Hours of Service Revision Challenged by GOP Congressman

Trucking and Transportation Legal Issues from CDL Life

Rep. John Mica, R-Florida finally revealed what he meant when he said he will challenge the new hours of service rule. He wants proof, in writing, on the record. Mica challenged the FMCSA to put their money where their mouth is by doing a comprehensive field study to see if the results actually support the new ruling. In particular, he wants to see proof regarding the 34-hour restart provision of the rule, which limits the restart to once a week with two sleep periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

If the study supports the ruling, then Mica will allow the revision to the HOS Rules to take place on schedule in 2013. If not, then the FMCSA will have to modify the rules, or just revert to how it was before in 2010.

Payload Weight Increases Also Under Scrutiny

The bill also includes language that would allow states to increase the truck weight limit on Interstate highways from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 pounds, provided the truck has a sixth axle. The DOT would be able to establish fees for these trucks, based on the increased cost of wear and tear on the road. The fees would go into the Highway Trust Fund.

This provision already is a political lightning rod, with the American Automobile Association, independent industry groups and the Teamsters union. Also at odds with the weight revision proposal are highway safety advocates and the railroad industry. All groups contend that the weight increase would force small carriers to buy new equipment they cannot afford.

However, some other industry groups have pointed at other developed countries who have raised load weight, but have lowered incidences of fatalities caused by semi tractor trailers, due to extra braking power provided by an extra axel. “Since the United Kingdom raised its gross vehicle weight limit to 97,000 pounds for six-axle vehicles in 2001, fatal truck-related accident rates have declined by 35%,” said John Runyan, executive director of the Coalition for Transportation Productivity. “More freight has been shipped, while the vehicle miles traveled to deliver each ton of freight has declined. That’s just what we need here in the U.S.”

More on this as it develops.