October 9, 2018
DOT Docket No. FMCSA-2018-0248 Docket Management Facility U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12–140, Washington, DC 20590–0001.
Re: DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 49 CFR Part 395 Hours of Service of Drivers; Advance Notice of Proposed Rule Making
The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (Trucking Alliance or Alliance) files these comments in response to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA or agency) request for public comment, regarding an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on certain aspects of the federal hours-of-service rules for operators of commercial vehicles.
About the Trucking Alliance
The Trucking Alliance is comprised of freight transportation carriers, logistics companies and supporting businesses from the insurance and truck safety technology sectors. The transportation carriers collectively employ 80,200 professional drivers and operational personnel who manage 70,000 trucks, and 220,000 trailers and intermodal containers to provide freight and logistics solutions. The Alliance’s sole mission is to advocate safety reforms that can eliminate large truck accidents, fatalities and injuries. To support that objective, the Trucking Alliance serves on the Road to Zero Coalition Steering Group, a 17-member committee co-chaired by the US Department of Transportation and the National Safety Council that represents more than 800 associations, businesses, cities, and governmental agencies committed to eliminating traffic accidents by 2050.
The Alliance is a long-time supporter of mandatory electronic logging devices (or ELDs), equipping large trucks with specific safety technologies, requiring truck speed limiters, improving pre-employment commercial driver training, adopting more stringent drug testing protocols of job applicants, and other measures to reduce large truck crashes and improve the safety and security of commercial drivers and the general public.
More information can be found at https://truckingalliance.org/
Basis for ANPRM
FMCSA has requested public input in four specific areas regarding hours-of-service (HOS) rules:
- Short haul carrier’s HOS limit;
- HOS exceptions for adverse driving conditions;
- Required 30-minute rest break provision; and
- The sleeper berth rule to allow drivers to split their required time in the sleeper berth.
FMCSA rationalizes the ANPRM by stating: “the introduction of electronic logging devices and their ability to accurately record compliance with hours-of- service (HOS) regulations for drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) have prompted numerous requests from Congress and the public for FMCSA to consider revising certain HOS provisions.”
The Trucking Alliance questions the FMCSA’s correlation between ELDs and the ANPRM. ELDs are recording devices. ELDs did not change or otherwise alter HOS regulations. But ELDs more accurately verify a commercial driver’s compliance with HOS rules than the paper log books they replaced, an outdated practice that enabled commercial drivers to more easily manipulate their activity than ELDs.
If the trucking industry was complying with HOS rules before ELDs were introduced, how have ELDs created the need to revise HOS rules now? This perceived furor over ELDs suggests that segments of the industry were not complying with HOS regulations prior to the introduction of ELDs.
Safety Related Questions
FMCSA states on its website that its primary mission is to “reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.” The agency should therefore promulgate rules to help achieve those objectives. Yet FMCSA has requested public comment to more questions about the operational, performance and economic benefits that would accrue to carriers if the HOS rules are revised, than if the revisions could pose safety risks to commercial drivers and the public. Public safety should supersede driver convenience.
Of the 18 questions posed by the agency to the specific areas concerning HOS rules, four (4) questions are about safety:
1. (Short-haul operations: a.) Do you have any data to show that extending the 12-hour period for the short-haul exception to the [record of duty status] RODS/ELD requirements to 14 hours would change the safety performance of carriers using the short-haul provision?
2. (Adverse Driving Conditions: f.) How would the above changes affect the economic costs and benefits, and the impacts on safety and fatigue of the adverse driving conditions exception?
3. (30-Minute Break: b.) Are there alternatives to the 30-minute rest break that would provide additional flexibility to drivers while achieving the safety benefits goal of the current 30-minute break?
4. (Split Sleeper Berth: d.) What cost impacts and safety benefits would result from different split sleeper berth options?
As FMCSA reviews the four safety related areas outlined in the ANPRM, the agency should adhere to the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 (1984 Act). In the 1984 Act, Congress provided the Department of Transportation with broad authority for rule making, as long as: “At a minimum, the regulations shall ensure that (1) commercial motor vehicles are maintained, equipped, loaded, and operated safely; (2) the responsibilities imposed on operators of commercial motor vehicles do not impair their ability to operate the vehicles safely; (3) the physical condition of operators of commercial motor vehicles is adequate to enable them to operate the vehicles safely . . .; and (4) the operation of commercial motor vehicles does not have a deleterious effect on the physical condition of the operators[.]’’
FMCSA is required by Congress to make sure that HOS rules (and other regulations) do not impair the ability or the physical condition of commercial drivers to operate their vehicles safely. Regulations must also avoid anything that might have a “deleterious effect on the physical condition of the operators.”
The Alliance hopes FMCSA will apply the safety parameters cited in the 1984 Act, when the agency considers the four general areas presented in the ANPRM.
Principles for Consideration
The Trucking Alliance submits the following principles to the above referenced safety-related questions, in a general context, and requests FMCSA to incorporate these guidelines as it analyzes the ANPRM.
