Small Business Trucking Groups Remain at Odds Over FMCSA’s HOS Proposal
Washington D.C. – As trucking stakeholders prepare for next week’s second of two listening sessions regarding the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) new hours of service (HOS) proposal, small business trucking groups remain at odds with each other.
Shortly, after the Agency’s announcement of its proposed changes to HOS regulations, it quickly became apparent the FMCSA’s proposal was receiving a warm welcome among an array of trucking interest groups such as the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA).
Joining the ATA and TCA in support of the proposed reforms were small business trucking groups such as the Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association (OOIDA) and the National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC).
“With the announcement of the proposed changes under Administrator (Ray) Martinez’s leadership, we’re hopefully going to take a big step in the right direction and give drivers more flexibility and, ultimately, improve highway safety,” said Todd Spencer, president of OOIDA.
President of NASTC, David Owen, told Transportation Nation Network (TNN), “At first glance I’m thrilled. It will make things much, much better for everybody.”
However, some small business trucking groups were not nearly as enthused.
Count James Lamb, President of the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC), as a skeptic.
“This new proposed rule now allows mega carriers to make you work longer, without extra pay and invites more detention time. We understand why the ATA would like you on a 17 hour day,” Lamb said to TNN.
Now that the dust is beginning to settle, and the Agency has had an opportunity to provide clarifications and answer frequently asked questions, TNN once again spoke with some of these groups.
Disagreement still remains.
In an interview this week, Owen reiterated his initial opinion.
“I don’t see much in there that’s not positive,” he said.
Owen expressed his belief that the Agency displayed “common sense” and creativity in how it balanced the concerns of safety advocates and truckers’ need for flexibility.
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He pointed specifically to how the FMCSA’s proposal treats the 30-minute break.
By allowing truckers to log the required break as on-duty, not driving, instead of requiring drivers to go off-duty, Owen said it was a “creative” way for drivers to “still get credit for your break.”
Lamb told TNN that he and the majority of his members believe the FMCSA’s proposal “falls short.”
“The SBTC has been calling for the elimination of the 14 hour rule outright. Anything less is unacceptable,” Lamb said.
Joe Rajkovacz, Director of Governmental Affairs and Communications with the Western States Trucking Association, told TNN those calling for the elimination of the 14 hour rule “don’t understand or want to understand” how the regulatory process works.
“There were those who had pretty high expectations for dramatic changes, but the FMCSA would have had to have a hell of a lot of studies done to make dramatic changes to the HOS rules,” Rajkovacz said. “Without relevant studies, the safety Nazis would have been able to sue in the D.C. Circuit and they would have won.”
Rajkovacz expressed a sentiment that the three trucking group leaders agree on.
“Large motor carriers are almost virtually always looking at how to use the regulatory process to screw over the smaller carrier,” he said.
Lamb asserts that’s exactly what is happening in this case.
“To concede that we have to accept policy that favors the mega carriers over the little guys because the Agency has to reconcile safety stakeholders’ interests is a cop out. When you are supposed to represent the little guys, you don’t team up with the big guys,” Lamb argued.
However, Rajkovacz and Owen do not view the Agency’s new proposal as doing the bidding of large carriers.
“It’s never going to be enough for everybody,” Rajkovacz said.
Owen agreed. “Nothing is perfect.”
As for Lamb, he would rather debate what he calls the “real safety issue.”
He argues the real safety issue is not HOS… it’s the driver pay model.
“The obvious answer –one that only the SBTC is talking about– is the economic paradigm that has been in place all this time. Everyone knows the pay by the mile but regulate by the clock model is the real problem,” Lamb said. “By not addressing the ugly root cause of the problem, all of these initiatives are merely putting lipstick on a pig.”
The FMCSA will conduct its second HOS listening session at the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, September 17 at 1 p.m.
What new questions and/or concerns will be raised?
TNN will have complete coverage, plus you can watch the listening session on-demand at TransportationNation.com.
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