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New Hours of Service Rules in Effect, But Disagreements Persist On Likely Effects

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made a change to the rules related to the number of hours that truckers could drive back in December of 2011. The new rules aimed to reduce the risk of drowsy driving crashes caused by truck drivers who worked for long hours and who could start to zone out or even fall asleep due to fatigue. clock-13-45-1424094-m.jpg

Our Boston truck driving accident lawyers know that there was a great deal of disagreement about the new FMCSA rule after its passage, including a court action filed by professional truck driving associations in an attempt to block the rule change due to the FMCSA’s process of creating the new requirement. In August, the court largely upheld the FMCSA’s new hours-of-service limits with a slight modification, though, so now the rules have gone into effect despite ongoing disagreements between truckers and safety advocates about whether the rules go far enough or will be effective at preventing accidents.

Ongoing Disagreements about Trucker Hours-of-Service Rules
The new hours of service rules establish a maximum lit of 11 hours of driving time each day, which means that a trucker may not continue to drive once he’s logged this much time behind the wheel. In addition to the maximum drive time, the FMCSA has also mandated that all 11 hours of driving be completed within 14 hours or less from the time that the trucker came on duty.

The new rules also require that all long-haul truck drivers must take at least a 30 minute rest break within the first eight hours of driving. Originally, this rule applied to both long and short haul drivers, but the application of the rule to short-haulers was one of the areas where the court disagreed with the FMCSA and found that the new rule couldn’t apply.

One of the biggest points of contention, however, is the new maximum weekly driving limit. The FMSCA has established that a trucker driver may not drive for more than 60 hours over the course of seven days and cannot drive for more than 70 hours over the course of eight days. Once a driver has reached this 60 or 70 hours of drive time, he must take a break that lasts for 34 consecutive hours at least. The break time also needs to include at least two periods of time between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

Professional trucking groups strongly object to this rule, arguing that by requiring off-duty time during the night, the effect of the rule will be to encourage truckers to drive more during the day during higher traffic times. This could result in the chances of an accident being increased since drivers are on the road when there are more people sharing the streets with them.

Safety advocates, on the other hand, have also expressed dissatisfaction with the FMCSA’s new rules, although the problem that safety advocates have is that they do not believe that the new rules go far enough. Safety advocates generally express the greatest concern about the fact that a driver can operate his vehicle for up to 11 hours per day, as anyone driving for that long is likely to be come fatigued.

Despite the disagreement and disapproval from both truckers and safety experts, the FMCSA’s rules have now gone into effect, now apply to truckers and are likely here to stay. The data from traffic crashes in upcoming months and years will help to shed some light on whether the FMCSA’s moves saved lives or not.

If you lost a loved one in an accident, contact Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-888-367-2900.

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Keeping Teen Drivers Safe with “5 to Drive”, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog, November 18, 2013