FMCSA Denies Driver Lesson Waiver Request

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied Leland Schmitt’s request to be exempted from state work hours regulations, but the Spring Valley, Wisconsin, trucker is not giving up, according to his wife.

“We knew that [la denegación] could be a possibility, and of course we’re upset,” Lisa Schmitt told FreightWaves on Tuesday. “But we hope to be able to reapply by the end of the day. We are also examining other options. We won’t do without that. The FMCSA needs to adequately address the reasons for denying the application, and we believe they have not done so.”

In his January waiver application, Leland Schmitt asked to be exempted from several hours of service, including the 10-hour break, the 2-hour clock, and the 30-minute break.

“The level of safety that would be achieved by being granted this exemption would be better than if the regulations were followed…because my body gets the rest it needs when it needs it,” Schmitt wrote. “I would do that because by the time I’m 50 I can tell when my body needs rest and when I’m safe enough to drive on country roads. The level of safety under this exemption would be at least the same if not higher than now based on my 30 years of safe driving experience.”

However, the FMCSA contended that Schmitt failed to demonstrate that it would maintain a level of safety equal to or greater than that without the exemption.

“Research studies show that long working hours reduce sleep and damage driver health and that the risk of accidents increases with working hours,” the agency said in a decision to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday. “HOS regulations place limits on when and how long a person can drive to ensure drivers remain awake and alert and to reduce the likelihood of cumulative fatigue.”

The FMCSA also said it agreed with some of the nearly 700 commenters on Schmitt’s request, noting that if the agency exempted one person from the rules, it “could open the door to a large number of similar exemption requests.” Such a result would be incompatible with a key objective of working time regulation.”

But Lisa Schmitt argues that a person can currently drive up to 13 hours in a 24-hour period. “All we ask is that you drive 11 in a 24-hour period,” he said. “So if we drive fewer hours in a day, how can we be less safe?”

She said the FMCSA also incorrectly argued that granting her husband’s application would trigger a spate of similar applications.

“They opened the floodgates themselves by publishing an application that does not meet any of the exemption criteria [en las regulaciones]he said, referring to an HOS waiver filed later in the year.

Schmitt said her husband quit in April because of high work-related costs, including rising fuel and insurance costs — along with the laxity of current HOS rules. This inflexibility has exacerbated problems related to the lack of truck parking “and puts us at the mercy of shippers and receivers,” he said.

“After 30 years it’s not fun to be outside. We came home, took the summer off, and stocked the pantry. But we want to get back on the road.”

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