Babin leads charge for HOS reform in Congress

March 29, 2018

Jami Jones

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Rep. Brian Babin is at it again, seeking to provide relief for truckers. This time, he is joining the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association in leading the charge to reform the hours-of-service regulations.

The Texas Republican introduced a bill modifying the hours of service in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, March 29. HR5417, the Responsible and Effective Standards for Truckers Act or the REST Act, if passed would add flexibility to the HOS regulations, allowing truckers more time to rest throughout the day.

News of the introduction of the bill was met with immediate support from OOIDA.

“Rep. Babin understands today’s hours-of-service requirements are counterproductive because he listens closely to the real experts on this issue – actual truck drivers,” said OOIDA Acting President Todd Spencer. “The current requirements create more danger on our roads by compelling truckers to drive farther and faster, often battling fatigue in an effort to beat the clock.

“Improving the safety of all highway users doesn’t need to be sacrificed to provide truckers the flexibility they need to drive in an efficient and responsible manner. In fact, the bill introduced by Rep. Babin is so powerful because it promotes both objectives.”

The bill directly addresses the problems with the current hours-of-service rules that professional truck drivers are voicing to lawmakers and regulators.

“Professional drivers consistently identify the current hours-of-service requirements as counterproductive and an impediment to improving highway safety,” the bill language states.

“The rigid nature of the current hours-of-service requirements often compel professional drivers to be on the road when they are tired or fatigued, during rush hour traffic or other periods of highway congestion, during adverse weather conditions, or when they are simply not feeling well.”

HR5417 aims to change the hours-of-service regulations to allow drivers to pause the 14-hour on-duty clock for up to three hours once per duty period. It also eliminates the mandatory 30-minute rest break. The bill does not seek to increase the number of hours drivers can be behind the wheel.

“The current hours of service requirements have not resulted in statistical improvements to
highway safety. Rather than decrease, the total number of crashes involving large trucks, as well as fatal crashes involving large trucks, has increased since the introduction of the current hours-of-service requirements,” the bill language states.

“Greater flexibility in hours-of-service requirements would better allow professional drivers to rest when they feel it appropriate and avoid congestion, adverse weather conditions, or other road conditions that decrease safety.”

The bill would be a congressional fix to the HOS regs, while a recent OOIDA petition for rulemaking submitted to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Feb. 13 seeks identical changes through a regulatory fix.

OOIDA’s petition targets the 14-hour on-duty clock and the 30-minute rest break. The Association asks the agency to consider a revision to the inability of drivers to stop the 14-hour clock.

The petition suggests the regulations be modified to allow drivers to take a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for up to three consecutive hours as long as the driver is off-duty.

“This rest break would effectively stop the 14-hour clock. However, drivers would still need to log 10 consecutive hours off duty before the start of their next work shift,” the petition states.

OOIDA’s acting president calls on all truckers to get behind HOS reform.

“We cannot stress the importance of talking to your lawmakers frequently about the need to sign on as a co-sponsor of HR5417. Congress cannot continue to ignore the needs of truck drivers. It will take a united effort on the part of truckers to push lawmakers to pass HR5417 and get relief, and rest, built into the hours of service.” he said.

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Jami Jones has been in journalism since 1991 – focused on the trucking industry since 2000. Whether judging Shell SuperRigs or writing hard-hitting analyses, she covers trucking from lug nuts to legislation – always with the trucker in mind.