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Anne Ferro in Hot Seat As HOS Debate Continues

by Jana Ritter - Published: 11/22/2013

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro was raked over the coals Thursday by legislators and truckers as the hearing continued over the new Hours of Service rules. Thursday's hearing in a subcommittee of the House Small Business Committee capped an active week on the HOS issue with reports critical of the changes released by the American Transportation Research Institute and a foundation affiliated with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn.

Anne ferro

Although several other lawmakers weighed in, subcommittee Chairman Richard Hanna (R-NY) and Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) were most vocal in their criticism of the HOS rule changes and most aggressive in their questioning of Ferro. Ferro found herself constantly defending the new rule, but subcommittee members were having none of it, and neither were truckers.

“What do you say to somebody who has spent not two days but a lifetime in a truck and says [the new hours] has upset their sleep … ,” said House Small Business Subcommittee Chairman Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., referring to the two-day trip Ferro took recently in a big rig. “You’re saying the rule helps and truckers on the road don’t think it does,” he said. Hanna said in his introductory comments that even though FMCSA maintains the rule costs truckers less than 1 percent of revenue per year and impacts less than 15 percent of commercial drivers, industry stakeholders estimate the rules cost $376 million annually and “cost jobs.”

Ferro reiterated the agency’s research and said it “shows that 85 percent of the truck driver workforce (1.36 million drivers) has an average weekly work time of 60 hours or less and thus, does not need to use the voluntary 34-hour restart.” Ferro, often tight-lipped during proceedings, said the agency recognizes the new hours’ restart constraint impacts some drivers and companies, but that “the trade-off is improved safety for everyone.”

Truckers and congressmen weren't buying it, quoting an American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) survey released Wednesday that shows 80 percent of carriers have suffered a productivity loss since the new rules went into effect and more than 66 percent of drivers surveyed reported increased fatigue under the new rules.

Hanna asked Ferro why FMCSA was “so numb” to needs of truckers and several subcommittee members said the agency showed “arrogance” in publishing the rules before its congressionally mandated study on the rules’ impact was completed.

Ferro said the agency “denies arrogance and numbness.”