Few would argue with Department of Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater's goal of getting sleepy truckers off the road and reducing fatigue-related traffic accidents. Still, the DOT's proposed "hours of service" regulation is a logistical nightmare and will put more trucks on the road albeit driving fewer miles.
At first glance, the controversial proposal requiring drivers to shut down after being behind the wheel for a specified time, depending on each driver's classification, appears straightforward.
However, it brings a swarm of difficulties for companies—including commercial tire dealerships—that employ drivers subject to the DOT's regulation.
Opponents say the measure will force fleets to put 30 percent more trucks and drivers on the road to get loads delivered on time. Imagine the difficulty of this when the in-dustry already can't find enough drivers to meet its needs.
Among the hardest hit will be the approximately 350,000 owner-operators—important tire dealer customers.
Squeezed between rising costs and cut-throat competition, many need to drive extra hours to make ends meet. Restricting their operating time will put many out of business, further increasing trucking industry consolidation.
Ultimately, freight hauling could be left to a select few fleets and Americans will pay more for everything they buy. In the process, tire dealers and retreaders could lose this customer base.
Dealers also will have to make certain their drivers adhere to the prescribed work schedule and aren't moonlighting or engaging in other after-work activities leaving them too tired or with too many hours behind the wheel to drive the next day.
There must be a better way to resolve the driver fatigue problem.