Chandler Concrete fleet chief shows lawmakers new hours of service rule pitfalls

Sources: National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, Silver Spring, Md.; U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; CP staff

First-year compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration commercial drivers’ hours of service (HOS) rules effective July 1 will cost the ready mixed concrete industry upwards of $270 million in lost driver productivity, wasted fuel and unplanned capital expenditures. Barring federal court action, the agency is set to require drivers to take a 30-minute break after most eight consecutive hour periods, and limit use of the current 34-hour restart provision to once a week covering “at least two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.”

In June 18 testimony to the House Subcommittee on Highways & Transit, Jeff Hinkle, manager of Transportation for North Carolina-based Chandler Concrete Co., outlined rationale for exempting ready mixed producers from the impending HOS changes. On behalf of NRMCA and as vice chairman of its Operations, Environment and Safety Committee, he weighed in on three rule aspects specific to ready mixed producers and other local short haul operators:

Mandatory 30-minute break
Compliance unfairly affects ready mixed concrete delivery effectiveness and business practices without improving safety. Mixer truck drivers typically spend less than 50 percent of their on-duty time driving (roughly two to six hours per day), the other 50–75 percent is spent at the plant waiting to be dispatched or jobsite waiting for the contractor to receive the concrete, and performing other duties. Companies need to have the flexibility to give drivers breaks as the schedule dictates throughout the day.

Every day in construction differs and ready mixed deliveries do not follow a 9 a.m.–5 p.m. schedule. Companies must deliver concrete when the customer needs it; hence, mixer drivers have flexible start times—one day at 7 a.m., the next at noon.

Once a week limit on 34-hour restarts of 60/70 hour clock
This change would eliminate the industry’s current and much needed restart practice, which has not had any adverse effects on safety or HOS rule compliance. Weather plays a huge factor in concrete placement. Many companies operate on a very busy summer schedule and use a reduced workforce in winter months. Rain will often stop deliveries for an entire day, more than once a week. Mixer truck drivers use such breaks to reset their weekly clock more than once in a seven- or eight-day period, thus allowing construction schedules to resume when weather improves. Drivers should have the flexibility to restart their weekly clock as they see fit instead of only once per week.

Two 1–5 a.m. periods within 34-hour restart period
Many ready mixed concrete producers, especially those in the South and Southwest, work at night during hot summer months; cooler temperatures are better for concrete placement and deliveries are made in reduced traffic congestion. Mandating a driver’s off duty time to include at least two consecutive periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. reduces the numbers of hours available to meet construction and delivery schedules to an unacceptable level.

“The current HOS regulations our nation’s commercial motor vehicles are operating under are not perfect, however they are manageable and much more flexible for operations of the ready mixed concrete industry than the new impending HOS rule changes,” affirmed Hinkle, one of three trucking industry representatives offering testimony on changes. Full testimonies from “The Impacts of DOT’s Commercial Driver Hours of Service Regulations” hearing can be found here.