The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been attempting to install a new set of rules regarding hours of service for truck drivers. Those rules were blocked by Congress this week, some say at the behest of trucking industry lobbyists. The goal of the rules is to reduce fatigue-related truck accidents. A trucking industry group has promised to seek more changes in January, once the legislators elected in November take office.
Hours of service regulations
One provision of the new rules drew the particular ire of trucking companies. That rule required truck drivers to take 34 or more hours off duty, including two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., in order to restart their work week. Drivers who worked 60/70 hours in a 7//8 day week were requires to take those hours off in order to get enough rest to continue driving safely. Trucking companies and many truck drivers complained that the requirement forced them to drive in heavy traffic or in bad weather, rather than allowing them the flexibility to choose the best time to be on the road. The 1-5 a.m. periods were chosen based on a study showing that rest during early morning hours was vital to avoiding fatigue.
The right to battle drowsy driving
Starting next month, the trucking industry is expected to ask Congress to stop individual states from setting their own guidelines. Some states are considering rules to force truck drivers to take breaks similar to those included in the FMCSA proposal. Truck companies want Congress to prevent states from setting their own safety regulations on tractor-trailers. The question will amount to who has the right to take action to tackle the problem of fatigue-related truck crashes.
Commercial trucking companies and truck drivers are constantly forced to make choices between their financial interests and the safety of the driving public. The FMCSA passes regulations to ensure that safety does not always take a backseat to profit. Drivers who work for too many hours, or who drive when they are drowsy are endangering the lives of others. If the government rolls back regulations designed to prevent this problem, the likely result is more truck accident fatalities.
Source: NBC Chicago, "Rollback of Truck Safety Rules May Be Just the Beginning," by Joan Lowy and David Dishneau, 8 December 2016