The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, took a big step last month toward relaxing the hours of service (HOS) rules for commercial truck drivers. HOS, which were first implemented more than 80 years ago, dictate how long drivers can remain behind the wheel. They are an important safeguard against drowsy driving, which can and do lead to too many fatal crashes.
The current presidential administration has promoted the changes to the current HOS rules, which were published in mid-May. U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said they will provide “greater flexibility to keep America moving.” The FMCSA’s acting administrator also touted the added flexibility. He also said the updated HOS regulations “are based on the thousands of comments we received from the American people. These reforms will improve safety on America’s roadways and strengthen the nation’s motor carrier industry.”
That remains to be seen. There are four primary changes to the HOS:
- Currently, drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after driving for 8 consecutive hours and switch to off-duty status. Under the new rules, they would only have to switch to not-driving status during that break.
- Drivers must currently take 10 consecutive hours a day off-duty each day. The new rules would allow them to divide that 10 hours into two breaks of 8 and 2 hours or 7 and 3 hours.
- Some short-haul drivers are allowed to drive for a maximum of 12 hours at a time instead of 10. The new rules would extend that to 14 hours and increase the short-haul limit from 100 to 150 air miles.
- The new rules would extend the maximum number of hours that drivers can be behind the wheel in adverse conditions by two hours.
The new HOS rules are scheduled to take effect in mid-September. While they might indeed provide more flexibility to truck drivers, it could be argued that the allowance of longer driving hours and shorter breaks could present a serious safety issue for truckers and the drivers who share the road with them.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a crash caused by a commercial truck driver, you may well be looking at significant medical expenses and long-term changes to your life. It’s wise to seek legal guidance to help ensure that you receive the compensation you need and deserve.