WASHINGTON (June 29, 2000) — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration won´t be able to issue a new trucking "hours of service" rule by the end of this year as it had planned, an agency official said.
Clyde Hart, FMCSA acting deputy administrator, told a House Transportation subcommittee June 22 that between moving back the deadline for comments and the deluge of feedback from all sides of the debate, the proposed safety regulation isn´t likely to come out before 2001.
Mr. Hart said the FMCSA is getting about 1,000 written comments daily on the proposal, which would require truckers and bus drivers to take off 12 hours out of every 24, including 10 consecutive hours. Furthermore, some of the comments have raised issues about compliance costs that the agency didn´t consider when first writing the proposal.
The agency already estimates that the trucking industry will have to hire 49,000 new drivers and spend $380 million annually to comply with the rule, which also would require drivers to carry "black-box" recorders with them to demonstrate compliance with the drive-time limits.
Both industry representatives and safety advocates have blasted the proposal. The trucking industry and its retreader suppliers fear the rules will hamper efficiency, cost far too much money and mean the end for some smaller trucking fleets, which also will mean lost business for retreaders.
On the other hand, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook has taken a stance against both the agency and the trucking industry on this issue. At a June 20 press conference, Ms. Claybrook criticized the FCMSA for proposing to allow truckers to drive 12 straight hours rather than the current limit of 10, saying that extending the hours will add to driver fatigue and potentially fatal accidents.
"These rules will determine whether people will live or die on the highway," she said.
, flanked at the conference by survivors of people who were killed by trucks in which the drivers had fallen asleep.
The current Senate appropriations bill for the Department of Transportation, she noted, forbids the FCMSA from spending any of its funds for fiscal year 2001 to enforce a new hours-of-service rule.