that time is spent driving, the truckers must call it a day after 14 hours. The regulations also say drivers must have had 10 consecutive off-duty hours before starting a new day.

The proposed revisions would allow drivers to pause their 14-hour work day by up to three hours if they are not behind the wheel. Chris Bonnell, safety and compliance manager at All Seasons Express in Kalamazoo, said that change makes a huge difference for drivers spending hours waiting at shipping and receiving docks.

“They could be there anywhere from three to five hours, so those hours are eating into their daily work schedule,” she said. “It’s time they’re really losing out on their earnings.”

Bonnell said the new proposal simply gives truck drivers more options.

“Allowing those drivers to make choices based upon how they’re feeling, where it’s not going to affect their day-to-day operation, really is beneficial for them — because you never know when you’ll feel tired, if you’re not feeling well,” she said.

Critics of the proposition worry extended drive-times could lead to more fatigued drivers on the road.

A statement from the Truck Safety Coalition opposes the drive-time proposal, calling on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to provide data that the new rules would not lead to more health problems for truckers, coercion of drivers and more crashes involving fatigued truckers.

“The agency is offering flexibility without regard for the fact that it could be exploited by the worst actors in the industry, including drivers who will operate while fatigued and motor carriers who will coerce them to do so,” the statement said.

According to the group, 4,657 large trucks were involved in fatal accidents in 2017.

Other details included in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s proposal are:

  • Short-haul exceptions: The proposal would lengthen certain drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours. It would also extend their driving distance limits from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
  • Adverse driving conditions: The proposal would modify the adverse driving exception by extending the maximum window of when driving is permitted by two hours.
  • Increase break flexibility: The proposal would require a break after 8 hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time). The proposal also says the requirement could be satisfied by an on-duty break from driving, rather than requiring an off-duty break.
  • Sleeper-berth exceptions: The proposal would allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than 2 consecutive hours, either off duty or in sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.

The proposal will be open for public comment before going into effect.