Hours-of-Service and Driver Fatigue

FMCSA should mandate fewer driving hours and more sleeping or resting hours as a common-sense way to save lives.

Driver fatigue may be a major factor in up to 40 percent of all heavy truck accidents.  The risk of a accident dramatically increases after 10 hours of driving, causing deaths, injuries and accident-caused congestion.  The Department of Transportation states that fatigue is a direct cause of 15 percent of truck accident fatalities and injuries, resulting in more than 750 deaths and nearly 20,000 injuries each year.  Polls show that more than 80 percent of the public believe that fatigued drivers pose a serious danger to others on the highway and that their hours should not be increased.

Despite losing twice in the federal courts, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in December, 2007, proposed for a third time hours-of-service rules for truckers that are virtually identical to the rules struck down by the courts.

These rules allow trucking companies to force their drivers to work as much as 11 hours every day of the work week and then restart the clock back to zero after a "weekend" of only 34 hours.  Under this interim rule, drivers may continue to log an exhausting 77 hours behind the wheel in a seven-day period.

While FMCSA approved basically this same rules in 2004 as an improvement, truckers report they are actually spending more hours behind the wheel, not less. A survey by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety showed truckers reported more instances of falling asleep at the wheel than the previous year (when the old work rules were in effect). The percentage of drivers who reported dozing at the wheel at least once during the past month was about 13 percent in 2003, under the old rules, about 15 percent in 2004, and 21 percent in 2005.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is taking comments on this proposal for the next 60 days.

Putting the Brakes on Unsafe Trucking Companies