Fatigued driving is a factor in truck accidents which according to the National Transportation Safety Board is often under reported. To prevent such accidents, truck drivers are subject to “hours of service” rules that limit the number of hours that a truck driver can spend behind the wheel and specify when a break or a sleeper berth is necessary.
Recently the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed to bring five key modifications to these rules to supposedly increase safety and provide more flexibility for drivers. These proposals are a response to industry’s stakeholders who have been requesting these changes for a very long time but safety advocates believe that relaxing the hours of service rules will make the roads more dangerous.
Those in favor of the changes are mostly trucking companies as well as truck drivers who find that the actual rules are not adapted to human needs and real world business concerns. Those against the changes are traffic safety advocates and families who have lost a loved one in a truck accident and believe that fatigue driving is underestimated. In a press release The FMCSA said they listened to the drivers concerns but the truck industry has also been very active in lobbying the government to relax rules.
MORE FLEXIBILITY CAN BE GOOD OR BAD
The main concept in the changes is to give more flexibility to truck drivers to manage their drive time and their downtime and better accommodate weather or traffic conditions. The 11 hours driving time period wouldn’t change but it could be breakable on a longer period of the day. The maximum window of time during which driving is permitted would also be extended by two hours which in adverse conditions might be a positive element but which could also be exploited against drivers for competitive advantage.
The battle between the proponents and the opponents started and public comments are open at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/08/22/2019-17810/hours-of-service-of-drivers
Graph from FMSCA study: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons