TUCKER, Ga. — Comments submitted to the Department of Transportation by the US Poultry & Egg Association, National Chicken Council and National Turkey Federation oppose the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's proposed changes to driver hours of service rules published in the Dec. 29, 2010 Federal Register.

Industry charged the regulations proposed by FMCSA would further restrict the time truck drivers may drive and be on duty. If implemented, the regulations would have a substantial, negative impact on productivity and the economy. The comments were prepared by the Joint Poultry Industry Safety & Health Council, which is made up of members from USPOULRY, NCC and NTF.

“Our members operate as private carriers and would need to put additional trucks and drivers on the road to deliver the same amount of product,” the comments stated. “This would add to final product costs and increase congestion on the nation's already clogged highways; potentially doing so with less experienced drivers, and thereby increasing the risks to highway safety.”

FMCSA's proposal seems to ignore that the American Trucking Association has already stated trucking's safety performance has improved greatly while operating under the current hours of service regulations that became effective in 2004, the associations said. Both the number and rate of fatal and injury accidents involving large trucks have declined by more than one-third and are now at their lowest levels in recorded history, they added.

This vast reduction in truck-involved fatal and injury crashes was achieved while truck mileage increased by almost 10 billion miles. “Clearly the current hours of service regulations are effective,” the associations said.

Particularly troubling to the associations is the proposed revision to the “restart” provision, which requires two consecutive midnight to 6 a.m. off-duty periods to begin a new work week for hours of service calculation – since the poultry and egg industry operates 24 hours per day.

“Many of our drivers normally work evening or night shifts and are accustomed to resting during the day,” they added. “Requiring two consecutive nights of sleep would disrupt drivers' circadian cycles and may actually lead to increased driver fatigue. Depending upon the individual driver's schedule, the restart period may actually be as much as 53 hours.”

Because there will be reduced wage-earning time each week, the extended restart requirement could greatly reduce driver pay, the associations pointed out.