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Trucking rules relaxed amid driver shortage

Posted at 10:30 PM, May 14, 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration announced final rules Thursday that will relax some of the safety restriction on the trucking industry. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao believes the new rules will give truckers more flexibility to do their jobs.

"When safety rules make sense, drivers are better able to comply, and that benefits everyone," Chao said in a video news release.

Currently, all truck drivers must finish driving for the day in a 14-hour window. That window includes any loading and unloading time.

They must then take 10 hours off and their time is strictly monitored on digital devices. The new flexible rules will let a driver who gets stuck in traffic, or bad weather, take an extra hours that do not count against their 14-hour window.

Other new rules let drivers take mandatory 30-minute breaks after eight hours of driving as opposed to the current eight hours on duty. Long-haul truckers can leave their sleeper berths during off-duty time after seven hours, the current requirement is eight hours.

The travel distance to receive an exemption for short-haul drivers was lengthened to 150 miles from 100. Additionally, the maximum on-duty window for short haul drivers was extended from 12 to 14 hours.

The head of the Teamsters union, Jim Hoffa, criticized the new rules telling the Associated Press the government is abandoning safety.

"Trucking is already one of the nation's most dangerous jobs," Mr. Hoffa told the news agency. "We shouldn't be sacrificing the health and safety of drivers just to pad the profits of their big business bosses."

The rule making process began in 2018 and the new rules will take effect 120 after the date they are published in the Federal Register, approximately in mid-September. The FMCSA received more than 2,800 public comments during the process.

Howard Ogg, director of the United States Truck Driving School in Fountain said that trucking companies supported some of the changes like the expansion of the short-haul distance. The industry had been experience a shortage of drivers for years and Ogg said it's even more evident today.

"One thing about the trucking industry, pandemic or not, there's always a demand," he said.

Ogg anticipates the 2 hour extension will come in handy as states begin to re-open and more drivers hit the highway.

"Allowing them a little bit extra more time, if they happen to hit these areas, cities where there's a lot of traffic again, allowing them a couple of extra to get where they can safely."

The program offered at the United States Truck Driving School typically last between four and six weeks. Ogg said tuition costs around $4,500 and that most beginning drivers can expect to earn $40,000 or more in their first year on the job.

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