1. All Commercial Trucks Should Be Equipped with ELDs
The Trucking Alliance believes that ELDs should be required in all interstate commercial trucks to verify HOS compliance, as Congress directed, and regardless of the commodity or the carrier’s length of haul. In 2012, in a bipartisan vote, Congress passed legislation to require that all commercial trucks engaged in interstate commerce install electronic logging devices (ELD Law) to verify truck driver compliance with federal HOS rules. When passing the ELD Law, Congress correctly observed that ELDs more accurately verify HOS compliance than paper log books, which drivers commonly manipulated to circumvent HOS rules. Congress expressly directed that the ELD Law encompass all trucks and all drivers subject to the HOS rules, regardless of the carrier’s operation or commodity. FMCSA actually acknowledged this clear congressional directive when it published its final rule on ELDs, writing: “Congress linked the ELD requirement to the HOS requirements, such that any person who operates a CMV [commercial motor vehicle], as defined in 49 CFR 390.5, and is subject to the Federal HOS requirements for record of duty status is subject to the mandate.”
Yet FMCSA exempted short haul carriers from installing ELDs and more recently, the agency granted an exemption from ELDs and HOS rules to segments of the agricultural motor carrier industry. FMCSA relied on its statutory authority to grant these exemptions, rather than adhering to its congressional mandate. Neither did the agency offer scientific data that the exemptions would avoid any unsafe factors cited in the 1984 Act, or how the exemptions would reduce large truck crashes, fatalities and injuries. The Alliance urges FMCSA to remain true to its mission.
The Alliance also supports state or federal legislation to require ELDs in all commercial trucks, such as those engaged in intrastate commerce, short-haul carriers, as well as livestock transporters, live produce haulers, local agriculture commodity transporters, dump trucks, crushed rock carriers, construction companies, regional trucking companies and all other types of commercial trucking operations that are subject to federal HOS provisions.
2. ELDs Should Verify HOS Compliance
ELDs are already improving HOS compliance. Since December 2017, when FMCSA required most interstate motor carriers to install ELDs, the agency has reported that truck driver hours-of-service violations are down 46 percent. For this reason, FMCSA must exclusively rely on ELDs to verify HOS compliance. Under no circumstance should FMCSA return to a policy whereby any carriers are allowed to use paper log books, which are not reliable indicators of HOS compliance. In addition to verifying HOS compliance, ELDs will help reduce truck driver fatigue and the number of large truck crashes, fatalities and injuries. In fact, FMCSA estimates that 1,844 large truck crashes will be avoided and 26 lives will be saved each year.
FMCSA further estimates that ELDs will result in a net economic benefit of $1.1 billion annually, a figure that will increase if ELDs are required in all commercial trucks, whether engaged in interstate or intrastate commerce.
3. ELD Data Should Drive HOS Revisions
Historically, federal HOS rules have been changed through a rule-making process. FMCSA should rely on data produced by ELDs, either through pilot programs or other research, before any substantial changes to HOS rules are proposed.
This reliance on ELD data should apply to the four areas contemplated in the ANPRM. FMCSA should also rely on ELD data when considering a petition filed by the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association and a second petition filed by Trucker-Nation. Both of these petitions, if granted, would substantially lengthen a driver’s work day and would likely increase safety risks. FMCSA should deny these petitions, pending either pilot programs or research to assure the public that if granted, these petitions will reduce large truck crashes, fatalities and injuries.
ELD data can also provide the agency with the knowledge that is critical for a more accurate understanding of other aspects of a trucking operation, such as:
- The accurate number of hours being driven;
- How long drivers spend waiting at shipper pick-up and receiver delivery locations; Slow transit times that drivers experience due to traffic congestion;
- Data related to commodities that require special consideration;
- Correlations between commercial motor vehicle collisions and the number of hours the driver was operating the vehicle; and
- Times of day that large truck accidents occur.
4. HOS Revisions Must Reduce Large Truck Crashes
FMCSA policies should be structured to substantially reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. Regrettably, the trends concerning large truck accidents are not good. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that in 2016, 3,986 people died in large truck crashes, excluding bus crashes. This number was 27 percent higher than in 2009, when large truck fatalities declined to their lowest level since data collection began in 1975. Also in 2016, 677 large truck fatalities were truck drivers.
More recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released 2017 preliminary crash data and it shows the number of tractor trailer fatality crashes increased by 5.8 percent over 2016. Injuries from large truck and bus crashes are also on the rise. According to the US Department of Transportation, an estimated 119,000 people were injured in large truck and bus crashes in 2016, the largest number in at least 20 years. Future HOS revisions, including those under consideration in this ANPRM, should have a high degree of probability that large truck crashes will be reduced.
5. HOS Revisions Should Not Endanger Motorists on Secondary Roads
FMCSA should not ease HOS rules for certain types of carrier operations, if the HOS revisions could increase the risk of large truck crashes on secondary highways. For instance, most large truck crash fatalities and injuries do not occur on interstate highways, but on roads used by short haul carriers, livestock transporters, local agriculture commodity transporters, live chicken haulers, dump trucks, crushed rock carriers, construction companies and other regional truck operations. Consider that in 2016, 32% of all large truck fatalities occurred on “interstates and freeways” but 67% of all large truck fatalities occurred on “other major roads and minor roads,” according to the US Department of Transportation. FMCSA must not exempt ELDs or revise HOS rules to accommodate carriers like those referenced above, if those revisions might increase the public’s safety risks on roadways where two-thirds of truck crash fatalities are actually occurring.