(New) Rules of the Road
By Alex Distefano
Just days before the New Year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration set down new regulations for California’s trucking industry, which will affect the state’s thousands of long-haul truck drivers. The new rules won’t be implemented until July 1, but opponents of these new standards are already speaking out against rules they say will be detrimental to how drivers conduct their daily routes and plan out hours.
Among the new regulations: the maximum number of hours a trucker could work per week was 82, that number will now be reduced to 70. The rules also mandate 8-hour rest periods for all truckers, after 11-hour driving shifts, and dictates that twice a week a truck driver may not start his or her shift between 1 and 5 a.m.
Michael Shaw, a spokesperson for the California Trucking Association, says this is a major reason many of his members are upset.
“There are a lot of truckers that make it a point to start their drive well before 5 a.m. in order to avoid traffic,” Shaw tells the Weekly. “It’s going to put more drivers into rush hour traffic.”
He also said that the new regulations take away the flexibility and freedom that truckers should be allowed in planning their routes.
“The California Trucking Association is continuing to analyze these regulations,” Shaw continues. “In California, we are known for having the safest roads in terms of accidents involving truckers, and these new rules will make roads less safe. These limits on the hours when a trucker can begin his shift mean truckers will now have to drive in rush hour traffic; increasing congestion and the odds [of] more accidents [occurring]. It’s going to create a challenge for our everyday members who drive trucks for a living.”
According to Shaw, there is still a possible chance that a lawsuit will surface to challenge these new rules in court.
“We are in the process of educating our members about these new regulations because we want our members to be prepared for when they are implemented,” he says. “The American Trucking Association has been reviewing these regulations, and there may be a lawsuit if the analysis finds there are significant problems with the regulations under federal law, but we don’t have a timeframe for this. It may take a few more months to go over our findings before we know if this will go to litigation.”
Shaw also defended his industry against what he described as environmental “anti-trucking” groups who ultimately want to see trucks disappear.
“Many of these environmental groups out there want to see trucks eliminated from our roads, because they think they are a significant contributor to bad air quality,” Shaw says. “But in California, our trucks are the cleanest in the nation. If you look at some of the newer trucks out there, the engines are burning much cleaner; it’s a general drive for efficiency and new mandates, but it makes the least amount of pollution possible.”
Further, Shaw says, long-haul trucking is a vital part of California’s economy and way of life.
“The trucking industry in the state alone provides approximately 10 percent of [California’s] employment,” Shaw says. “So, it’s important that people know these regulations have the potential to reduce productivity and profit. Unfortunately, some businesses are leaving the state as a result of this.”
Shaw also said that the trucking industry is the sole provider of goods for about 75 percent of the goods consumers purchase every day at stores; from grocery stores to retail discount centers and even specialty shops.
“But the industry is also a significant contributor to many local causes,” he adds. “Many of our drivers and workers give back to the community by funding and raising money for scholarships, charity programs, games for youths . . . We also contribute to education and social issues But most importantly, this industry is a significant part of California’s economy.”