Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Truckers drive at hours-of-service law changes

A Grain Valley-based truckers group has filed a challenge in federal appeals court over new rules regulating the hours a truck driver can work.
The new federal hours-of-service rules took effect in October, but some of its provisions were challenged last August by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) last August.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the body that issues the regulations, denied the OOIDA’s petition, leading to the group’s filing last week with the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.
The group is seeking what it described as two “common-sense changes” to the new regulations.
Under the current rules, drivers can work 14 hours a day with 10 hours of rest. If a driver chooses to split up his rest time, one period must be at least eight hours. The driver can then take a two-hour break later, but those two hours are counted against the driver’s 14 hours of on-duty time.
The OOIDA believes that two-hour rest should not count as part of the on-duty time, said Todd Spencer, the OOIDA’s executive vice president.
“You can’t be totally certain that something won’t hold up, like an accident or traffic jam,” Spencer said. “If you take a break and then something happens down the road, the driver will end up being out of (on-duty) hours.”
Spencer said if a driver needs a two-hour nap, he or she should be able to take it without worrying about taking up on-duty time.
“The rigidity of the rule works as a deterrent against taking that break,” he said.
Spencer said other state trucking associations are not happy with the rule, including the California Trucking Association.
“I don’t know if they’ll join our suit, but they haven’t made any secret of the fact that they don’t like the new regulation,” Spencer said.
The other regulation being contested pertains to two-driver teams that use sleeper berths for rest. The new regulations state that one driver must stay in the sleeper berth for a minimum of eight hours while the other driver is on-duty for those eight consecutive hours.
The OOIDA, along with other groups like the Teamsters union, say driver teams do not work like that. Drivers should be able to rotate in and out of the berths whenever they want as long as they get at least two hours of rest, those groups contend.
“That’s impractical for most team operations,” said Jim Johnston, OOIDA president and chief executive, in a recent issue of its own publication, Land Line Magazine.

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