Are HOS Regulations "The ObamaCare of Trucking"?

by Jana Ritter - Published: 11/06/2013

The new Hours of Service regulations are proving to be the “Obamacare” of the trucking industry since they went into effect July of this year. Now, with yet another challenge issued last Thursday when U.S. Reps. Richard Hanna (R-NY), Tom Rice (R-SC) and Mike Michaud (D-ME) introduced the TRUE Safety Act. The bill specifically targets the 34-hour restart rule, which is the most controversial part of the new HOS regulations, much like the individual mandate is for Obamacare.

Beautiful house

The TRUE Safety Act asks that all truckers abide by the 34-hour restart rules that were in place before July 1, 2013 and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) would be required to conduct an independent assessment of the methodology FMCSA used to come up with the new 34-hour restart rule. The new 34-hour restart rule could not be re-implemented until six months after GAO submits its assessment to Congress.

According to Representative Rice, “Congress required the FMSCA to complete a comprehensive study before imposing new hours of service standards on our truckers. Instead, the agency has abused its authority and is requiring truckers to comply with one of the most stringent parts of its regulation prior to receiving their study’s findings. This legislation will rein in FMSCA and postpone the new un-tested hours of service regulation until its study is complete and require an additional study to ensure that our truckers are not being overregulated.”

Until recently, much hasn't heard much from shippers, carriers, or 3PLs about any significant impact to operations resulting from the new rules. But that's starting to change. A press release issued by Schneider National on October 24, 2013 stated:

Since the new HOS implementation, Schneider has realized a 3.1 percent drop in productivity on solo shipments and a 4.3 percent decline on team shipments. The results are similar to Schneider's forecasted 3–4 percent, which was based on predictive modeling and presented as testimony to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in February 2011.

“The Hours of Service changes could not have come at a worse time,” said Dave Geyer, senior vice president/general manager of Schneider’s Van Truckload division. “We now need more drivers to do the same amount of work, but regulations, economic conditions and demographics are working against us in terms of recruiting new drivers. Those who do answer the call deserve an attractive wage and good benefits, but we’re being restricted in the number of miles we can give them and the ongoing challenges that come with sharply rising operating costs.”

Werner Enterprises' Q32013 financial results were also issued in a press release:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) published final driver hours of service (“HOS”) rules in December 2011, which became effective July 1, 2013. Among the changes were more restrictive requirements covering driver use of the 34-hour restart rule and a new mandatory 30-minute rest period after 8 hours on duty. The Company modified and tested its electronic HOS system and began dispatching drivers under the revised HOS rules effective July 1. As expected, the Company believes that these hours of service changes negatively impacted miles per truck by two to three percent.