Elaine Chao: New Rules for Truckers Give Them More Flexibility

May 26, 2020Orlando Sentinel | By Elaine Chao

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, America’s truckers have worked around the clock to deliver critical goods, food and medical supplies across our country. Without their incredible contributions, our nation’s supply chain would not function and the economy would face even more significant interruptions.

More than 70% of domestic freight moves via trucking — connecting U.S. consumers to goods from throughout our country and the entire world. In Florida, the trucking industry supports more than 90,000 jobs. Because of highly prescriptive federal rules regarding the hours that truckers are permitted to drive (consequently affecting when they can even rest), their jobs have been even more difficult than most people can imagine.

To increase flexibility for America’s truckers and improve safety, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published new rules last week to modernize existing “hours-of-service” regulations that dictate the driving schedules of commercial truckers. These critical reforms put forward by the administration will improve highway safety and allow professional drivers to have greater flexibility in their driving schedules.

Under the department’s new rules, short-haul truckers — like local delivery operators and farmers — will be able to operate in more than double the geographic area they’re currently permitted to. The rules will also lengthen drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours. With single or two-day deliveries becoming more and more common, this new rule will improve efficiency and help local drivers get deliveries to homes easier.

The new rules will also give truckers more options when planning their days, like being able to get fuel or make sure their loads are secure during a mandatory break, and allowing for more options when using the beds (sleeper-berths) inside their truck to get the rest they need — when they need it.

Many commercial truck drivers expressed concerns that the previous rules created a one-size-fits-all approach that didn’t work for their unique profession. The new rules will help drivers reach their destination safely while ensuring they do not feel the need to race the clock to comply with federal mandates. When safety rules make sense, drivers are better able to comply and that benefits everyone.

These reforms are the product of an inclusive process that yielded over 8,000 comments from the public, stakeholders and safety advocates.

The Department’s updated rule on trucking hours-of-service requirements is estimated to save the motor carrier industry as much as $274 million annually. This regulatory savings will mean economic growth within the industry and higher paychecks for hard-working drivers. This will aid economic recovery and generate jobs.

Commercial trucking is a critical component of the nation’s economy and the revised HOS rules will result in added flexibility, regulatory relief, and cost savings that will benefit all American consumers.

This major new rule will give relief to our nation’s truck drivers during a time when America needs them the most. Truckers have demonstrated a selfless willingness to sacrifice on behalf of Americans during this tough time. The president and the Department of Transportation will never stop fighting for them.

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