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FMSCA revises truckers' hours-of-service rules a second time within two years


After spending more than a year reviewing medical research and traffic safety data, and considering feedback, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has released newly revised hours-of-service (HOS) regulations governing commercial truck drivers. To take effect Oct. 1, the rules replace previously revised regulations — the first major HOS re-write in more than 60 years — that went into effect Jan. 4, 2004, but seven months later were ruled illegal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Similar to last year’s HOS revisions, the revised rules prohibit truckers from driving more than 11consecutive hours, working a shift longer than 14 hours, and driving more than 60 hours during a seven-day period or 70 hours during an eight-day period. Truckers also must rest at least 10 hours between shifts.

Now, the new rules require truckers who use sleeper-berths to rest for eight-straight hours and spend another two hours off duty before resuming their daily driving schedule. In addition, short-haul operators are no longer required to hold a commercial drivers license or maintain logbooks.

Before revising the rules, FMCSA officials considered suggestions from drivers, trucking companies, safety advocates and researchers, and received recommendations from driver health and safety experts. The rules will reduce fatal truck crashes caused by driver fatigue, FMCSA officials believe.

“Ensuring drivers obtain necessary rest and restorative sleep will save lives,” said FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg in a prepared statement.

But the revised rules won’t reduce driver fatigue because the regulations basically mirror last year’s revisions, said Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety officials in a statement.

The FMSCA still doesn’t get it,” said Vice President Jacqueline Gillan. “Despite nearly a 4 percent increase in truck-related highway fatalities while the rule was in effect, the agency made no significant changes to the critical regulations

American Trucking Associations (ATA) officials believe the rules back the association’s research that shows the most recent HOS regulations have been “measurably effective” in improving highway safety and truck drivers’ health, said ATA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Graves.

“However, we need to closely examine the impact of the new ‘sleeper berth’ rule on trucking companies and their drivers, particularly team drivers that are so critical to our just-in-time economy.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/22/2005