FMCSA considers mandating personal driver time by studying drivers’ commutes

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is taking a survey of truck drivers’ commutes to and from work. (Photo/Shutterstock)

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is taking a survey of truck drivers’ commutes to and from work. For some things, like the ELD mandate, you can’t just be an ostrich and ignore it – the world is changing. It’s the unstoppable march of technology, you might say. For a long time trucking has been largely insulated from it. But now it has turned very quickly.

But there does come a point when it seems like truckers bear a disproportionate degree of the blame for what ultimately comes down to performing a dangerous and thankless job under stressful circumstances. Perhaps we start considering improving our highways and other infrastructure? But that’s another topic.

While it’s true that the deadliest accidents on America’s roadways happen more often with freight than otherwise, at the same time, they are more often the error of the car driver, at rates that have varied over the past several years between 80-85%.  

No doubt, crashes are terrible for everyone involved. As former American Trucking Association (ATA) President Bill Graves has said, “Every crash, and every fatality and injury suffered on our nation’s highways is a tragedy. Preventing them from happening requires a proper understanding of the causes of these crashes. It is also tragic that carriers and drivers across this country are saddled with guilt and blame for many crashes they could do nothing to prevent.”

Does this latest study have anything to do with the high profile case of Tracy Morgan’s entourage getting rear-ended by a Walmart truck a few years ago? That truck driver was within his legal driving hours, but he had commuted nearly eight hours just to get to work. 

Around 1 a.m. on June 7, 2014, 35-year-old Kevin Roper – then halfway through the 13th hour of his 14-hour shift – slammed into Morgan’s limo from behind, killing comedian James McNair and seriously injuring Morgan and three others. Roper had been awake more than 28 hours, the National Transportation Safety Board reported.

He filed a civil suit against Wal-Mart; they reached a confidential settlement in May. The retailer, which initially faulted Morgan and his colleagues for not wearing seat belts, later “took full responsibility for the accident,” according to Morgan’s lawyer.

The FMCSA is seeking information on driver commutes, possibly for a potential rule that would require drivers to live within a prescribed distance of no more than 150 miles from their domiciled truck location. They are seeking comment until the end of the month. Of the currently 300+ comments, the vast majority are expressing extreme irritation and frustration.

A few expressed gratitude for the recognition of this issue, such as Joe Kramer who writes, “Thanks for realizing that there is a percentage of drivers that commute long distances to get to work. I know of at least three in our fleet, me being one of them, 100 miles away.”

Most, however, strongly disagree with where this seems to be headed: more regulation. “This study proposal is an example of a study searching for a problem to study,” writes William Hufham.

“I know this is a hard thing for the public and the government to swallow, but all the regulations in the world will not stop accidents or fatigue,” writes Kacey Erway.

Russell Dempsey expresses his point in no uncertain terms: “Not no, but hell no. What I do on my personal time is none of your business, just as what you do when not at work is none of anyone else’s business. Leave us alone.”

Crashes are complex issues, requiring massive amounts of detailed analysis, research, and interpretation. When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the FMCSA studied the issue, driver fatigue was listed as the twelfth of the top 12 most common causes of crashes.

For more comprehensive data on Large Truck and Bus Crashes from the FMCSA, click here.

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Chad Prevost

Chad is radio host and broadcast media specialist for FreightWaves.

One Comment

  1. STOP with all the new regulations. No other job has as much regulations as truck drivers. I’ve been driving for 33 years. Some of the new regulations have been good. But most have been about finding new ways to create revenue for the government.

  2. None of their business what happens on my personal time! Stepping way over the line with this overreach! Stop FMCSA madness!

  3. I will not spend a minute of my time giving these overpaid clowns information on what i do on my personal time. If the rest of the truckers felt the same way things might be diffent. Ata and fmsca is trying to run truck drivers out of a job. They just admitted between 80 and 85 percent of all wrecks are caused by automobiles. Enough is enough. Time to park for a couple weeks

  4. Stop FMCSA…..Everyone leave driving one day .Already elogs put bad affect on us.Me and my friends we r thinking to leave this business, cause of lots of rule regulation.No one wants to drive now.

  5. Gays wea no mor ownoperator wea FMC Operator dea controls our luanch our sleep our pee and everything

  6. most people dont like living that far from there work i know i wouldnt so i see no need for this rule they already have enough rules to contend with and plus they should have the right just like everyone else to live where they want to

  7. Once again it seems the main people this will effect are the route drivers, like ups, fedex, etc. But then they will probably get an exemption from the rule. Most otr drivers don’t do a daily commute, or even weekly. I see most taking the cab home with them on their home time. So once you leave from there your clock should start anyway. I think if they start regulating truck drivers commute then they should regulate everyone’s. Because let’s face it, fatigue driving is dangerous for ANYONE.

  8. An this is were the big companies are forcing drivers to not have home time . If they keep a driver local to yard they could get more home time less money being made the company. far enough away from their home they know they can keep them out longer. Big companies do not care about driver welfare in mind as long as they are making their money. They have pushed the elds on every one in the industry and now want the government to allow them exceptions. Why they push the smal business owner operator out .
    Government needs to step back and look at the real problems ( big trucking companies)

  9. What is difference in someone having a 2 hr commute to work. Work 8 to 12 shift then commute 2 hrs home? An get right back up in 8 9 hrs do it all over again. Seems to me government might want to start looking at this problem. It’s not all the trucking industry!!

  10. The government needs to stop putting all the blame and responsibility on the truck driver. We cannot be responsible for the ignorant and careless actions of a four-wheel driver. You cannot regulate our total lives to compensate for the inadequacies of those who hold regular driver licenses. You can also not hold us responsible when there are so many variables out of our control. What we do in our personal time is ours and belongs to us. We are not robots on a maintenance schedule where you can dictate every move we make.

  11. If they do this they should consider the type of driving done – local, regional or OTR. An OTR driver gets home maybe once a month. Where he lives has nothing to do with his day-to-day work. What about the driver shortage? Limiting a company on where they can pool their drivers will make this an even worse situation.