WASHINGTON - An exemption for transportation construction industry drivers from a proposed Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) "hours of service" rule for commercial vehicles would help preserve safety and allow transportation improvement projects to be completed in a timely manner, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) March 4 told the federal agency.
"Transportation construction industry drivers are not long-haul operators who consistently spend many consecutive hours on the road in a given day. They are short-haul drivers who typically travel less than 20 miles one way. Many of our drivers spend substantial amounts of time off the road during the work day, loading and unloading materials or equipment, which allows for short breaks," ARTBA said. "Others may be responsible for positioning a piece of mobile equipment at the beginning of the work day, but may not be back behind the wheel until day's end so that their daily drive time is actually minimal."
FMCSA is considering a number of changes to the current rule, but not an exemption for industry drivers as ARTBA has been pushing for more than a decade.
In recent years, ARTBA said, the transportation construction industry and many public-sector transportation agencies have been eager partners in utilizing accelerated construction techniques to increase efficiency, maximize the safety of motorists and workers, and minimize the inconvenience to the traveling public. This means that transportation contractors will often work very long hours to complete the projects expeditiously, especially in regions of the country where seasonal weather is a factor. Or it can involve the total closure of a bridge or stretch of highway in order to allow the contractor to undertake an intense effort to replace or renovate it within a very short time frame - sometimes over a single weekend.
ARTBA noted that other industries with special driver circumstances, such as agriculture, are given an exemption under FMCSA rules, and that transportation construction projects should receive similar treatment. "Such an approach would address drive time and on-duty limits for our sector, and lead to increased efficiency in the construction of transportation improvement projects, while still preserving the safety of all involved," the association concluded.