Agency Proposes Burdensome Restrictions on Truckers’ Hours

February 18, 2011, Washington, D.C. — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed a new Hours-of-Service (HOS) Rule for commercial motor vehicle drivers. The rule would increase restrictions on the number of hours that truckers and other commercial drivers can work. One proposed change currently being debated is a drop in the maximum driving hours within driving windows from 11 hours to 10.

Yesterday, CEI Land-use and Transportation Policy Analyst Marc Scribner submitted comments on the proposed HOS Rule, explaining why the proposed rule is costly, inefficient, and virtually unenforceable.

Scribner made the following points:

(1) According to FMCSA’s own data, the proposed hour restrictions will disproportionately affect self-employed commercial drivers, who are usually paid a per-mile rate, and who will face significantly increased costs by complying with the new HOS Rule.

(2) The FMCSA claims that the new rules will increase highway safety; however, scheduling practices in the trucking industry give drivers strong economic incentive to violate HOS limits. Intensifying HOS restrictions is thus hardly an efficient or effective means to improving traffic safety. The FMCSA could better achieve its goals by working with industry stakeholders to develop new schedule planning practices.

(3) As already noted, drivers already violate HOS limits, which are difficult to enforce. This is true even if the Agency were to mandate electronic on-board recorders, as has been proposed. Private arrangements between commercial drivers and their insurers would be far more enforceable as matters of private contract. However, burdensome public regulations like the HOS Rule are crowding out private solutions which might actually improve practices and standards in the trucking industry.

“[The FMCSA] does not properly establish the need for revised hours-of-service limitations proposed in the HOS Rule,” Scribner writes. “It has repeatedly obfuscated the core issue by relying on non-safety health impact benefits calculated under a dubious methodology to force a non-negative net benefit finding.”

“The Agency fails to understand its own institutional limitations and consider that private market regimes may provide solutions that result in superior safety and cost outcomes. Examining alternative private institutions that could better enhance highway safety and productivity should be made a priority by the Agency’s Office of Analysis, Research and Technology.”