New trucker regs assailed as harmful

New regulations restricting the hours that truckers can spend behind the wheel will cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually, the GOP chairman of a House panel charged Thursday.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule, the subject of a years-long legal battle, took effect in July.

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The new regulations cut by 12 the number drivers of hours that commercial truck drivers can stay on the road every week. They also require drivers to take regular 34-hour rest periods that include pre-dawn hours of two straight days.

At a hearing before the House Small Business Committee, FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro said the new rule, intended to combat driver fatigue, would prevent an estimated 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries and 19 deaths a year.

Previous regulations allowed truckers to work grueling 82-hour workweeks, she said in prepared testimony.

“These extreme schedules, week after week, increase both the risk of fatigue-related crashes and long-term health problems for drivers,” Ferro said.

But the panel’s chairman, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), derided the regulations as damaging to the economy in general, and to small companies in particular.

“Whether it is a small carrier transporting goods along the West Coast or a local grocery store awaiting a delivery shipment, when truckers are slowed, small businesses suffer, Hanna argued in prepared remarks.

Hanna pointed to industry estimates suggesting the regulations would cost $376 million annually.

Even worse, he said, is the likelihood that the rules would actually make the nation’s roadways less safe by forcing drivers off the roads in the late night and early morning hours, when traffic is lightest.

“The FMCSA is, in effect, pushing truckers onto the road at earlier times in the day, during the morning and evening commute and school rush hour, prompting safety concerns,” Hanna said.