Federal officials are proposing changes to existing Hours of Service, intended to prevent truck drivers from becoming fatigued behind the wheel. Proponents tout increased flexibility, but opponents assert implications for truck accidents.
Tulsa, OK -- (ReleaseWire) -- 11/08/2019 --ince regulations requiring rest for commercial truck drivers were originally established by the since-defunct Interstate Commerce Commission in 1938, there have been countless changes to the rules. When proposed changes to "Hours of Service" regulations were recently announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), activists on both sides of the issue have been very vocal in their assertions regarding enactment.
All agree that truck driver fatigue is a severe problem, and that there must be restrictions on how long they can work. Serious, catastrophic, and even deadly truck accidents can occur when operators become tired. Physical capabilities, decision making, and traffic-related judgment suffer tremendously in the face of exhaustion. A truck driver who has nodded off completely loses the ability to safely operate such a massive vehicle, along with cargo. Hours of Service regulations restrict how many hours per day and days per week these individuals can spend behind the wheel, while others make rest periods mandatory.
Charles Bryan Alred, founding partner at Charles Bryan Alred, PC in Tulsa, OK, noted the Hours of Service rules that are currently in effect. "Right now, a trucker must take 10 consecutive hours off after working for 14 hours, and they can only operate a commercial vehicle for 11 consecutive hours during a 14-hour work period. Plus, operators cannot drive after working for 60 to 70 hours, and they must be off-duty for 34 hours before they can start another work week."
The general effect of the proposed rules on Hours of Service is increased flexibility for truckers, while also maintaining an appropriate level of safety for other motorists on the road. Specifically:
- The proposals would increase the 14-hour limitation to 16 hours on duty when the driver has faced challenging driving conditions, such as foul weather.
- Drivers would be allowed to apply their 30-minute required rest breaks to on-duty hours, instead of basing breaks upon driving status.
- The new rules would enable truckers to split up their 10-hour required rest break if their commercial vehicle is equipped with a sleeper berth compartment.
Mr. Alred favors the notion of increased flexibility, but cautioned that some proposed rules go too far to favor truck drivers and trucking companies. He added that there are many other causes of truck accidents that can lead to serious accidents, potentially causing severe injuries or fatalities for motorists in other vehicle. "So many other factors can contribute to a truck collision. Operators may be tempted to speed in order to meet deadlines, drive while distracted, or take curves too quickly with a fully loaded trailer. These have nothing to do with alleged fatigue."