The trucking industry has won a victory in an ongoing battle between it and safety officials who had wanted to keep truck driver hours of service more limited.
Congress in December agreed to temporarily stop enforcing rules that had been established in 2013 related to those truck driver hours of service. But the U.S. transportation secretary and others have voiced concern that this rollback to the previous regulations will mean more truck drivers will be behind the wheel when they have not rested properly.
Hours of Service
In 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented truck driver hours of service regulations limiting the average work week for drivers to 70 hours. The measure was intended to ensure drivers would get adequate rest. The regulations included at least 34 hours off between shifts and two consecutive nights between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Officials have said that the two nights were intended to ensure drivers would get adequate sleep.
The organization said that more than 85 percent of the truck-driving workforce would not be affected by the changes. FMCSA said that driver fatigue had been connected to a high risk of crashes as well as serious health conditions in drivers.
Industry Rallies Congress for Changes
The bill that Congress recently passed and that President Barack Obama has signed into law was attached at the last minute to the nation’s $1.1 trillion spending bill designed to prevent a government shutdown. It puts a stay on enforcing the two key elements of the 2013 truck driver hours of service regulations. Drivers will not have to be regulated to the 34-hour, two-night rest period. They also will no longer be limited to one restart time per week.
The suspension does not change the regulation itself, but only the enforcement on the regulations. The stay will last at least until Sept. 30, 2015. During the time the suspension is in place, Congress has ordered that the Department of Transportation begin studying whether the 2013 truck driver hours of service regulation provided a “greater net benefit for the operational, safety, health and fatigue impacts.”
Fatigued Truck Drivers in the News
Truck driver hours of service were thrust into the limelight last year when actor Tracy Morgan was critically injured and another passenger in the van in which they were riding were killed when the van was struck by a semi truck on the New Jersey Turnpike. The truck driver had not slept for more than 24 hours.
Statistics have shown that of the more than 30,000 people who die annually because of drowsy driving, one in seven of the accidents are caused by tired drivers of large trucks. Transportation experts have said they are concerned that the suspension of the truck driver hours of service could lead to even more deaths on U.S. highways.
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