Seaming: Changes in the Federal HOS Rules
Nearly a decade has passed since the “Commercial Drivers License” regulations went into effect. They required a national standard for training and evaluation of truck drivers, and ended the practice of holding licenses in multiple states.
At the time, the roofing industry was able to focus on the new requirements and had plenty of time to comply. This year, rules have been proposed for the nation’s truck drivers that most of us haven’t focused on. If they are implemented, they may become effective with little or no notice.
The U.S. Department of Transportation released its overhaul of federal hours-of-service (HOS) rules for commercial truck drivers on April 25, 2000. The American Trucking Association agrees that the existing rules, which are over 60 years old, are in need of change. That is where most of the agreeing ends. According to the ATA, the DOT did not do a complete job of studying and planning prior to issuing its proposal.
Trucking industry interests contend that the new rules, if instituted, would put added pressure on an already severe shortage of truck drivers. The new rules would create the demand for an additional 20 percent more drivers. Of course, along with that would come the equipment and added costs.
Beyond the obvious difficulty these rules might impose on the roofing supply chain, there are parts of the rules that will affect the contractor directly. Commercial drivers would be divided into five classifications. Many roofing contractors employ what the DOT would consider “Class 5” drivers. A Class 5 driver is a local driver who spends most of his or her time working (on duty, not driving), such as the roofer who drives the dump, supply or crane truck. The HOS proposal would significantly restrict the daily working hours of this individual. As we all know, some days in our business are short, and some are necessarily very long. This fact was apparently not taken into consideration in these proposals.
There is a silver lining for the roofing industry. These long-haul drivers feel that the new rules will cut their income by $10K per year. At that rate, they will be able to make as much working locally, and this may actually make it easier for us to find drivers. But it will only be a good thing if we are still receiving deliveries ourselves.
The new rules need no further congressional action. At the end of the required comment period (October 31, 2000), U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater may decide to put the rules into effect. The Senate has added language to a highway reauthorization bill that would prevent the implementation of the new rules, but the first version of the matching bill from the House did not include the language. If you feel this change in the rules needs further study, contact your U.S. representative and ask him or her to support the Price-Clement letter, which requests that House conferees go along with the Senate on this issue.
For my part, I agree that the rules with the 18 hour clock are dated and in need of change. I also agree, however, with the trucking industry’s position that these particular rules are not ready for prime time. Check it out for yourself. See commentary from the ATA at www.truckline.com/safetynet/drivers/hos_specialreport.html, or see the government’s announcements and rules at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hos/hos.htm.