The Obama Administration decided against a reduction in truckers’ daily hours behind the wheel, but made other changes aimed at fighting driver fatigue. The rule issued last month by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration continues to permit drivers to be on the road for up to 11 hours daily, something favored by the trucking industry, but would reduce by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a driver can work within a week to 70 hours. A 34-hour gap between the end of one week and the start of another remains unchanged, under the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rule. But truckers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes.
The rule takes effect in 18 months and would apply to the operations of companies like FedEx Corp., UPS Inc. and YRC Worldwide. More than a decade in the making and the subject of two court appeals, this is the most comprehensive trucker rule rewrite in more than 65 years. The agency considered imposing a ten-hour daily maximum but said scientific data did not support a reduction. The rule does put more emphasis on limits to driver hours over a week or more.
Consumer and safety groups said they may go to court again over the 11-hour provision, first imposed by the Bush Administration. The last federal appeals challenge involved a settlement in 2009 to let the Obama Administration come up with a plan. Henry Jasny, general counsel for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which spearheaded previous legal challenges along with unions and consumer interests, says they are “still looking for some kind of rationale for the rule.”
The trucking industry favors the longer daily driving limit to maintain capacity, but doesn’t like a provision aimed at giving drivers more flexibility for rest breaks during overnight hours. Its trade group, American Trucking Associations, said the rule would increase heavy truck traffic on highways during busy morning commuting periods. Large truck crash deaths rose more than 8.7 percent in 2010 to 3,675 from a year earlier, according to Transportation Department figures. Most of those killed were occupants of passenger cars involved in accidents with large trucks.
Fatigue was cited in between 1.4 to 2.1 percent of truck-related fatal crashes between 1999-2007, according to the latest government safety data. Lawyers in our firm say, based on what they have learned handling cases involving highway crashes, that driver fatigue is a very big problem. Hopefully, the new rule is a step in the right direction. But, from a highway safety perspective, it shouldn’t be the last step.
Source: Insurance Journal
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