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Dumb Laws: Hours-of-Service Regs

July 1st. A great day or a terrible day in Illinois depending which side of Illinois law one stands. Each year on July 1st, intrastate truckers in Illinois are scrambling to renew their base plate registration to avoid high fines. But this year there is a new twist July 1st for the interstate and intrastate truckers: new hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. An avid reader of this blog may note that HOS is a federal requirement and Illinois local law enforcement does not have any enforcement authority over it….or do they? And really? It’s a dumb law? Best to read the article in its entirety!

HOS rules save lives. There are mountains of scientific evidence showing sleep deprivation is just as deadly, if not more so, than alcohol impairment. The reasonable person can conclude that a driver falling asleep at the wheel of a commercial vehicle probably could inflict more damage and death on the highways than a passenger car.

Just this weekend, news broke the truck driver who plowed into the back of, and killed, Illinois State Trooper Sauter in March was over on his HOS. Tragic consequences played out in real life.

Fatal crashes involving commercial motor vehicle drivers who fall asleep are preventable and that is the goal of the new HOS rules. The anticipatory fervor in trucking circles for nearly two years regarding the implementation of these rules has not been quiet. Nationally, the trucking industry has legitimate concerns about the new rules.

How are enforcement officers being trained? How are drivers being trained? How will the new rules affect the bottom line for the industry? How will violations affect the already maligned CSA system? How does (or doesn’t) the law compensate daylight only industries? The changes are sweeping and comprehensive and the outcome is speculative. Like it or not, they have arrived.

So the question remains…why are HOS laws dumb as the title of this article suggests? Let the record state that HOS laws are not dumb. They are incredibly important as demonstrated above. The government obviously believes in their importance, and so does the trucking industry. The trucking industry however expects the rules to be fair and enforced equitably.

Equitable HOS enforcement begins when only qualified enforcement officers, with statutory authority, trained by qualified CVSA instructors are the ones doing the enforcement. In Illinois, all Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), which includes HOS and logbooks, are under the enforcement authority of the Illinois State Police and a select few civilian IDOT workers. Local police officers (city, village, township, county) are excluded from enforcing log book violations, which means the new HOS rules have no impact on their daily duties.

Equitable enforcement ends when local police officers begin dabbling in HOS/logbook enforcement. They are wading into waters they are forbidden to swim.

The problem is in Illinois that are state statutes that loosely mirror the federal HOS regulations. When you read the word “loosely”, read “not even close”, “severely out of date”, “in direct conflict” and “highly restrictive”. The Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC), in section 625 ILCS 5/11-1419 created an HOS regulation for trucks. This law was signed into law on August 25th, 1986.

On September 1st, 1989, Illinois adopted the FMCSR. Since then, federal HOS rules have changed and evolved…but there is still this old stagnant state version. The IVC says nothing about the 14-hour driving window, the 11-hour driving limit, the 30-minute break, the 60/70-hour duty limit, the 34-hour restart, 16-hour short haul exemption or the sleeper berth provision.

Even worse, there are classes (not the ITEA) being taught by unqualified instructors to enforce the IVC version as if it was a true comparison of the FMCSR! That is outrageous, but it is occurring nonetheless. Click HERE to see an excerpt from the training materials of that class which compare the FMCSR (Part 395) to the IVC (11-1419). Unreal.

What is dumb is the IVC version of HOS. It’s time for it to be repealed. What is dumb is local police officers being duped into exceeding their authority through un-authoritative training. Time for that training to go as well. The ITEA calls on all local Illinois police officers to leave the HOS and logbook enforcement to those who are trained and possess the authority to do so.

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