Rest period rule sparks controversy

03/22/2013 02:25:00 PM
Tom Burfield

The motor carrier industry continually is beset by rules and regulations that often manage to spark controversy among drivers and carriers.

Jon Samson, executive director of the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference, American Trucking Associations, Arlington, Va., said one of most important issues facing carriers is a proposed change in the 34-hour restart provision.

A 34-hour rest period is required each week, which mandates truck drivers take off at least one night from 1-5 a.m.

That has been the law for years, but the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration has issued changes that call for two nighttime rest periods from 1-5 a.m. within that 34-hour restart period.

“In essence, you would end up taking actually about 50 or 52 hours off just to get in those two night rest periods,” he said.

Congress has mandated that the Department of Transportation study that provision and come out with a recommendation before the change goes into effect.

“They want to make sure that changes that are made in respect to those two night rest periods are statistically significant, where drivers need those two rest periods,” Samson said.

“Everybody believes that they’re going to find that one rest period is plenty for people to be able to recharge and go back to work,” he said. “If they do find that one night rest period is significant, the language on the study states that they go back and revisit that change.”

However, Samson said there is no guarantee that the changes will not go into effect July 1 as scheduled no matter what DOT finds after reviewing the provision.

Another challenge is a push from Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, calling for cutting back truckers’ workdays from 11 hours to 10 hours.

ATA has come out in favor of keeping the 11-hour day, and so far, the FMCSA has agreed.

In California, new, strict regulations covering refrigeration units from the California Air Resources Board took effect in January.

Several entities now can be fined if a refrigeration unit is noncompliant, said Doug Stoiber, vice president of produce transportation operations for L&M Transportation Services, Raleigh, N.C.

The state discovered that it could not adequately police the situation, so it is spreading the blame for noncompliance as well as responsibility for its enforcement, he said.

If a reefer unit is not compliant, the shipper that loaded the truck, the broker that hired the truck and the customer to whom the delivery is made can be fined, Stoiber said.

L&M makes sure its vehicles that operate in California are CARB-complaint before they are dispatched, he said.

Drivers will not be penalized unless they own the truck, he said, but he pointed out that many owner-operators deliver produce.

Visalia, Calif.-based Advanced Transportation Services spent three or four years preparing for the new CARB rules, said Marshall Kipp, president and chief executive officer.

“We saw it coming, so we were in front of the curve,” he said.

The company will not load a truck that is not CARB-compliant.

“This CARB is really a problem,” said Kenny Lund, vice president of support operations for Allen Lund Co., La Canada Flintridge, Calif. “It is really based on junk science.”

Nonetheless, the rules took effect in January, and Lund said it was too early to tell what the overall effect on the industry will be.



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