By Matthew Viohl, Manager, Labor Policy & Sustainability, Food Marketing Institute
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Last month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced proposed changes to the hours of service requirements that govern commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers on U.S. roadways. The FMCSA is a sub-agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation whose key mission is to reduce collisions, injuries, and fatalities through regulation of the trucking and busing industry.

Specifically, hours of service regulations address the total number of hours CMV holders can operate their vehicles on a daily and weekly basis. They must follow such guidelines as taking a mandatory 34-hour break (at minimum) following 60 or 70 hours of on-duty work in seven or eight consecutive days, respectively. Additional provisions regulate compulsory break times, time spent in the sleeper berth, and consecutive hours driven.

With the proposed changes, the FMCSA is attempting to add much-needed flexibility for drivers in figuring out how they can adjust their workdays to meet the challenges of unforeseen delays and adverse driving conditions. These modifications wouldn’t just help improve the efficiency of their day-to-day hauling, but it importantly should also improve overall safety for drivers as well.

Grocers know all too well the important role the trucking industry plays not just for food retailers, but for the American economy more broadly. Trucks are responsible for moving 70% of all freight tonnage in the U.S. every year, which includes virtually every product found on grocery store shelves. With the average supermarket carrying over 30,000 unique items, grocers are constantly receiving goods throughout the day. Whether a food retailer manages their own fleet or not, efficiency and safety for truckers remains a critical component of ensuring those items make it to customers’ shopping carts.

The FMCSA hosted a public listening session recently in which FMI contributed comments, signaling our support for the direction the agency is taking on these regulations. Although no proposal is likely to be a perfect fit for this diverse industry, it is encouraging that the federal government is listening closely to what truckers, businesses, safety advocates, and other organizations have to say on these changes.

As with our support for the DRIVE-Safe Act (H.R. 1374, S. 569)—legislation that would allow drivers under the age of 21 to operate CMVs in interstate commerce after extensive safety and training requirements—FMI believes that practical, business-friendly solutions and enhanced safety obligations can go hand-in-hand when addressing such regulatory challenges. It doesn’t simply have to be an “either/or” approach. With a filing period still open to the public until October 21st, FMI urges members to reach out with feedback they think would be beneficial as our organization looks to submit additional written comments to the FMCSA in the coming weeks.