ORLANDO, Fla. — Retailers and wholesalers should expect the new hours-of-service (HOS) rule announced in late December to take effect in July 2013 as planned, though the possibility exists that it may be delayed or changed by legal action taken before the end of February, advised a trucking industry expert.
“Since 2003, every time there’s been a change to the [HOS] rule, it’s been litigated,” said Rob Abbott, vice president of safety policy, American Trucking Associations (ATA), Arlington, Va., during a session this week at the Supply Chain Conference here, sponsored by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute. “Our membership is weighing [litigation] now.”
Nonetheless, he said, “you have to plan as if [the rule will be implemented].”
Under the new HOS rule, which is overseen by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the number of hours a driver can work (including driving and downtime) within a week has been cut from 82 to 70. In addition, truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes.
The new rule also requires drivers to take at least two nights’ rest from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., and limits the ability of drivers to take at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty to once per seven-day period.
Notably, the new rule does not reduce the daily driving limit from 11 hours to 10, a change that safety advocates had sought but the industry had vigorously opposed. Still, “portions of this rule are extremely objectionable to the industry,” said Abbott.
For example, by mandating that drivers include two rest periods weekly between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., “FMCSA is assuring that every day as America is commuting to work, thousands of truck drivers will be joining them, creating additional and unnecessary congestion and putting motorists and those professional drivers at greater risk,” said Bill Graves ATA’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement released last month.