Government Endorses Fewer Hours for Truckers

April 26, 2000

The Department of Transportation has proposed new rest requirements for truck drivers in an effort to reduce the number of accidents caused by exhaustion.

The American Trucking Association opposes the new rules, saying such a change would require thousands of additional drivers and trucks to meet delivery schedules. The American Insurance Association supports the action however, saying current regulations are inadequate.

The DOT proposal would establish work limits for five different classes of drivers, with long-distance drivers limited to no more than 12 hours of driving in any 24-hour period. Electronic monitors would be installed in trucks to monitor drivers’ work hours.

Current regulations, implemented in the 1930s, allow truckers to drive only 10 hours at a time with at least eight hours off before driving again, meaning drivers can put in as many as 16 hours per day on the road. The new proposal would up the rest period to 10 hours between driving shifts plus an additional two-hour break taken sometime during the driving stint.

The trucking association has offered its own changes, proposing 14-hour shifts with at least 10 hours between shifts. The ATA claims that DOT’s proposal would infringe upon the trucking industry’s ability to deliver goods in a timely fashion to stores and factories, meaning as much as 180,000 more trucks and drivers would have to be hired to get the job done. Meanwhile, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a branch of DOT, is seeking input on the proposed law.

“Truck accidents are not all necessarily caused by truck drivers,” said David Snyder, assistant general counsel for AIA. “But in today’s congested driving conditions market by aggressive driving and speeding, it is particularly important that truck drivers be in top condition. Truck crash studies indicate that driver fatigue is a major contributing factor in causing these crashes. The current federal hours of service regulations must be updated and more effectively enforced. After years of delay, the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has begun the process. We supported its creation so that long postponed and urgent issues would be addressed. Now it is doing what it is supposed to.”

The new rules would apply to national and regional drivers operating away from their base of operations. The new rules would also set up three groups of drivers and set rules for them. They include:

Local drivers travelling no more than six hours from their base, returning after each shift. They will be required to work no more than 12 consecutive hours in any 24-hour period.

Local drivers working a split shift will be required to have at least 9 consecutive hours off in a 24-hour period plus an additional three-hour break during their shift.

Local work vehicle drivers whose primary function is something other than driving will be required to have at least 9 hours off in any 24-hour period.

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