Proposed changes to federal regulations for commercial drivers could disrupt the fresh produce supply chain and raise costs, according to comments filed by some grocery cooperatives and wholesalers.

The hours of service changes, proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, include complicated formulas related to working hours for both long- and short-haul truckers and how long they must rest before hitting the road again.

A public hearing on the rules is set for 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Feb. 17, at the Crowne Plaza Washington National Airport Hotel, Arlington, Va. The session will be shown live on the FMCSA website. Starting at noon FMCSA officials plan to be available to take online comments and questions from the public. They will be available through midnight.

Currently, commercial drivers who carry property can drive 11 hours during their 14-hour, on-duty window. The proposed changes would reduce the daily on-duty time to 13 hours, unless the driver takes a one-hour, off-duty break. Officials with the FMCSA stated in the Federal Register that they want to decrease driving time to 10 hours, but the proposed rulemaking retains the 11-hour drive time. They will decide on the drive-time rule following the public comment period, which ends Feb. 28. Members of the industry can comment through the administration’s website.

Many truckers and transportation firms have commented that the current rules, which have been in effect for decades, were taken into consideration when many distribution centers and delivery routes were established. They contend the reduced hours would make it impossible to meet existing schedules, disrupting deliveries and adding costs.

Some produce wholesalers, grocers and related associations have filed similar comments, including the Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative, Olean, N.Y., and the Associated Grocers of the South, Birmingham, Ala.

Olean president and chief executive officer James Ried said that the 90-year-old company would be “seriously impacted” by the proposed changes.

“Changes in driver regulations would have a dramatic effect on our ability to compete, (the) price of food products, increase driver fatigue, and the possible elimination of driving positions currently held by experienced drivers,” Ried wrote in his comments to FMCSA.

Ried also said he agrees with comments from Leland Slay, the vice president of industrial relations for Associated Grocers of the South.

“The proposed reduction in drive time alone will severely limit our ability to deliver groceries to the independent grocery store owners we have serviced since 1928,” Slay stated.

The Small Business Legislative Council has also weighed in on the proposed changes to the hours of service rule. The council’s comments, filed by its president and general counsel John Satagaj, state that there would be new costs for “distributors, retailers and service providers in local markets.” He added that “the cost of goods at each point in the supply chain is going to increase.”

“If the reduction in driving hours and the restrictions on restart periods result in more deliveries and at different times, the receiving business will have to rearrange its own receiving personnel shifts or add individuals to handle the new scheduled,” Satagaj wrote, adding that early deliveries help avoid traffic, which saves time, fuel and money.

As of Feb. 15, about 7,600 written comments were filed with FMCSA regarding the proposed rule change.