Hours of Service Rules Are Amended (Relaxed) for Truck Drivers: Will It Result in More Accidents On the Roads?
In May, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released its final rule amending the hours of service for commercial motor vehicles (truck) drivers, ultimately relaxing requirements that were put in place years ago to limit the number of hours truck drivers could drive before taking breaks in order to reduce driver fatigue and thus truck accidents and resulting fatalities on the roads.
The new rule—which is expected to go into effect sometime in September—is the result of the trucking industry pressuring the current administration to relax the current requirements and provide more flexibility so that truck drivers themselves can decide when driving is or is not safe; even though statistics indicate that fatigue continues to pose a significant safety issue on the roads.
The Current Rule
In order to understand the practical impact that this will have on everyone’s safety on the roads, it is important to understand what the current requirements are.
Federal law currently limits the number of hours’ commercial truck drivers can drive on the roads; whereby:
- They can work up to 14 hours per day (recorded using electronic logging devices connected to the truck’s engine)
- During this time, they can drive for up to 11 hours (if they are carrying property/cargo), with an extra two hours (thus 13 total) in adverse conditions, and must take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours in order to continue
- After working a 14-hour day (during which they drove for 11 hours), they must follow this by taking at least 10 hours off before going back on duty
- Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least eight hours in the truck’s berth plus a separate two consecutive hours in the berth and/or off duty
- Drivers who operate within a 100 air-mile radius of their work location, where on-duty work time does not exceed 12 hours, are not required to record their driving time and therefore use electronic logging devices because it is assumed that they return home when off-duty (known as the “short-haul exception”)
The New Rule
The new rule makes the following changes; it:
- Introduces flexibility into the 30-minute break rule by allowing drivers to take the break after eight hours of consecutive driving while they are on-duty (in other words, it essentially eliminates the required 30-minute rest break)
- Modifies the sleeper birth exception by allowing drivers to take at least seven instead of eight hours in the truck’s berth and a minimum of at least two hours inside or outside of the berth, as long as the two periods total at least 10 hours (while also not counting against their 14-hour work window)
- Adds on another two hours for drivers to drive during adverse driving conditions (thus allowing for a maximum of 16 consecutive hours on duty instead of 14)
- Extends the distance for drivers who do not have to record their driving time and use electronic logging devices from those who drive within a 100 air mile radius to those who drive within a 150 air mile radius from their work location if their work shift does not exceed 14 hours instead of 12 (i.e. it significantly expands coverage of the “short-haul exception”)
Currently, at least 20 percent of truck accidents are due to truck driver fatigue, and the new rules will be elimination breaks, splitting up time off, allowing truck drivers to drive for more time in adverse conditions that include highways covered in ice and snow, and adding more trucks on the road who are capable of evading hours of services rules altogether because they are exempt from logging driving time. This will allow truck drivers to drive longer, as they wish, in order to meet schedules, and risk becoming even more fatigued, leading to more deadly truck accidents on the roads.
If You’ve Been Hurt in A Florida Truck Accident, Contact Tampa Truck Accident Lawyer Mark H. Wright
Getting into an accident with a truck can be absolutely deadly, mandating that there be strict requirements on the road in order to reduce driver fatigue, which is still one of the leading causes of truck accidents. The hours of service rules should be altered to become more stringent, not more relaxed, in order to save lives. If you or a loved one has been in an accident with a truck driver, contact dedicated Tampa truck accident lawyer Mark H. Wright today to find out how we will fight aggressively to protect your rights.