Hours of Service Rules to Prevent Tired Trucker Crashes May be Eased
Fatigued truck driver crashes claim hundreds of lives on the roads of America every year. A move by the Trump administration to relax the rules threatens to put truckers on the road for even longer periods.
The Transportation Department is seeking to relax the federal regulations that require commercial drivers to pull over once their hours-of-service limit is reached, reported PBS.
Trucking interests have pressed the administration and Congress over the last two years for the rule changes. They have secured support from 30 senators.
The trucking industry has fought the so-called Hours of Service rules for decades. Trucking safety campaigners have fought back, claiming the present rules are not rigid enough to prevent the loss of life at the hands of tired truckers in Virginia and elsewhere.
The move to relax the rules comes at the time of a spike in serious and fatal truck crashes.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration lists 4,657 fatal crashes involving large trucks in 2017, a 10 percent rise from the previous year, according to a report issued in May by the agency of the Transportation Department. At least 60 of these crashes were caused by truckers who fell asleep or were tired at the wheel. The National Transportation Safety Board said police routinely underreport crashes caused by fatigue.
A Transportation Department study found about 13 percent of truck drivers who caused crashes with injuries were tired.
What Are the Hours of Service Regulations in Virginia Beach?
The hours of service rules have existed in some form since the 1930s. The FMSCA sets out a series of hours of service regulations.
Under the present Hours of Service regulations truckers must:
- Drive under 11 hours after taking a 10-hour break;
- Not drive after the 14th consecutive hour after they come on duty after being off duty for 10 hours.
- Take rest breaks if eight hours or less passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least half an hour. There are some short-haul exceptions to the rest break rule.
- Not drive after spending 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A trucker can restart his or her 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off his or her driving duty.
The hours-of-service rules are unpopular with many truckers. Breaking the rules harms their incomes. A trucker can be placed “out of service” for a day or more for going a minute beyond the strict time limits. Many truckers are paid by the mile. If they are not driving they are not making any money.
Many trucking organizations like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association argue the rules are not realistic. The association says congestion, bad weather, and long waits for loading often keep truckers busy while the clock is ticking.
The mandatory break requirement that forces drivers to pull over is particularly unpopular with trucking companies.
The Independent Drivers Association which represents small businesses with fleets, wants the rules to be changed to stop the 14-hour clock for up to three consecutive hours. Drivers could rest or wait out heavy traffic to allow their driving time to be more productive,
The moves to ease the hours-of-service regulations follow a consultation last year.
In August 2018, the FMCSA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. It sought public comment on four main aspects of hours of service rules that the government agency is considering changing, namely:
- The short-haul hours of service limits;
- An hours of service exception for poor driving conditions;
- The contentious 30-minute rest break provision; and
- A split-sleeper berth rule that allows drivers to split their required time in the sleeper-berth.
Call an Experienced Virginia Beach Fatigued Truck Driver Accident Lawyer
Fatigued truck driver crashes in Virginia Beach and elsewhere can be devastating for the victims. When a big rig weighing up to 80,000 pounds is involved in a wreck, the potential for deaths and injuries are severe. Accidents caused by fatigue are often very serious because the trucker has little time to react and brake. We are concerned about moves by the current administration to ease the rules intended to protect motorists and the truckers themselves from exploitation. Please contact us today if you or a family member has been hurt in a truck accident in Virginia.