While participating in an interview with Mark Willis of the Road Dog Channel regarding the current hours-of-service (HOS) rules, he asked the question: How exactly did we get here? I and some callers tried to put our finger on that one big thing, but we couldn’t.
Like early explorers trying to find the source of the Mississippi River, what we thought was the source was really a stream heading somewhere further north.
In trying to compile my own map, I had to go back at least 34 years. I was amazed, and frankly overwhelmed, when I saw the timeline and impacts in their entirety. While not every item is HOS specific, each has impacted HOS evolution in an important way. Thanks to the American Trucking Associations (ATA) staff for their research help on this partial list:
• Motor Carrier Act of 1980 – Deregulated the trucking industry (no more government-set rates, routes and allowed commodities).
• Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) of 1982 – Set 80,000 gross vehicle weights and created Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (Established maximum vehicle weights on interstates, froze longer combination vehicles on the national network, and provided funds to states for increased roadside inspections).
• Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 – Created safety rating process for motor carriers.
• CMV Safety Act of 1986 – Created commercial driver’s license (no more duplicate licenses issued from multiple states).
• HM Transportation Safety Act of 1990 – Established uniform hazmat regulations.
• Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 – Mandated drug and alcohol testing (more clean and sober drivers).
• Intermodal Surface Transportation Act of 1991 – Froze longer combination vehicles (no LCV expansion to new interstates).
• ICC Termination Act of 1995 – Congress directed the US DOT to conduct an HOS rulemaking to “increase driver alertness and reduce fatigue-related incidents.”
• NHS Designation Act of 1995 – Repealed national maximum speed limit (trucks run faster).
• Creation of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 1999 – Trucking industry asked for its own agency instead of being just part of the Federal Highway Administration. (Yes, we asked).
• Hours-of-Service Rules Revised in 2004 – Implemented daily maximum driving and on-duty time (loss of flexibility).
• Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) 2010 – Focus resources on worst performing carriers (CSA scores and greater transparency).
• MAP 21 of 2012 – Mandated electronic logging devices (no more paper logs).
Many had strong industry support at conception and did yield some of the promised safety benefits. Unfortunately, others have fallen far short, creating new barriers and increasing costs.
So, which of these is the big reason for our current hours-of-service rules? It is impossible to identify, really. Each action led to operational and market changes, with shippers, carriers and drivers doing their best to make it work.
Three things I CAN say with certainty today:
• First, we truckers will continue to support reasonable regulations that truly promote safety.
• Second, we will push back mightily against unreasonable restrictions that do not improve safety.
• And third, the Mississippi DOES start in Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota!
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