Will New Hours-of-Service Rules Reduce Trucking Accidents?

The Obama administration ruled that truck drivers cannot work more than 11 hours per day, among other hours-of-service (HOS) changes, in an attempt to improve safety and reduce 18-wheeler trucking accidents. But the revisions could have an adverse effect on truck drivers and passenger vehicles, a concerned American Trucking Association (ATA) reports. Under the new law, truck drivers are much more restricted in when and how they allocate hours. For instance, drivers must take at least a 30 minute break during an eight hour stretch if they are to continue working up to their 11 hours. Overall, truck drivers are now limited to 70 hour workweeks. Instead of allowing a 34-hour restart each week, the new HOS rule mandates that drivers be off from 1-5 a.m. at least twice. Changes were also made to the definition of “on-duty,” the report says. While the rules were passed with safety in mind, leaders of the ATA say the modifications will likely do nothing to improve highway safety. ATA President and CEO Bill Graves says the Obama administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) over-reacted to 2010’s increase in fatal truck accidents. ATA reports that since 2004, when the current rules first went into effect, fatalities have dropped 29.9 percent. ATA believes the new HOS rules will cause drivers and consumers to suffer because fewer hours and more restrictions mean lost productivity and higher costs. By prohibiting truck drivers from working at least two nights per week during the graveyard shift, more big rigs will be on the roads when other vehicles are, increasing the chance of a commercial vehicle accident. Graves says FMCSA is ensuring that as droves of Americans commute to work, thousands of truck drivers will be joining them. He says this will create additional congestion and put more people at increased risk for injury. According to the report, the greatest rates of truck-involved crashes occur between 6AM and noon. For companies or drivers to try to skirt the new HOS laws put in place could lead to heavy fines; spurning the 11-hour driving limit by three or more hours could result in fines up to $11,000 per offense, while the drivers themselves could owe up to $2,750 per violation. These penalties and the on-duty rules go into effect later this month. Other provisions will not begin until July 1, 2013. Source: Truckinginfo, “Final HOS Rule Retains 11 Hour Driving Limit,” 12/22/11