The PJ Tatler

Trucking Regulations add Cost, Danger to Over-the-Road Trucking

Roughly 70 percent of everything you or I use is carried by a semi-tractor trailer to its final destination, so what is the impact of federal regulation on the trucking industry? American Job Creators went out to look and what they found was disturbing, including “safety regulations,” which make the roads more dangerous.

They talked to Western HiWays Safety & Human Resources Director Doug Grove and Operations Manager Kelly Grove.

The federal government regulates commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to ensure the safety of both the truck driver and the general public sharing the road.  Almost everything on or in a typical long-haul truck – which runs about $120,000 each – has a corresponding federal regulation administered by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, including special licensing, training, and equipping rules to account for the unique safety challenges of trucking.

“We can’t just jump out there and go with 80,000 pounds [in tow],” said Mr. Grove who drove for 28 years before becoming Western HiWays Safety Director.  “You’re going to have tires blowing.  You’re talking 120 degrees out in the desert.  Heat wears on everything.  Electrical, lights, the whole nine yards.”

The need for common-sense safety regulations is clear.  State-to-state enforcement of federal rules is not, adding regulatory uncertainty and morepaperwork to the list of obstacles Western HiWays faces in the Obama Economy.  On top of the thousands of pages of federal CMV regulations to stay on top of, Mr. Grove said he recently spent two weeks dealing with a paperwork discrepancy between regulatory agencies.

“This is where it’s really messed up because it had to go to Washington to get straightened out,” said Mr.Grove.  “That was a hectic two weeks.”

Extra paperwork and the roughly $10,500-per-employee annual compliance cost the average US small business pays aren’t the only regulatory hurdles Western HiWays must overcome in order to compete.  Well-intentioned Washington regulations often become, at best, impractical – at worst impossible to follow – when forced upon American job creators.

The Department of Transportation’s Hours of Service regulation, written to prevent accidents caused by driver fatigue, is one example.  The rule says CMV drivers may only work 14 hours a day – 11 actually driving – and the driver must keep a logbook of the total hours spent driving and resting.  It sounds sensible, but the regulation doesn’t account for the reality of the road.

“You got drivers going into these places to load, and sat eight to ten hours.  That’s on the clock,” said Mr. Grove.  “If they sit there eight hours, they can only drive three hours.  If we didn’t get our mileage in, it don’t matter.  Once your 14 hours are up, it’s up.”

Where do CMV drivers rest in order to comply with the Hours of Service regulation?

“Biggest problem nationwide when these drivers go in, they can’t find a place,” said Mr. Grove.  “Truck parking across the whole nation has been limited.  We can’t park on the road.  We can’t park on the ramps.  You can’t go to a shop center.  They’ll run you out.  [No place to rest] is a big safety problem and a lot of people don’t realize it.”

An unintended consequence of the well-intentioned Hours of Service rule is that drivers actually may be more fatigued on the road during the day.

“And with the logging system, you can’t go in the afternoon and take a nap without it counting against your time,” he added.  “Before they changed this, you could stop and break your hours up.  You could take a nap.”

This is just some of the insanity uncovered by the American Job Creators staff. Read the rest here and watch for more stories on the regulatory burdens imposed by Washington D.C. both on the Tatler and PJM.