Guest view: If you want to know where trucking regulations go, ask a professional driver

August 25, 2013 

We all know what it's like to make a mistake, but it takes courage to admit your fault and try to undo what's been done. I expect Washington to do the same.

As a Belleville small-business owner, I am calling on the federal government to take a second look at what I--and many in my industry--believe were some serious mistakes.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently introduced new "hours of service" rules for commercial truck drivers that make very little sense. Improved safety is their motivation, and I am all for highway safety, but these decisions were made by public servants who have little familiarity with small, independent businesses, and I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that they have never driven an 18-wheel truck.

The essence of my point is this: One size doesn't fit all. Washington too often believes that they can create rules and regulations that work for the masses. In the trucking business, I have found that the FMCA's new regulations have created unintended safety hazards and have unnecessarily raised the cost of doing business. Taxpayers and voters need to remember that higher expenses for small businesses lead to fewer jobs and higher prices on the shelves. Nobody wins.

Since safety is our mutual priority, here are my ideas:

First, drivers' sleep patterns were functioning just fine under the former 34-hour off-the-clock restart rules, so leave that common-sense guideline alone. The new rule forces drivers to take their 34-hour restart break during consecutive overnights, which only confuses the internal body clocks of third-shift workers. This change just doesn't make sense.

Second, allow drivers a sleeper-berth break of at least two hours to extend their 14-hour maximum workday. If a driver is starting to creep toward his 14-hour limit to make it home -- sometimes because of unforeseen traffic or loading issues--what happens if he feels himself getting groggy? Under the rules, he is forced to keep driving even if he's tired to stay in compliance with the 14-hour continuous clock rule instead of resting in his sleeper berth before finishing his trip. Nobody has demonstrated a logical argument to me defending this regulation.

And third, the federal government should invest in a nationwide drivers' education program to teach the public how to share the road with slower-moving, oversized commercial vehicles and farm equipment. Some of us may have received a brief mention of these situations when we were teenagers in drivers' ed, but we've been taught little if anything since.

As a member of the National Federation of Independent Business, I regularly see that the volume and complexity of federal regulations are having a paralytic effect on small-business growth and hiring across Illinois. With more than 3,500 new regulations in the federal pipeline and nearly 800 of them targeting small businesses, it's not surprising that small business owners are unwilling to invest and expand operations. How can small businesses be expected to plan for the future not knowing what new costs the federal government will impose next?

In order to create a pro-growth business environment, job creators, particularly small businesses, need smarter regulations to unleash growth potential.

The NFIB and my business, Frerichs Freight Lines, has joined the Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations coalition (www.sensibleregs.com). We're urging our elected leaders to enact regulation reforms that will modernize the current rulemaking system and streamline the regulation process for small businesses. Measures that would improve business conditions for job creators include seeking small business input in the earliest stages of the rule-making process, ensuring greater openness and transparency, and more thorough cost benefit analysis.

Our elected officials in Washington need to attach the highest priority to enacting these sensible reforms to help small businesses in Illinois get moving and help the economy get back on track.

As a small independent businessman, I attempt to fix every mistake I make, if I didn't my business would fail. I strongly encourage the federal government to take note, admit its mistakes, rethink the new trucking regulations and make our highways safer for everybody. Please understand that one size doesn't fit all.

Bill Frerichs is owner of Frerichs Freight Lines in Belleville.

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