The issue of “hours of service” (HOS) has become a huge debate in the commercial trucking industry in recent years. This has sparked great controversy between federal lawmakers and trucking organizations, who represent companies and drivers. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has continued its efforts to reduce trucking HOS in an attempt to decrease big rig accidents, the American Trucking Association (ATA) has spoken out - especially concerning the 34-Hour restart rule. Attorneys who deal with truck crashes are committed to uphold the current trucking industry laws concerning hours of service, but as the debate continues, the question remains - will the rules change, yet again?

Reduced Commercial Trucking Hours of Service

Big rig accidents are often very serious, and as truck crash attorneys can attest, can cost millions of dollars in damages, injuries and lost lives. Therefore, finding ways to reduce these accidents is an important priority. With driver fatigue penned as being one of the main reasons serious truck accidents occur, the FMCSA has lobbied to lawmakers to reduce hours of service, and maintain other specific work hour requirements in an effort to reduce trucking accidents.

The FMCSA is full supportive of these changes, based upon a major study done by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), that monitored results from 2013 hours of service changes. This federal organization states the results from this study have been positive, proving that a reduction in driver fatigue is responsible for fewer fatal truck accidents during the 18 month study period.

The 34-Hour Restart Rule

Conversely, the ATA claims this latest reduction in HOS for commercial truck drivers has not been as beneficial as the FMCSA claims, and that the GAO report is filled with flaws. They assert the report was financially – not safety – motivated. They believe the specific restrictions placed on drivers (including a 34-hour, two-night restart rule that has temporarily been suspended) actually increased crashes, rather than decreasing them. The American Trucking Association did their own study and published another report. This study found that while crashes were reduced in certain data groups, they increased in others. This is due, in part, to the 34-hour restart rule. This rule meant drivers often had to restart their driving schedule on a different day, and at a different time from their normal schedule, thus affecting established sleep and work patterns.

The biggest argument is that while the 34-hour restart rule reduced nightly accidents, since more drivers were off the road at night, it increased daytime incidents. Data in this report, as well as the one done by the ATA, show this rule not only affected a driver’s preferred schedule, but also put more trucks into heavy traffic, increasing accident risks. Incidence of serious “tow-away” and injury accidents rose significantly, negating any overall improvement quoted by the FMCSA.

There were additional criticisms to the GAO report, including data collection methods, and the specific data chosen to present to Congress in order to indicate positive benefits in HOS reduction and the 34-hour restart rule. The ATA had equally valid points to argue in all cases. Additional complaints involved inaccuracies found in how the GAO report tracked inventory and truck movement, and the conclusion that the GAO’s purpose for their report was more financially motivated, than designed to find ways to reduce accidents.

Currently, commercial drivers are restricted to follow hours of service laws. These laws state drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours per day, without 10 consecutive hours of rest, and no more than 60 hours per week. The 34-hour restart rule is still in suspension, pending further review. Although the goal of both the FMCSA and ATA is to reduce trucking accidents, the debate on study results, and how to actually succeed in reducing accidents, without negatively affecting the schedules and lifestyles of drivers, continues. To learn more about HOS and trucking rules, contact experienced truck crash attorneys, who can provide you with more information!

Pearland, Pasadena, Webster, League City, Webser, Manvel, Alvin, Friendswood, La Marque, Texas City, and Galveston

Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP

Robert W. Hildebrand, Attorney at Law

J. Daniel Wilson, Attorney at Law

7830 Broadway, Suite 122

Pearland TX 77581

Phone:  (281) 408-2190

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