Federal laws help keep dangerously fatigued big-rig truck drivers off the road, as well as very young truckers from behind the wheel. But that’s all about to change, unless the opinions of many other commercial truck drivers are seriously considered.
On September 29, major revisions will occur to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Hours of Service Rules for over-the-road truck drivers. These federal regulations are meant to protect the public from tired truckers, worn out by too many hours driving the nation’s highways.
Enacted in 2013, the Hours of Service Rules place limits on how many hours per day and per week semi truckers can drive, as well as mandate rest periods. These rules apply to rigs that weigh over 10,000 pounds.
Truck drivers who are fatigued from over-work pose real dangers to other drivers. Tired, attentive commercial truckers may swerve out of their lane without warning. They may not react appropriately to stopped traffic ahead. In either instance, when truckers needlessly lose control of their rig they can cause catastrophic, multi-vehicle crashes.
Rules to Keep Fatigued Truckers from Driving
To keep truckers fresh, the Hours of Service Rules limited their driving and overall working periods:
· Truck drivers can work no than 60 hours over seven consecutive days; or 70 hours over eight consecutive days
· These hours are reset after a truck driver is off duty for at least 34 consecutive hours
· Truckers can be on duty for up to 14 consecutive hours – but only after 10 consecutive hours of rest, and only 11 of those on-duty hours can be behind the wheel
· Big-rig truck drivers must take a 30-minute rest period following eight hours of consecutive working
The trucking industry largely has fought these rules ever since they were introduced. Their lobbying has paid off, as the FMCSA announced in June it was revising some of its tired-truck-driver regulations. These revisions take effect September 29.
The changes include:
· Truckers’ mandated 30-minute rest period now begins after eight consecutive hours of driving, rather than consecutive hours of on duty, and non-driving but still working time can count toward the 30 minutes of “rest”
· Under adverse driving conditions – typically bad weather – truck drivers can add two hours to their 11 hours of driving time and two hours to their total working time (previously 14 hours)
On September 16 the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and a coalition of highway driving safety organizations filed a federal lawsuit stop the revisions. They argue that watering down the Hours of Service rules will put more fatigued truck drivers back on the road. But the revisions will proceed while the lawsuit is being heard.
Young Truck Drivers on the Road
Earlier in September the FMCSA proposed a pilot program that will put drivers as young as 18 in charge of a fully loaded tractor-trailer. These young drivers won’t be able to haul hazardous materials.
As part of their qualifications, drivers under 21 must show proficiency in such routine tasks as trip planning, coupling and uncoupling their rigs, and fueling their trucks.
CDLLife, a trucking industry trade magazine, posted an online poll following the announcement of this young-truck-driver proposal. It received more than 1,000 responses:
· 83% of truck drivers said 18 years old is too young for interstate trucking
· 17% of truck drivers approved of lowering the over-the-road driving age to 18
The commercial trucking industry has a history of fighting public safety measures. When portions of industry are opposed to fewer restrictions on tired truck drivers and lowering the age of truckers because of the dangers they present, it is notable.
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Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles September 28, 2020