FMCSA Begins Query Into Hours-of-Service

Posted on February 22, 2012 by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

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Courtesy ABA
Courtesy ABA
Continuing its three-pronged quest to raise the bar to enter the motorcoach industry, maintain high safety standards and remove high-risk operators from the road, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is now holding public listening sessions to solicit concepts, ideas and information on hours-of-service (HOS) requirements for motorcoach drivers.

The first such session was held at the American Bus Association's (ABA) Marketplace 2012 in Grapevine, Texas in January. Through the sessions, the FMCSA is seeking data and answers relating to the following issues and questions as it considers development of a rulemaking on the following requirements:

1. Driving Time - Information or data that examine fatigue and safety differences associated with different driving time periods.

2. Duty Time/Driving Window - Information on patterns of work for motorcoach drivers.

3. Time-On-Task (TOT) Function - Information on methods for evaluating fatigue associated with motorcoach operators' actual driving time, including suggestions for estimating TOT effects, especially where it might obtain data on exposure and other motorcoach driver characteristics that would enable the FMCSA to estimate how or whether crash risk varies over successive hours of daily driving.

4. Cumulative Fatigue - Information on the effects of cumulative fatigue during the work week, particularly scientific studies or data that would allow evaluation of cumulative fatigue and its impact on workplace safety, motorcoach driver safety performance and productivity.

"The FMCSA advises us that they have no preconceived notions where they want to head with this, so I believe they are taking a thoughtful approach," says Ken Presley, VP, industry relations, for the United Motorcoach Association (UMA). "[The FMCSA] certainly understands the diversity of the many types of operations out there. Even though the industry is small, there's a huge difference between schedule service, charter and tours."

HOS requirements for motorcoach operators have not been substantially revised in several decades. The FMCSA did not include changes to the motorcoach HOS requirements in its April Final Rule (68 FR 22456) concerning HOS requirements for truck drivers or in several revisions of that rule, because it lacked "sufficient data on motorcoach operations to form the basis of a rulemaking."

"In 2003, when the truck HOS regulations were changed and Annette Sandberg was the administrator of FMCSA, she left us with the old rules because she said they had no research to indicate there was a problem as they sat," says Norm Littler, ABA's VP, safety, security and regulatory programs. "We had an exemplary safety record, so they just left them as is."

Littler adds that the FMCSA's focus to make changes to HOS rules for the motorcoach industry stems from pressure being placed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Congress, safety advocates and unions.

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