Anxiety Grows as Presidential Election Plays “Key Role” in Fate of HOS Reform
Washington D.C. – As this year’s U.S. presidential election draws closer, anxiety and concern among trucking stakeholders continues to grow over the fate of hours of service (HOS) reform.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is not revealing much, if anything, about the timeline of when to expect a final HOS rule or even if it is going to issue new HOS reform.
In fact, it’s been more than four months since the FMCSA closed the public comment period on its proposed HOS changes, and trucking stakeholders are now openly questioning if the Agency intends to issue a final rule before the 2020 presidential election.
A spokesman with the FMCSA recently shot down any insinuation that the fate of HOS reform is influenced by the presidential election.
When Transportation Nation Network (TNN) asked directly if the presidential election has an impact on the Agency’s decision regarding HOS reform, the FMCSA spokesperson responded emphatically, “NO.”
However, dozens and dozens of trucking stakeholders TNN has spoken with about the issue have expressed concern.
In a recent interview, Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs and communications with the Western States Trucking Association, told TNN, “The political aspect of this can’t be ignored.”
While Rajkovacz believes the Agency will issue a final rule before the election, he acknowledged HOS reform could get “caught up in presidential election year politics.”
Dave Heller, vice president of government affairs with the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), recently told TNN, “Certainly, the election plays a key role in the HOS regulations. If the rule is not finalized prior to the election and the administration changes, then there is the possibility that the final rule is never issued at all.”
Even if the final rule is issued prior to election day 2020, both men agree that HOS reform could still be in serious jeopardy.
If the eventual Democratic-nominee wins the election, Rajkovacz believes the new administration would “likely not make a strong defense of the rule,” when it is inevitably challenged in court.
Heller says such a development could “potentially send our industry back to square one.”
Most industry insiders expect powerful special interest groups such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), among others, to immediately file litigation to stop any new rule if/when it is issued.
From a political perspective, the Trump Administration may think better of it before they hand the leadership of these groups, which historically support Democratic candidates, new talking points that could sway some rank and file members who cast their ballot for President Trump in 2016 to vote Democratic in 2020.
No matter what happens, Heller says the Trump Administration or the incoming Democratic Administration must deliver on providing more flexibility in HOS.
“The fact of the matter is, since the incorporation of electronic logging devices (ELD), our industry has demonstrated a need for greater flexibility in our HOS regulations,” Heller stated. “Trucking is averaging approximately 6.5 hours of daily driver utilization. That is 6.5 hours out of the daily 11 that our drivers are allotted through regulations. In other words, there has to be a better way to do this, so that we can make better use of the time that our drivers are allowed to use.”
Rajkovacz hopes the FMCSA will issue a final rule soon with an enforcement date before the election.
However, he admitted such a timeline was ambitious because of the necessary lead time states must be given in order to prepare to enforce the rule.
“The feds don’t enforce their own laws. The states do. They have to give states some time,” he said.
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