DOT AGENCY REVISES 60-YEAR-OLD RULE ON TRUCK DRIVER HOURS
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Thursday issued long-awaited safety rules on how much time truck drivers can spend behind the wheel before resting.
The new rules allow commercial vehicle operators to drive 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. Also, drivers may not drive after 14 hours of consecutive work activity, which can include loading, completing paperwork and daily vehicle inspections.
Similar to existing rules, drivers may not drive after being on-duty for 60 hours in a seven-consecutive-day period or 70 hours in an eight-consecutive-day period. The on-duty cycle may be restarted whenever a driver spends at least 34 hours off-duty.
Short-haul truckers may have a 16-hour on-duty period once during any seven-day stretch. FMCSA said it allowed the two-hour exception to prevent trucking companies from having to hire at least 48,000 extra drivers to fill the extra hours.
The new rules become effective Jan. 4.
The current rules, which have been in place for more than 60 years, allow 10 hours of driving within a 15-hour on-duty period after eight hours of off-duty time. Also, drivers have to stop driving after 15 hours on duty or after 60 in a seven-day period or 70 hours in eight consecutive days.
In addition to improving highway safety, a reduction in truck crashes can contribute to reducing the cost of moving freight, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said in a news release.
Hours-of-service rules are one of the biggest hot buttons in the trucking industry, which considers the current rules antiquated and a drag on business. Truckers say the rules do not take into account that freight moves 24-hours per day in today's global economy and that humans' Circadian rhythms allow quality rest at different times of day, not just at night.
The Clinton administration's proposed hours-of-service rules outraged industry so much that Congress had the proposal shelved and ordered FMCSA to take another stab at the issue. FMCSA originally promised to have the rules completed early last year.
The American Trucking Association said it supports the new hours-of-service rules.
FMCSA estimates the new rules would save up to 75 lives and prevent as many as 1,326 fatigue-related crashes annually. That would continue the progress made in large truck crashes during the past five years.
Earlier this week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released preliminary statistics that fatalities involving large truck crashed dropped 3.5 percent to 4,902 in 2002 from 5,082 in 2001.