Trucker Hours of Service Changes Alarm Safety Advocates

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Truckers do a tough job. They drive long hours with few breaks. Their employers put them under pressure to meet deadlines. The prospect of truckers falling asleep behind the wheel of vehicles weighing up to 80,000 is a truly terrifying one that happens all too frequently. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has hours-of-service rules that control how long truckers can drive at any one time. However, the rules remain controversial with trucking companies. Now the FMSCA is considering relaxations in the trucker hours of service rules. 

According to Safety and Health magazine, a new rule was due to be released in the summer of 2019.  Department of Transportation issued a regulatory update released in June. 

The FMCSA received over 5,200 comments on an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking published last August in the Federal Register. Potential changes include: 

         •        Widening the 100-mile short-haul exemption to 14 hours on duty from 12 hours on duty, to make it consistent with rules for long-haul truck drivers.

         •        Increasing the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours if a trucker experiences adverse driving conditions.

         •        Revising the existing mandatory 30-minute break for truckers who have been driving for eight hours continuously.

         •        Reinstating the option to split the mandatory 10-hour off-duty rest break for truckers who drive vehicles with sleeper berth compartments. 

The Department of Transportation has discussed other changes to the hours of service regulations. They include allowing commercial vehicle operators to use multiple off-duty periods of at least three hours instead of taking 10 consecutive hours off the road. The proposal was submitted in 2018 by TruckerNation.org whose members argued it would give them more flexibility. 

The Owner Occupied Independent Drivers Association petitioned for drivers who operate under HOS regulations to be allowed one rest break during a 14-hour on-duty period. The break could be up to three straight hours if the driver is off duty the whole period. The organization stated in a press release, “The rest break would effectively stop the 14-hour clock. However, drivers would still need to log 10 consecutive hours off duty before the start of their next work shift.” 

How Serious is Fatigue in Truckers? 

Research suggests fatigue causes about 10 % of all crashes in Virginia and elsewhere. Drowsy drivers cause more than 1,500 deaths a year on the roads of the United States.

The FMCSA cites the influential Large Truck Crash Causation Study of 2007 to state fatigue is a factor in 13 percent of all US commercial motor vehicle crashes. 

The Hours of Service regulations apply to commercial vehicle drivers and bus drivers. Truckers who falsify records or fail to comply with the hours of service rules face being placed out of service when they are unable to make money. The FMSCA levies heavy fines on trucking companies. 

Despite the sanctions, many truckers continue to violate the hours of service regulations. They may also drive fast or recklessly to hit deadlines or take drugs in an attempt to stay awake. Tired truckers have caused some terrible accidents on the highways of Virginia and elsewhere. The prospect of an out-of-control big rig is a truly terrifying one and these wrecks often lead to multiple casualties. 

At the Smith Law Center, we help people who sustain terrible injuries in trucking crashes. Often the driver or the passengers of other cars, pedestrians, motorcyclists or cyclists sustain severe brain injuries. We will help you fight for justice against the trucker, the trucking companies, and other parties. Please call us today at 757.244.7000.