New Hours of Service Aim To Reduce Truck Driver Fatigue

Aug 2013

Driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes limits on the number of hours that professional truckers can drive without a break. Even with these limits, however, our New Haven accident lawyers know that an FMCSA study shows around 6,000 truck accidents each year can be attributed to tired drivers.  

To try to reduce the number of accidents and make the roads safer for everyone, the FMCSA instituted changes to the hours-of-service rules in 2011. After a two-year delay and a court battle, these new hours of service rules went into effect on the first of July and the court ruled in early August that the new FMCSA regulations would stand.

The New Hours of Service Rules

The FMCSA made several key changes to the hours-of-service rules that affect long and short haul truck drivers.

One of the changes involved reducing the average weekly hours that a trucker can work. While previously a driver could operate his vehicle for 82 hours in a work week, the new rules reduce the limit to just 70 hours. After the 70-hour limit has been reached, drivers must take a 32-hour continual rest break that includes two full overnights of rest before they can drive again.

Another change that was made mandated that drivers take a 30 minute break within the first eight hours of driving. This is essentially a meal and rest break that ensures drivers can stay focused and avoid fatigue during a day of driving.

The FMCSA first passed the new regulations in 2011 but mandated they would not go into effect until July 1, 2013 in order to give truckers time to make changes. The hope is that now that these rules are in effect, they will make the roads safer for everyone.

Some professional drivers, however, are not happy with the new limitations the FMCSA has passed. The American Trucking Association expressed its concern with how the FMCSA made the new rules, calling the process agenda driven and raising questions about the research that had been done. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), on the other hand, has long been an opponent of changes limiting hours of service because of a belief that truck drivers need flexibility to do their jobs.

Because of their concerns, professional trucking groups challenged the FMCSA regulation in court with the hope that the regulation would be struck down. In early August, however, Truck News reported that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit retained almost all of the rules and only struck down the 30-minute meal break requirement for short haul drivers.

This means that the regulations are now in effect and will likely stand as the law of the land. OOIDA has indicated that they’ve given up the fight, suggesting they will now get on with training drivers. Hopefully, now that these rules are in place, the number of truck accidents caused by fatigued drivers will be on the decline.

If you were injured in a truck accident, contact the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone & Morelli, by calling  1-800-WIN-WIN-1.

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