Fatigued Driving Issue Is Wide Awake – Debating The New Truck Driver Hours-of-Service Rule

by Andrew R. Young | January 20th, 2012

Just as debate heats up on the complicated New Hours-of-Service (HOS) Rule, a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel is imprisoned five (5) years for causing a fatal crash on the Ohio Turnpike.  Preventing fatigued driving continues to be a priority for both the truck industry and regulatory safety advocates.  But solving the issue continues to confound regulators, and the new HOS rule that will take effect July 1, 2013 has disappointed both the truck industry and safety advocates.

The new HOS rule retains the 11-hour daily driving limit but reduces the current 82-hour weekly limit to 70-hours by changing the 34-hour “restart” period.  Under this rule, a new 70-hour work week cannot restart until after a truck driver has a 34-hour rest period that includes two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods of rest.

The trucking industry argues that the requirement of two overnight rest periods in the 34 hour “rest and restart” period is potentially more dangerous for our nation’s roadways.  They contend that the two (2) overnight rest periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. will force millions more trucks on the road during daylight hours when traffic is at its highest.  More congestion on the roadways during daylight hours places all motorists at greater risk of an accident.  This issue was discussed with regulatory expert, Richard Wilson, on Allen Smith’s radio show, “Truth About Trucking.

On the other hand, while the truck industry is pleased that the 11-hour daily driving limit remains in effect, safety advocates are disappointed that their proposed 10-hour daily driving limit wasn’t adopted.  In a statement released in conjunction with the news about the aforementioned five (5) year prison sentence, John Lannen, Executive Director of the Truck Safety Coalition, expressed concern about the new “inadequate hours of service (HOS) rule.”   The Truck Safety Coalition statement indicates that “the highest level of crash risk occurs during both the 10th and 11th hours of consecutive driving.”  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is continuing to research risks and listen to comments associated with the current 11-hour daily driving limit.

While both sides are disappointed in the new rule changes and continue to debate their points, one thing everyone can agree on is that this is a complicated problem requiring further communication, education, and collaboration.  As each side has legitimate concerns, this debate is likely to continue into the future.

Authored by: Trial Attorney / Truck Attorney – Andrew R. Young, Esquire – Class A CDL License