August 18, 2013

Truckers find anti-fatigue rules tiresome

Opponents call the federal regulations too costly, but advocates say they're needed to prevent crashes.

By BEN KAMISAR McClatchy Newspapers

(Continued from page 1)

New trucking regulations costly to owner-operator teams
click image to enlarge

David Ryser, left, and son Charles Ryser of Forsyth, Ga., eat after showering at a truck stop recently in Bordentown, N.J. The Rysers oppose the federal rules to counter fatigue.

Jeff Launtenberger/McClatchy Newspapers

"Today the American public is less safe because this dangerous rule puts the economic profit of the trucking industry ahead of public safety," he said in a statement released after the court decision.

DOWNTIME BUILT IN

Charles Ryser thinks it's a misconception that drivers don't have downtime. Given the unpredictable nature of loading times, he's been delayed for hours waiting for a shipment; that's time he can use to rest.

"We have way too many variables out here on the road," he said. "We've got accidents, delays in shippers and receivers, traffic jams."

Drivers occupy one of the exemptions to federal overtime laws, and many get paid per mile.

In the DOT's analysis of costs and benefits, the new rules are an overall positive, providing a net benefit of $205 million annually.

While costs were easier to predict, estimating the overall value of the law proved difficult, as the agency highlighted the unpredictable nature of the benefits, including reduced fatigue.

"Studies show that working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers," said Anne Ferro, the head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

She added that the agency reached out to industry stakeholders and included some of their recommendations in the rules.

HEALTH BENEFITS DOUBTED

But Dave Osiecki, the senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs for the American Trucking Associations, isn't buying the health estimates, which he referred to as "highly speculative."

"The government has created hundreds of millions of dollars of health benefits on paper that are very hard to believe will ever be achieved," he said.

Professor Jose Holguin-Veras, the director of the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation and the Environment at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said that conclusively determining the costs and benefits was exceedingly difficult.

"This is one of those issues that is very, very tough, because you have a tradeoff between productivity and safety. You have all those things intersecting," he said. "There is not a clear best solution."

With the new rules in place, Charles Ryser said, he has been forced to add downtime, something he hoped to avoid when he joined a team with his father.

He said his truck could be out of service up to an extra 12 hours a week, translating to lost revenue.

 

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