Proposed Changes to Truck Driver Hours of Service Rules: What and When to Expect?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has unveiled its long-awaited proposal to amend the federal Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, which have been subjected to criticism by truck drivers and trucking companies in Florida and all across the U.S. for years.
The proposed changes to the federal law are supposed to “provide greater flexibility” by imposing less rigid hours of service rules, according to the FMCSA’s press release issued on Wednesday, August 14th.
In a nutshell, the long-awaited and controversial proposal to make changes to the HOS rules by extending truck drivers’ flexibility with rest breaks, expanding exemptions, and allocating time in a sleeper berth, a seat that can be reclined to transform into a bed in which a trucker can sleep when taking a break.
The Problem of Fatigued Driving and Lack of Sleep
The FMCSA is confident that the proposed changes to the hours-of-service rules will add more flexibility but not at the expense of safety of other motorists and pedestrians.
According to a study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre, more than 9% of fatal crashes involving large trucks are linked to fatigued driving. Those are the official numbers based on coroners’ verdicts.
Authors of the same report state estimate that fatigued driving and lack of sleep contribute to about 20% of fatal truck accidents as fatigue, drowsy driving, and exhaustion often go underreported in many motor vehicle crashes.
Fact: Each year, there are more than 5,000 fatal accidents involving trucks, according to the FMCSA.
Fact #2: Establishing liability in a truck crash caused by fatigued driving can be tough unless the victim contacts an experienced Miami truck accident attorney immediately after the crash to document the trucker’s negligence.
What Are the Existing Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations in Florida?
The existing hours-of-service rules are thought to be effective in decreasing the risk of fatigued and drowsy driving in truck operators and preventing thousands of truck crashes every year.
However, truck drivers and trucking companies have pushed for years for less rigid HOS regulations, arguing that the existing federal regulations were at odds with the daily realities that an estimated more than 3.5 million truck drivers across the U.S. face.
Under the existing HOS rules, truck drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour on-duty shift.
Before their 14-hour on-duty window starts anew, a truck driver must have had at least 10 consecutive hours off duty. Also, under the existing regulations, a trucker who is driving for more than eight hours must take a 30-minute rest break before reaching the eight-hour mark.
How Would the Federal HOS Rules Change Under the New Proposal?
Under the proposed changes, truck drivers in Florida and elsewhere in the U.S. would be allowed to take a break while they are on duty but not driving. For years, truckers have complained to lawmakers about long waits for cargo to be loaded and unloaded from the truck.
Those long waits, truck drivers argue, could qualify as a “rest break,” but they are still required to take an off-duty break to comply with the federal law.
Truckers have also complained that they are required to take an off-duty break even when they do not feel fatigued or tired, do not want to sleep, or cannot find an available parking spot for their truck.
In the proposal to amend the hours of service regulations, the FMCSA is also suggesting to allow truckers to “pause” the 14-hour on-duty window for an off-duty break of up to three hours. However, in that case, the truck driver would still be required to take the required 10 consecutive hours off duty after the shift.
In addition to these proposed changes, the FMCSA’s proposal is also suggesting to exempt short-haul drivers from logging their time electronically if they can start driving and return to the same location within 14 consecutive hours and the A and B locations are within a 150-mile radius.
Currently, the federal law provides an exemption to truckers who are expected to load and unload cargo at the same location within 12 hours and not exceeding a 100-mile radius.
The proposal is yet to be published in the Federal Register. Once it appears in the Register, it will be open for public comment for 45 days.
Speak to a Miami personal injury attorney at Pita Weber & Del Prado if you or someone you care about has been injured in a truck crash involving a fatigued, drowsy, sleepy, tired, or exhausted driver. Call our offices at 305-670-2889 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.