A fatigued driver is an unsafe driver. That’s the rationale behind the Hours of Service (HOS) rules that apply to the trucking industry. These rules, set in place by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (a division of the federal Department of Transportation), dictate how many consecutive hours a driver is allowed to drive his vehicle, as well as how long and how frequent his breaks must be. The goal, stated by the FMCSA, is “to keep fatigued drivers off the public roadways” and make sure that drivers stay awake and alert while driving.
However, Hours of Service violations continue to be common among commercial truck drivers, and some in the industry are pushing for change.
“Today’s truckers have never faced more regulations or greater enforcement and compliance with those regulations. Yet, crash numbers are going in the wrong direction,” says Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “A solution to reverse this trend is to give drivers more control over their own schedules.”
Rigid HOS rules have the effect of slowing down truck drivers who travel during peak times, according to a technical memorandum produced by the American Transportation Research Institute. More flexible HOS regulations could speed up those travel times without impacting the miles drivers cover in a day, the memorandum argues.
“On a national scale, HOS flexibility has the potential to decrease the number of hours it takes to complete the 273.9 billion miles driven by combination trucks annually in the U.S.,” says ATRI Senior Research Associate Jeffrey Short. “While the total miles driven in the U.S. is a static figure – the marketplace requires this scale of goods movement – the overall driving time needed to deliver these goods can decrease if congestion can be avoided.”
And the FMCSA is listening. In August 2018, in response to “widespread congressional, industry, and citizen concerns,” the agency announced that it was considering revising four areas of the current HOS rules:
- Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, in order to be consistent with the rules for long-haul truck drivers;
- Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to 2 hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions;
- Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8 hours of continuous driving; and
- Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.
“Basically, what we have been doing is listening to our stakeholders in our regulated community over the last few months with regard to Hours of Service, and what changes would they propose that would make sense and add flexibility,” said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez. “What we kept hearing was flexibility, flexibility, flexibility.”
“The agency is finally listening, and now the door is open for truckers to make their voices heard and to spur real, common-sense changes to the HOS regulations,” applauded Spencer. “This rule-making needs robust participation from real truckers so that the next incarnation of the HOS regulations is not written by corporate trucking executives and anti-trucking groups that have no understanding of the realities of over-the-road trucking.”
Driver fatigue is only one factor in trucking accidents – they can happen anywhere at any time. If you have been involved in an accident, consult with an Austin truck accident attorney to determine whether you might be eligible to receive compensation. In Austin, TX, the Evans Law Firm has years of experience representing personal injury victims, including victims of truck accidents. Call today or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free case consultation.