Driver fatigue is a leading factor in truck crashes that kill about 4,000 Americans and injure 100,000 more each year. Of course, that’s why it’ so crucial that truckers take time to rest and recover. Otherwise, they risk putting themselves and others on the road in danger. To avoid this, federal HOS (hours of service) are in place to keep fatigued drivers off the roadways.
Recently, the U.S. House and Senate recently advanced separate transportation bills that would make changes to the (HOS) hours-of-service restart rule for truckers.
According to Transport Topics, the provision would deny funding to enforce the requirement that drivers take off between 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on consecutive days—a rule that took effect in 2013—is included in a fiscal 2017 transportation funding bill a House subcommittee approved on May 18th.
The Senate also passed its transportation funding bill that includes a provision that would cap at 73 hours the allowable hours per week truckers may work before taking a break.
Under the move spearheaded by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the legislation’s 73-hour cap does not make any changes to the current maximum mandatory hours a commercial truck driver can drive in a given week without taking a restart: 60 hours in 7 days and 70 hours in 8 days.
Once a driver takes a 34-hour restart—the 73-hour cap precludes the possibility that any driver could drive after having worked 73 hours. In short, drivers have to take a break (34 hour restart) when they hit 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days.
ATA Welcomes the Changes
The American Trucking Association applauded the House Appropriations Committee for passing the Fiscal Year 2017 transportation funding bill, stressing that, without approval, it could have immediate impacts on the safety and efficiency of the trucking industry, and interstate commerce across the United States.
“On behalf of ATA, I want to express our gratitude to the Committee, especially Chairman Rogers and Chairman Diaz-Balart, for their work in moving this bill forward,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “In addition to allocating funding for important transportation projects, this legislation will ensure that commercial drivers can still utilize the 34-hour restart provision of the hours-of-service rules.”
The Trucking Alliance Opposes Them
Meanwhile, The Trucking Alliance criticizes the Senate’s bill and urges lawmakers to delete the proposed ’73 hours in a 7-day period’ provision from the bill. The alliance claims that the 34-hour mandated break was proposed without scientific evidence of safety issues or benefits. It also asserted that the current rules under the 2013 Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill prevents the reinstatement of the 34-hour break period.
Additionally, the alliance argued that regulations should be based on data collected from the electronic logging devices that all truck drivers will be required to use by December 2017. Finally, it claimed that the codification of the hours of service rule through Congress would severely restrict Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s influence over regulatory changes in the future.
Because it’s an election year, it’s likely a continuing resolution will be passed soon. Those that support the changes, such as ATA, are eager to see the transportation spending bill sent to President Obama for his signature.
Michael Jay Leizerman is the managing partner at EJ Leizerman & Associates, LLC, Toledo, OH. He is a frequent lecturer who teaches other attorneys how to handle truck accident cases across the country.