Truck driver fatigue is a major concern and a big contributor to causing truck accidents. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations aim to reduce fatigue by limiting hours. In 2011, FMCSA changed the rules for the number of hours truckers could drive. The changes went into effect in 2013. From the start, trucking industry groups challenged the rules, even fighting in court and suing to stop them. Most of the rules, however, went into effect and it has now been more than two years since truck drivers have been subject to stricter limits on hours they can drive per day and per week.
Studies have been conducted and reports written to assess the impact of the changes to hours-of-service (HOS) rules. FMCSA recently released a statement highlighting good news from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the impact of the new rules. Although some special interest groups have challenged FMCSA's use of GAO data, the report does seem to indicate an improvement when it comes to keeping fatigued drivers off the roads. It is clear more research needs to be done (and is currently being done by FMCSA), but preliminary information suggests limiting trucker hours to prevent fatigue can have a positive impact on keeping motorists safe.
How Hours of Service Rules Have Impacted the Chances of Johnstown Truck Accidents
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx extolled the benefits of the HOS rules as demonstrated by the GAO, saying: "This GAO report provides further evidence that the changes FMCSA made to the HOS rules improve highway safety by saving lives and lowering the risk of driver fatigue." FMCSA indicated GAO information showed fewer drivers were working maximum schedules and fewer truckers were fatigued on the roads. The reports also showed a decline in fatal truck crashes resulting from driver fatigue.
One of the big concerns about the new HOS rules involved having more trucks on the road during daylight hours, and particularly during rush hour. FMCSA's changes imposed a mandate truckers incorporate two overnight periods (between 1 AM and 5 AM) when they took a mandated 34-hour rest break after reaching the maximum number of hours permitted over seven or eight days. Truckers argued by making them sleep at night and drive during the day, they would be on the roads during peak hours and crashes were more likely. However, GAO data says there has been no increase in truck accidents during the critical 5 AM to 9 AM rush hour time.
Trucking Info, in response to FMCSA's news release, pointed to some provisions in GAO's report saying more studies and larger sample sizes were needed to get a clear idea of whether crash rates were declining because of HOS rules and to better understand the impact of new rules on truckers. However, even though it is true there must be more data collected, the information obtained over the past 18 months shows the hours of service rules are likely making an impact in stopping accidents -- and that's a great thing.
FMCSA plans to move forward with rules requiring electronic record keeping instead of paper logbooks, which could help to ensure better compliance with and enforcement of HOS rules. Hopefully, this will help further reduce risks of truck accidents caused by tired drivers.