NRF: Shorter hours for truck drivers would increase costs and congestion

Washington, D.C. -- The National Retail Federation told federal transportation officials this week that a proposal to limit the number of hours truck drivers spend behind the wheel each day would increase costs for businesses and consumers while undermining intended safety benefits by putting more trucks on the road during the most-congested hours.

“As a result of the current 11-hour daily driving limit, U.S. retailers have been able to achieve significant efficiencies within their supply chains and distribution networks,” NRF senior VP for government relations David French said. “Any change to this daily driving limit will upset the careful balance and efficiencies that have been achieved and require changes to those new systems and processes. In addition, such changes could result in significantly higher transportation costs and could lead to less safety as additional drivers and trucks will be required to make up for the shortfall.”

Proposed changes would increase transportation costs by anywhere from 3% to 20% depending on a specific retailer’s supply chain network and operations, “and would adversely impact the U.S. economy,” French said.

French’s remarks came in comments filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in response to a proposal that would potentially decrease the current 11-hour on-duty “hours of service” limit for drivers in effect since the beginning of 2004 to a 10-hour limit. In addition, the 34 hours of time off currently required between each week of driving would now have to include at least two midnight-to-6 a.m. periods of nighttime rest.

Supporters of the proposal say it would result in fewer fatigued drivers on the road and help reduce accidents. But NRF is concerned that shortening the daily driving limit would require more drivers and more trucks to move the same volume of goods during the same time period. That would increase congestion on the nation’s already overcrowded highways, increasing the potential for accidents. NRF is particularly concerned about the requirement for nighttime rest periods because retailers use overnight deliveries extensively in order to avoid daytime road congestion, particularly in urban areas.

“The deployment of more trucks during the night separates truck and automobile interactions, contributing to increased safety,” French said. “The proposed change … reduces the ability to schedule deliveries at night, placing more trucks on the road during normal commuting hours. This adversely affects a retailer’s supply chain performance, potentially increasing congestion-related delays and increasing the likelihood of accidents and a result of greater truck and automobile interactions.”

FMCSA issued its proposal in December and has until July to issue final regulations.