Update: Hours of Service and related safety issues debate

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been engaged in a long, heated debate with the trucking industry over new hours of service (HOS) regulations. The FMCSA has proposed changes to these regulations which are scheduled to become the new law of the land in July. Though these regulations are largely designed to prevent truck accidents and keep truckers safe and healthy generally, many in the trucking industry are concerned that they will decrease productivity and increase costs prohibitively.

Currently, the FMCSA is conducting a field study to analyze the practical effects of the new regulations in the real world. At the heart of both the field study and the debate is the 34-hour restart provision. This provision would require truckers to take 34 hours off once per week, rather than once every six days. In addition, the restart period now requires truckers to be free of duty for two consecutive four hour blocks between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

This provision was proposed specifically to better ensure that truckers do not become dangerously drowsy while on the road. However, the trucking industry is concerned that by mandating that the restart period occurs only ever seven days and at very specific periods in the day, the provision will dramatically alter the way that the industry does business. This concern could affect the public if the industry decides to cut corners in new ways to make up the difference and those actions make truckers unsafe in ways safety advocates have yet to foresee.

Only time and the results of the FMCSA field study will show whether the new regulations will improve safety and/or decrease productivity. What is clear now is that this debate between federal safety advocates and the trucking industry is far from over.

Source: The Produce News, "Hours-of-service debate rages on," Tim Linden, Jan. 22, 2013

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