Proposed Driving Limits Draw Ire of South Carolina Truckers

Truckers told federal transportation\r\nofficials that proposed limits to the hours drivers may spend behind\r\nthe wheel are unworkable and a threat to highway safety.

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South Carolina trucking executives, truck drivers and shippers went on the road Thursday and Friday to tell federal transportation officials that proposed limits to the hours drivers may spend behind the wheel are unworkable and a threat to highway safety.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) hearing, held at an I-75 truck stop south of Atlanta in Jackson, Ga., was the last of seven field hearings held around the country to gather stakeholder comments on the Hours-of-Service reform plan.

According to J. Richards Todd, president of the South Carolina Trucking Association (SCTA), the DOT plan would require the industry to use more trucks to maintain current service levels and includes mandatory down times which would force drivers to spend more time away from their families.

"With more drivers and more trucks on the road in daylight hours, the increased congestion could actually make our highways less safe," said Todd.

Charles Tapp, president of C & C Trucking of Duncan, S.C., said, "The new rule would force me to hire 25 new drivers and increase my costs by at least 25 percent."

Tapp, whose customers include Toys R'' Us, Kohler, and General Tire, said, "These rules are going to directly and adversely affect the supply chain which makes this economy work. On the personal level, I don''t know if I can handle the cost. It puts the jobs of all 132 of my employees at risk."

Phillip Byrd, president and CEO of Bulldog Hiway Express, a Charleston-based truckload and intermodal carrier with 300 tractors, said the rule, as proposed, could cost his firm at least $6.5 million.

"As far as safety is concerned, the rule would do nothing good. It would reduce our productivity, increase truck traffic, and put inexperienced drivers out there to a greater extent than we should."

"We appreciate SCTA''s input at the hearing," said DOT spokesman Stan Hamilton. "We came here to hear directly from those who would be affected by this rule. Their comments have been consistent with what we''ve heard all over the country. What we''ve learned will be considered as we put the final rule together."

More information on the proposal can be found at the American Trucking Association''s Web site, www.truckline.com.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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