(April 29) WASHINGTON, D.C. — The trucking industry wasted no time reacting to the hours-of-service rule finally released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration April 24.

The American Trucking Association, Alexandria, Va., threw its support behind the rule, which adds one hour to the total number of driving hours allowed while at the same time cutting back by one hour the total number of working hours.

Under the previous regulations, which had been in place since 1939, drivers were allowed to work a maximum of 15 consecutive hours, with no more than 10 of those hours spent driving.

The new regulations state that drivers can work a maximum of 14 consecutive hours, with no more than 11 of those hours spent driving.

Bill Graves, president and chief executive officer of the ATA, said in a news release he was pleased with the components of the new rule.

“This is a package that our members can work with,” he said. “We have worked hard all along for a rule that is a good mixture of common sense and sound science. It will allow us to meet the real world operational needs of the trucking industry and most importantly, do it safely.”

Others are not as enthusiastic as Graves. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Grain Valley, Mo., said that the rules will have a minimal impact on driver fatigue.

Jim Johnston, president of the association, said the rule doesn’t go far enough in dealing with the problems modern truck drivers have.

“After almost 65 years of working with regulatory controls that should have been declared obsolete decades ago, this is a pretty sorry excuse for a revision that addresses today’s problems,” he said.

Johnston said it doesn’t matter whether or not the federal government allows a trucker to drive 10 or 11 hours a day when they are dealing with shippers whose only concern is that their loads are delivered on time.

He said drivers who refuse to make deliveries on “unrealistic and illegal” time schedules demanded by shippers are routinely denied business or forced from their jobs.

Waiting to load and unload is another process that can take anywhere from two hours to two days, Johnston said. Furthermore, he said that the rule provides no incentive for shippers to treat drivers differently.

The rule was published on April 24, and cannot be implemented until 30 days from that date. The FMCSA said it would begin enforcing the rule on Jan. 4, 2004.