As Vermont truckers battle ‘hours of service’ limit, feds consider relaxing rules

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BARRE, Vt.- Truck drivers face strict regulations when it comes to their amount of time on the road. But federal changes could be coming.

“The day of jumping in the truck, those days are over,” said Roland Bellavance, president of Bellavance Trucking.

The Barre-based company employs about 100 drivers, and they’re all on the clock once they turn the key.

“As soon as he logs in, his clock has started,” said Bellavance as he logged into the the computer system mounted onto every truck in his fleet.

Truckers have 14 hours a day to load, drive and unload. Once the time is up, they must take a mandatory 10-hour break.

Bellavance says part of the problem is it forces drivers off the road into truck stops, even if the driver is a couple of minutes away from the destination.

“You’re out there to make a living, you’re not out there as a tourist,” he said.

To keep up with the regulations, trucking companies are spending thousands of dollars on technology and added personnel.

“You have a safety manager and hours of service girl and they do nothing but look at hours of service,” explained Bellavance.

The federal government is considering making these rules more flexible.

President Donald Trump has developed a strong relationship with the trucking industry, and rolling back layers of regulatory oversight is a priority for the administration.

But with different types of cargo on the road, like cattle and bees, Bellavance says a solution to the hours of service issue will be hard to find.

“It’s hard to find a one-size fits all,” he said.

Meanwhile, highway safety advocates say weaker regulations could pose more danger. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were more than 4,600 fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2017, a 10% increase from 2016.

“The industry is kind of realizing that the crashes are not good for anybody and you don’t want crashes regardless,” said Bellavance.

Many in the trucking industry say a clock ticking on the dashboard could be counter-productive.

“It makes drivers drive when they’re tired,” said Bellavance. “You know your day, you know when you’re tired. You know when you can go and can’t go.”

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