Hours of Service Rules Amended for Truck Drivers, Opening The Door to Longer Driving Without Breaks & More Truck Accidents
In late May, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a final rule which relaxes the hours of service regulations for commercial motor vehicle (i.e. truck) drivers. These hours of service regulations were originally put in place because the fatigue experienced by truck drivers due to driving too many hours on the road was (and still is) leading to a number of accidents and fatalities on the roads each year; such that Congress had to step in and force truck drivers to take reasonable breaks. Unfortunately, the changes will allow truck drivers to be on the roads longer without taking breaks and a number of new drivers to completely evade complying with the hours of service regulations, which will inevitably lead to more truck accidents each year. Below, we discuss notable changes made in the new rule:
No Longer a Separate, Mandatory 30 Minute Break After Eight Hours of Driving
Instead of requiring that drivers take a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving, the new rule allows drivers to satisfy the break requirement by using “on duty” status, meaning that they essentially don’t have to take a 30-minute break any longer, as three out of the 14 hours that they were on-duty were not spent driving anyway.
Splitting Up Mandatory 10 Hours Off by Utilizing the Sleeper Berth Exception
Drivers are now required to take 10 hours off of driving after 14 hours of being on duty, 11 of which can include driving. During this time, they can utilize the sleeper berth provision, whereby they have to take at least eight hours in the truck’s berth, plus a separate two consecutive hours in the berth and/or off duty. However, the new rule allows drivers to split the required 10 hours into two periods, as long as they spend at least seven hours in the sleeper berth, and neither period counts against the 14-hour driving window.
Allows for Longer Periods of Driving in Adverse Driving Conditions That Include Ice & Snow
Drivers are currently allowed to spend an extra two hours driving during adverse driving conditions, going from 11 hours total to 13. However, the amended rule extends this an additional two hours, even though these driving conditions include ice and/or snow on the highways and roads.
Significantly Increases the Number of Trucks On the Road That Do Not Have to Comply with Any Hours of Service Regulations
The current regulations allow vehicles that drive within a 100 air mile radius of their geographical work location, where on-duty time does not exceed 12 hours, an exemption from recording their driving time using electronic logging devices, and, therefore, they are essentially exempt from the hours of service regulations altogether. This is known as the “short-haul exception.” The new rule significantly expands the numbers of drivers who can claim/fall into this exception to include those who drive within a 150 air mile radius of their work location if their work shift does not exceed 14 hours instead of 12.
If You Are Hurt in A Truck Accident, Contact Our Florida Truck Accident Injury Attorneys Today
There is a reason that a number of organizations submitted comments arguing that the proposed rule would increase driver fatigue and threaten public safety by leading to an increase in fatigue-related crashes, including the National Safety Council, the National Transportation Safety Board, and Truck Safety Coalition. An estimated 20 percent of large truck crashes already involve fatigued drivers, and the new rule will leave drivers on the roads for longer shifts, including in adverse driving conditions, as well a number of additional trucks that are completely exempt from any hours of service regulations.
If you are injured in a truck accident, contact our Jacksonville truck accident attorneys at Douglas & Carter, Attorneys at Law to help ensure that you receive the compensation you need to get on the road to recovery.