According to EHS Today, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed changes to the existing hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, which allow truck drivers to be on the road for no more than 11 hours within a 14-hour shift.
“This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
Strict HOS regulations were originally put in place in response to devastating crashes on U.S. highways caused by drowsy driving.
What do these proposed changes mean for the American trucking industry?
The FMCSA's proposed changes to the HOS regulations include:
- Make changes to the 30-minute break rule by integrating 30-minute, uninterrupted break time into eight hours of driving. During this time, drivers would be considered to be in on-duty, not driving status.
- Relax the 10-hour off-duty requirement between each 14-hour shift by splitting it into two periods. In the first period, truckers would take at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. In the second period, they would take no less than two hours off-duty or in the sleeper berth. The 14-hour shift would not be affected by this change in off-duty time.
- Allow at least 30 minutes of off-duty break time within 14-hours of driving. Breaks must be no more than three hours long and drivers must still take 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time between 14-hour shifts.
- Relax the 11-hour driving cap by allowing truckers to drive an additional two hours during adverse conditions.
- Extend on-duty time up to 14 hours and distance limit up to 150 air miles for short-haul drivers.
Safety concerns currently open for debate
The FMCSA believes these key revisions will save the U.S. economy and American consumers $274 million. The agency authored an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2018, which allowed the proposed changes to be up for debate. Since then, the agency has received more than 5,200 public comments both for and against the changes.
Trucking industry advocates say these proposed changes will increase safety on highways across the U.S. Opponents assert that relaxing the HOS regulations will only encourage truckers to work longer, exhausting shifts and line the pockets of trucking companies executives.
A massive commercial truck weighing as much as 80,000 lbs. with a drowsy driver behind the wheel is a recipe for disaster. Without strict regulations in place, truck crashes will likely increase.
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