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Truckers' workweek limits and the industry's business model

How are truck drivers reacting to the new hours-of-service rules? As we discussed in our July 1 post, those rules are intended to improve road safety and prevent truck accidents caused by fatigued driving.

In the San Antonio area and across the nation, a trucker's average maximum work week is now limited to 70 hours. This is 12 hours less than the 82 hours allowed under the previous rule.

Truckers are not necessarily happy, however, about this chance to get more sleep. Many of them are concerned that the new rules will adversely affect their income. 

Driving an 18 wheeler or some other long-haul truck is hardly a lucrative profession.   And so truckers are rightly concerned about the potential impact of having to stay off the road more often than in the past in order to comply with the new rules.

But federal regulators have studied this issue closely for months, indeed years, on end. Limiting an average work week to 70 hours does not have to be the straw that breaks the truck driver's financial back.

After all, federal rules are not the main reason for high turnover among drivers in the trucking industry. Low pay is an issue, however, especially for non-unionized drivers.

The fact that substantial numbers of truckers are unionized also means that the new hours-of-service rules will not actually affect many drivers. This is because unionized drivers already have shorter workweeks.

In addition, many truckers work on routes that do not require such long hours. Indeed, federal regulators estimate that the new rules will affect only about 15 percent of all long-haul truckers.

To be sure, with 1.55 million truckers on the road, that is still a lot of truckers. But it is still important to put the complaints of the trucking industry in proper context.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Truckers Are Losing Sleep Over 70-Hour Work Limit," Josh Mitchell, July 2, 2013

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