The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted sweeping changes to the driver’s hours-of-service (HOS) regulations for truck operations. With the imposition of a compliance date on 7/1/2013, the Agency has begun to study the current motorcoach hours of service for potential regulatory action.
Currently motorcoach drivers in the United States must comply with the following HOS rules: 1) A driver may drive up to 10 hours and then must have eight consecutive hours off duty; 2) A driver may remain on duty up to 15 hours, including driving and on-duty time. After this limit is reached, the driver must have eight consecutive hours off-duty; 3) A driver may not drive after having been on-duty for 70 hours in any consecutive eight day period.
The FMCSA made the decision in 2004 to separate the HOS regulations governing trucks and motorcoaches based on the operational differences inherent in moving people versus freight. Furthermore flexibility within the current motorcoach HOS regulations allows for the different operational realities of scheduled, charter and tour service types.
Trucks and buses are not operational equivalents
- Scheduled service motorcoach companies operate on highly regular timetables. Schedules are set to minimize time away from home, create uniform sleep cycles and normalize driver pay.
- Charter/tour operators generally plan itineraries to match passenger schedules and circadian rhythms to ensure that both passengers and drivers are comfortable and safe. In the instance that an overnight drive is required companies will stage drivers to ensure safe operations.
- Unlike trucks most drivers in the charter/tour segment are paid by the hour and in some cases as a percentage of revenue rather than by the mile.
Any discussion of fatigue or HOS regulations must make a clear distinction between failures in the current regulation and failures of enforcement. Outlier examples of companies operating buses with little regard for safe operations, let alone minimum federal regulations, cannot form the basis of a regulatory process impacting an entire industry. In other words the failure of federal regulators to create a national, uniform and ongoing inspection apparatus to remove unsafe carriers from the road must inform any decision to change the operational circumstances of safe and compliant operators.
The American Bus Association is committed to the safety of the industry and its passengers. ABA believes that any regulatory review undertaken by the FMCSA regarding the motorcoach hours of service should be done only after the Agency has demonstrated the following through collaborative dialogue with the industry, research and testing:
- The FMCSA must show a fundamental failure of current HOS regulations before proceeding with a new rulemaking.
- The FMCSA must distinguish between failures in regulation from failures of enforcement.
- The FMCSA must complete a crash analysis (2000 – 2013) to determine how many onboard fatalities were caused by carriers which would have been deemed “conditional or unsatisfactory” if vehicle and compliance audits were performed by federal investigators prior to the fatal crash.
- Identify the operational differences between motorcoaches and trucks and within operational segments of the motorcoach industry.
- Engage in an extensive dialogue with different industry segments (charter, scheduled service and mixed service operations) to determine the best regulatory structure for passengers, drivers and operators.