Coronavirus takes a toll on trucking industry
JKC Trucking co-owner and vice president Mike Kucharski says ever since coronavirus started, the trucking industry had to adapt its plan to transport food and some of those changes may be permanent.
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The Department of Transportation on Thursday issued new guidance for truck drivers, who have been a critical force keeping the U.S. economy moving throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Hours of service regulations govern how long commercial drivers can operate without resting – and the new guidelines are designed to provide increased flexibility “without adversely affecting safety,” the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said. Officials said they crafted the rules based on input from the industry.
“These reforms will improve safety on America’s roadways and strengthen the nation’s motor carrier industry,” FMCSA Acting Administrator Jim Mullen said in a statement.
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One of the biggest changes imposed is an adjustment to the sleeper-berth exception, which will allow drivers to split their mandatory 10 hours of rest in two different ways (an 8-2 or 7-3 split) as opposed to being forced to take it all at once. Neither split counts against the 14- hour driving window.
“The new rule is a major step forward because it will allow professional drivers to better manage fatigue,” Brian Fielkow, president of multimillion-dollar trucking and logistics company Jetco Delivery, told FOX Business. “Under the current rule, if a driver is tired, there is a tremendous disincentive to pull over and get some rest. Once the clock has started, the driver cannot stop it. So, he or she is confronted with a choice – keep running or get rest.”
Fielkow added that the change gives drivers much more flexibility to get rest when they need to.
The new rule has been in the works for years and was subject to a public comment period.
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Here’s a look at the other three changes that will be enacted:
Drivers are required to take 30-minute breaks after eight hours of operating a truck. However, they are now able to count time spent doing things like waiting for the truck to be loaded as break time rather than having to be entirely off duty. The Department of Transportation estimates this change will save $274 million per year.
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The DoT will extend the maximum on-duty period for drivers hauling goods short distances to 14 hours, from 12, and the distance limit to 150 air miles, from 100 air miles.
Adverse conditions exception
The adverse driving conditions exception, which governs how long drivers can operate in conditions like snow, fog, etc., will extend the maximum window that driving is permitted by two hours. This change is expected to boost safety by allowing drivers to proceed more slowly or even take a break if needed without exceeding their driving window.
The new rules are a welcome change in the industry as it deals with a number of headwinds. As previously reported by FOX Business, trucking companies are feeling the pressure of falling shipping rates. The industry has asked Congress to step in to regulate transaction pricing in an effort to increase transparency.
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