Truck driver fatigue is a chronic issue in the causation of commercial truck accidents. Now the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has tweaked the rule yet again, but only at the outer margins of the hours of service rules.
Effective February 27, 2012, the FMCSA revises the hours of service (HOS) regulations so as to cut maximum work week from 82 to 70 hours on average. To combat the effects of chronic fatigue, the provision allows drivers to work intensely for one week, but will require them to compensate by taking more time off in the following week. This is being done
. . . to limit the use of the 34-hour restart provision to once every 168 hours and to require that anyone using the 34-hour restart provision have as part of the restart two periods that include 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. It also includes a provision that allows truckers to drive if they have had a break of at least 30 minutes, at a time of their choosing, sometime within the previous 8 hours. This rule does not include a change to the daily driving limit because the Agency is unable to definitively demonstrate that a 10-hour limit-which it favored in the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM)-would have higher net benefits than an 11-hour limit. The current 11-hour limit is therefore unchanged at this time. The 60- and 70-hour limits are also unchanged. The purpose of the rule is to limit the ability of drivers to work the maximum number of hours currently allowed, or close to the maximum, on a continuing basis to reduce the possibility of driver fatigue. Long daily and weekly hours are associated with an increased risk of crashes and with the chronic health conditions associated with lack of sleep. These changes will affect only the small minority of drivers who regularly work the longer hours.
The FMCSA explains that:
The goal of this rulemaking is to reduce excessively long work hours that increase both the risk of fatigue-related crashes and long-term health problems for drivers. A rule cannot ensure that drivers will be rested, but it can ensure that they have enough time off to obtain adequate rest on a daily and weekly basis. The objective of the rule, therefore, is to reduce both acute and chronic fatigue by limiting the maximum number of hours per day and week that the drivers can work.
Ken Shigley is president of the State Bar of Georgia, a Certified Civil Trial Attorney of the National Board of Trial Advocacy and has an Atlanta-based law practice focused on representation of people seriously injured in commercial trucking accidents.