March 22, 2013

Brazilian Congress Asked to Reconsider "Truck Driver Law"

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

The president of the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock, Senator Katia Abreu, met with various Brazilian ministers recently to discuss the impact of the new truck driver law on Brazilian farmers. The new regulations known commonly as the "Resting Law", restricts the number of hours a driver may be behind the wheel before mandatory rest periods. After eight hours behind the wheel, the driver must rest for eleven hours and after four hours of driving, the driver must rest for a period of thirty minutes.

Even though there is confusion as to when and how the regulations will be enforced, most Brazilian truck drivers are adhering to the new restrictions to avoid any potential fines and loss of their professional driver licenses. The practical impact of the regulations has been to reduce the availability of trucks to haul cargo and to increase freight rates of between 20% and 40%. These rate increases are especially costly to farmers in central Brazil who must pay very high rates to ship their grain long distances to export facilities in southern Brazil. The grain companies must pass these costs along to the farmers in the form of lower prices for the grain.

Trucking companies have repeatedly pointed out that the poor state of many Brazilian highways makes it nearly impossible to adhere to the regulations. This is especially true in the interior of Brazil where cities may be very far apart and the highways themselves do not have a safe and secure place for the large trucks to pull over for the mandatory rest periods.

As a result, truckers must park their rigs any place there is enough space along the highway or along city streets or entrances rural roads, etc. Normally drivers in Brazil only stop for lunch and dinner, but since the new regulations were announced, there are tucks parked everywhere along the side of the highway in the middle of the morning or afternoon or at any time during the day. Many drivers simply stop at a secure location before the mandatory rest period to avoid the necessity of parking their rigs in inappropriate locations.

Many in the Brazilian Congress feel the legislation was ill conceived and poorly thought out and they have already assigned a committee to study the new regulations and offer changes.

The original intent of the legislation was to reduce the number of accidents caused by driver fatigue, but the actual result of the legislation may be just the opposite. Drivers are generally paid according to the number of trips they complete, so in order to make up for lost revenue due to the mandatory rest periods, drivers are driving faster and taking more risks to make up lost time behind the wheel.