After years of hearing complaints from truckers and others in the trucking industry that the current rules are too rigid regarding how long truckers are allowed to drive on the road, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is looking to make some changes.
Five major changes to the Hours of Service Standards (HOS) are in effect that the public, and anyone on the roads, should be aware of. These changes are likely to be passed, since they do not need Congressional approval. Instead, the FMSCA must agree on the rule changes as an entity. If they decide to go forward with these new rules, they will need to sign-off on it. The Office of Management and Budget must also do the same.
The first proposed rule would relax the 30-minute break rule. Truckers would be able to wait to take their 30-minute break until after their 8-hour shift of driving is complete. They can also now take a break while they are still on-duty. The second proposed rule would change the practices that are currently in place for sleeping in the birth of the truck. They can now split the required 10 hours they must spend off duty into two separate periods.
The first period must be at least seven consecutive hours long in the sleeper birth. The second period must be at least two consecutive hours, either off-duty, which means they can enjoy themselves but not sleep, or it can be another 2 hours in the sleeper birth. The third proposed rule change would allow an off-duty break, but it cannot last more than 3 hours. If it does last more than 3 hours, that will close the driver’s 14-hour driving window.
The other two proposed rule changes would give drivers more time to deliver their goods if they encounter bad driving conditions. The fourth rule would extend the maximum window where driving is permitted by two more hours. Additionally, the fifth proposed rule change would allow some commercial drivers to stand around longer from 12 hours to 14 hours. They also want to extend the distance limit from 100 miles to 150 miles per day.
“Although it is wonderful to see the Federal government listening to the needs of people in the trucking industry, these changes might also put drivers lives at risk, causing more fatigue in truckers who are already struggling,” says personal injury attorney Ronald F. Wittmeyer Jr. of the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. “If this law is passed, all drivers will need to be more vigilant on the road.”
The goal of this proposal is to improve safety on the roadways by not increasing driving times and restricting driving periods to eight consecutive hours. According to the FMSCA, the new proposal is also estimated to save $274 million for the economy and consumers. Officials have been going through thousands of public comments in order to make a final decision on the proposal. The exact details of the finalized proposal have not yet been released.