New Hours of Service Rules Don't Prevent Fatigue

The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration has announced new changes to the hours of service rules for interstate drivers. Many have expressed their concern that the new rules do little to combat fatigue, which has become a major public safety hazard for all highway users.

The new rule changes are summarized below:

New Hours of Service
PROVISION CURRENT RULE FINAL RULE – COMPLIANCE DATE JULY 1, 2013
Limitations on minimum "34-hour restarts" None (1) Must include two periods between 1 a.m.- 5 a.m. home terminal time.
(2) May only be used once per week.
Rest breaks None except as limited by other rule provisions May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver's last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes. [HM 397.5 mandatory "in attendance" time may be included in break if no other duties performed]
PROVISION CURRENT RULE FINAL RULE – COMPLIANCE DATE FEBRUARY 27, 2012
On-duty time Includes any time in CMV except sleeper-berth. Does not include any time resting in a parked CMV. In a moving property-carrying CMV, does not include up to 2 hours in passenger seat immediately before or after 8 consecutive hours in sleeper-berth. Also applies to passenger-carrying drivers.
Penalties "Egregious" hours of service violations not specifically defined. Driving (or allowing a driver to drive) 3 or more hours beyond the driving-time limit may be considered an egregious violation and subject to the maximum civil penalties. Also applies to passenger-carrying drivers.
Oilfield "Waiting time" for certain drivers at oilfields (which is off-duty but does extend 14-hour duty period) must be recorded and available to FMCSA, but no method or details are specified for the recordkeeping. "Waiting time" for certain drivers at oilfields must be shown on logbook or electronic equivalent as off duty and identified by annotations in "remarks" or a separate line added to "grid."

While Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood noted that "Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked," he went on to say the following "This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives. Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely." Unfortunately, the new rules don't go far enough to address the fatigue issue.

It is estimated that over 500 deaths occur annually as a result of fatigued truck drivers. While the hours of service changes do shorten the work week from 82 hours/week to 70 hours/week and the new rules add a 30-minute rest break after 8 hours of driving, this does little to truly combat fatigued driving. The biggest problem that need addressing was the 11 hour driving time per day. The 11 hour rule became effective under the Bush administration in 2003. Prior to that change, truck drivers had been limited to 10 hour driving days. The 10 hour day had been in effect for nearly 70 years. Interestingly, the FMCSA has admitted that "performance begins to degrade after the 8th hour on duty and increases geometrically during the 10th and 11th hours."

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