Hanna demands hold on truck driver regulations

By Matt Porter

December 9, 2013 Updated Dec 9, 2013 at 7:23 PM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Trucks are the engines for the US economy according to New York Congressman Richard Hanna (R-22nd), but he said a new rule created through a federal agency is putting the breaks on one of the nation's biggest industries.

"They enacted this rule which is a serious cost, over $376 million, to truckers without justification," Hanna said.

The criticism concerns a package of new regulations enacted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an office of the Federal Department of Transportation.

Before July 1, truckers who drove 70 hours one week, the maximum amount allowed by the FMCSA, could take a 34-hour restart.

The restart means truckers need to stop driving for 34 hours straight before being able to reset their weekly allotment.

Now, a new rule says truckers can only take one restart per week, and if they do, they must not drive from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. for two consecutive days.

The rules are based on an impact analysis study by the FMCSA which determined keeping truckers asleep during the early morning hours will be more beneficial to their health and alertness.

Hanna said the original rules were strong enough without the added requirements.

"This is a prime example of something that happens over and over in government," Hanna said. "Overreach, over regulation, a philosophy in search of a rule, and a rule that isn't necessary."

Hanna has introduced his own bill, the TRUE Safety Act, which would roll back the rules to the pre-July requirements.

Mike Chellis, a member of the New York Motor Truck Association, which supports the new bill, said the regulation requiring truckers to sleep during the early mornings could make roads less safe.

He said drivers will have to drive during peak hours including morning and afternoon rush hours which he says will increase congestion and accidents.

"It's pushing the trucks back into those time frames rather than being able to run at night and the wee hours when there is less traffic," Chellis said.

In July 2012, Congress passed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21 Act) which requires the FMCSA to do field studies about the affect of sleep and fatigue on drivers.

The study has been completed and will be published in the next few months.

Congressman Hanna said the new rules should not have been enacted until after the field study.

The MAP-21 Act did not require the rules to be held back.

Hanna says the rules will hurt drivers paychecks and the bottom lines for businesses.

"It's really gotten to the point where people are being discouraged for doing business and we shouldn't be doing that," he said.

The FMCSA said 14,000 accidents, 560 injuries, and 19 deaths occur each year involving large trucks and buses.

In 2009, they reported $20 billion in medical, insurance, infrastructure damage, lost wages and productivity costs as a result of accidents.

The new rules were first formally discussed in 2009, and went through a confirmation process that ended in February 2012 when the rules were published.

For a complete look at the rules, click here.