The New Hours of Service Rule: Impact on Truckers’ Finances, Numerical Fallacies and Common Sense Questions

Please enjoy this Guest Blog by Vicki Simons.

Mike and Vicki Simons provide real world tips [from their personal experience as truck drivers] that help professional truck drivers save hard-earned money and personal reporting about products and services for use on the road. Visit their website at truck-drivers-money-saving-tips.com

MAP-21 — the short title for the two-year transportation re-authorization bill entitled “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” — was signed into law in 2012. In part, it addresses an Hours of Service Study. In this article, I would like to do the following regarding the new Hours of Service rule:

  • Address its financial impact on truckers;
  • Present its two associated numerical fallacies; and
  • Ask a few common sense questions.

For reference purposes, the Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule [Download PDF Version] was published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2011. The compliance date for the new Hours of Service regulation was July 1, 2013.

Financial Impact of New Hours of Service Rule on Truckers

Numerous articles including this one state that the available number of hours that a trucker can work in a week has been reduced from 82 to 70. That could be up to a 15% reduction in available work time. The Wall Street Journal reported that the government said that the new regulation will only affect 15% of truckers. However, every trucker will be required to take a 30-minute break after 8 on-duty hours.

One of the inherent hazards of taking that 30-minute break — and having one’s restart include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. — is finding a place to park. Most likely because the human circadian rhythm is linked to the light–dark cycle, the wee hours of the morning are the time of day when it is most difficult to find safe and legal truck parking. Due to the shortage of truck parking in certain areas of the USA, I predict there are going to be some problems, some of which may turn out to be financial in nature.

I can just imagine this conversation taking place:

“Hello, officer. Because of the new Hours of Service rule, I have to park for 30 minutes after 8 hours on-duty. I have only another 13 minutes left to go.”

“Hello, trucker. Because you chose to park here, I have to issue you a ticket. I have only another 13 truckers left to ticket.”

Further limiting truckers’ work hours further limits their income from trucking, which further limits saving money from one’s trucking paycheck. As of only ten days into the new HOS rule compliance period, owner-operator George Parker had already experienced about $300 in lost income, directly attributable to the new law. One article stated that the “American Trucking Associations forecasts a 1.5% to 4% reduction in productivity as a result of the HOS alterations” and that part of the new rule is going to be “really difficult to dispatch around.”

On top of that, there is a financial penalty associated with violating the new Hours of Service rules. The Wall Street Journal reported: “The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration plans to enforce the rules by routinely checking drivers’ work logs, in which they are required to report their schedules, and imposing fines up to … $2,750 for individual drivers for each offense.”

Two Numerical Fallacies in the New Hours of Service Rule

One source stated, “FMCSA estimated that these new safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent about 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.” At face value, it seems commendable that those in the federal government are concerned about preserving life and preventing crashes and injuries. Yet let’s dig deeper. I’m going to point out two fallacies of further restricting the Hours of Service of professional truck drivers.

First, in February 2013, TheTrucker.com reported that the American Trucking Associations (ATA) “released results from several studies that found car drivers to be far more at fault in causing crashes than truckers.” Among them was a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study in which “car drivers were assigned factors in 81 percent of crashes compared with 27 percent of truckers. Those totals were greater than 100 percent, the study noted, because 10 percent of crashes assigned blame to both car and truck drivers.”

If it was truly the goal of the federal government to save lives and reduce crashes and injuries, they would focus first on the folks who were responsible for the factors in 81 percent of crashes (the car drivers, not the truck drivers).

Second, in June 2013, Overdrive Online reported that the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) reported that “the hours of service changes will actually cost the industry $189 million a year collectively.” For the sake of argument, let’s divide the cost to the trucking industry by the number of lives saved and crashes and injuries to be theoretically prevented:

  • $189,000,000 / 19 people = $ 9,947,368.42 per person
  • $189,000,000 / 1400 crashes = $135,000 per crash
  • $189,000,000 / 560 injuries = $337,500 per injury

The first calculation indicates that the federal government has indirectly assigned a value of $9.9 million per person per year. Yet, can you think of people in our nation who are not being valued to this extent? What about professional truck drivers who continue to be classified as “unskilled labor“?

A Few Common Sense Questions About the New Hours of Service Rule

Based on the preceding, I submit that the new Hours of Service rule put in place for professional truck drivers is not about safety. How can it be about anything other than “control”? After all, not even the extremely influential ATA or ATRI have been able to stop it with data.

What will it take to demonstrate whether the new HOS rule is about safety or control? I re-state what we asked through our blog on July 2, which was based on this article: “What if the new HOS rules don’t reduce truck driver fatigue or improve safety? What if the ‘common sense, data-driven changes’ and reduced work hours back fire? Will the FMCSA be willing to reverse course? How long will it take before we know?”

—–

Through Truck-Drivers-Money-Saving-Tips.com, Vicki Simons and her husband Mike provide real world tips that help professional truck drivers save hard-earned money and personal reporting about products and services for use on the road. They have developed their unique website as a place to share the tips they have learned through the years and where other professional drivers can do the same. For more information, visit http://www.truck-drivers-money-saving-tips.com/.

Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved. NKBJ InfoNet, LLC. Printed on ARPCO Says with permission.

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