The food retail industry recently testified in front of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee against a proposed change in the U.S. Department of Transportation Hours-of-Service (HOS) rule. The proposed change would reduce the number of hours drivers can drive – from 11 to 10 hours in spite of significant improvements in safety records with the existing rules – placing an additional financial burden on businesses and consumers. Reduced driving times could also require drivers to spend more nights away from their families. Glen Keysaw, executive director of transportation and logistics for Associated Food Stores, Inc. appeared on behalf of his company and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).
Keysaw expressed satisfaction for the HOS rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation, specifically citing the clarity of the current rules and how they promote safety and compliance among drivers. He argued that the consumer will ultimately pay the price for reducing the number of hours drivers can be on the road, as “virtually every product found on grocery store shelves is delivered by commercial motor vehicles.”
“Our industry is very concerned about the proposed [HOS] rulemaking on a couple of fronts, but clearly the most troubling aspect is a reduction in the number of hours a driver can be on the road in spite of continued annual reductions in accidents and increases in miles traveled at the current 11-hour limit,” Keysaw testified before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, Subcommitee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending chaired by Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH). Keysaw testified that the proposed changes would also impact a driver’s quality of life, due to more days they would be required to spend overnight on the road rather than at home. Keysaw also expressed concern about potential safety issues as companies would need to hire more drivers at a time when experienced drivers are already tough to find.
In conclusion, Keysaw projected that the proposed rules will mean higher prices for food products, and all other items sold in grocery stores, because of the new equipment that would be required to comply with the regulation as well as the negative impact on quality of life for drivers, productivity and efficiencies. “The HOS proposed rules will not only impact grocery stores and warehouses, but all agriculturally related sectors including farmers, shippers, food manufacturers, and processors in terms of increased transportation costs,” he said.