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New Truck Hours of Service Proposal Sparks Debate

Home » New Truck Hours of Service Proposal Sparks Debate
August 21, 2019
Edward Smith

FMCSA Releases Truckers’ Hours of Service Proposal

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released a proposal last week to change the hours of service truck drivers spend on the road. The 129-page Hours of Service Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), published on August 14, offers truck drivers more flexibility while upholding safety standards.

It is a move that the trucking industry supports and long sought after. However, safety advocates have criticized the proposed rules and warned that the change could lead to more truck accidents.

The Current Regulations

The current drive time rules allow truck drivers to spend about eleven hours behind the wheel every day. After 14 hours, they must call it a day, regardless of how much driving they did. Anyone driving for more than eight hours must take a half-hour break before reaching the 8th-hour mark. Truckers must also have ten consecutive hours off before starting a new shift.

The New Proposed Regulations

Under the proposed revisions, drivers are allowed to pause their 14-hour driving shift to take a break for up to three hours, as long as they are on duty. Truckers must still take their 10 consecutive hours off at the end of their shift.

Other elements in the FMCSA’s proposal include:

  • Increase Break Flexibility: Drivers are required to take a break after 8 hours behind the wheel instead of during on-duty time.
  • Short-Haul Exceptions: Short-haul drivers’ on-duty time will be extended from 12 to 14 hours. Their driving distance limit will also go from 100 miles to 150.
  • Sleeper-Berth Exceptions: Drivers would be allowed to divide their 10 off-duty hours into two periods. One should be at least 7 hours in the sleeper-berth and the other a minimum of 2 hours, either in sleeper-berth or off-duty.

The FMCSA believes the new proposal gives drivers more options by allowing them to make choices suitable to how they feel, as long as it doesn’t affect their day-to-day operation.

Critics Oppose the New Rules

The Truck Safety Coalition opposes the new rules and says the revisions would weaken the existing regulations. The Coalition says the extended drive-times could cause more drivers to be fatigued on the road. They are calling on the FMCSA to provide data that the new hours of service rules would not cause more health issues for truck drivers, which could lead to more crashes.

In a statement, the Coalition said that the proposal offers options without providing the fact that it could be exploited by others in the industry. That includes truckers who will continue to drive while tired and corporations who will pressure them to do so.

Watch YouTube Video: Proposal to Allow Truck Drivers to Drive Longer. In this video, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety discusses the possible risks that truck drivers could face if the proposal becomes law.

Large Truck Accident Statistics

A 2017 report by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration showed that accidents involving large trucks have increased. According to the data:

The report also includes when and where the accidents occurred most often:

  • About 57% of fatal accidents happened in rural areas, 27% occurred on Interstate highways, and 13% happened on rural Interstate highways.
  • About 35% of all deadly accidents, 22-percent of injury collisions and 20% of property damage crashes happened between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am.
  • About 83% of fatal crashes and 88% of non-fatal accidents occurred Monday through Friday.

Trade Groups Welcomed the New Rules

Groups like the Institute for Highway Safety and the American Trucking Associations have pushed for years for less stiff hours. They argued that the regulations are too strict and are out of step with the daily routine of most truck drivers.

They believe the new regulations are a “common sense approach” that will make it simpler for truck drivers to avoid bad weather, heavy traffic, and other adverse situations. They said truckers, like everyone else, want to get home safely to their families.

The Next Step

The proposal will be open for public comment for 45 days once it is published in the Federal Register. Following public comments, a final rule would be issued.

Sacramento Truck Accident Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento truck accident lawyer. An accident involving a large truck can cause severe and lifelong complications. If you or a family member has been seriously injured in a trucking accident, call me for free friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. You can also go to our website to contact me online.

I am a member of the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and the Million Dollar Advocates.

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Image by Schwoaze from Pixabay

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