A new proposal developed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) aims to reduce truck driver fatigue—and thus accidents caused by tired truckers—by setting new limits on daily driving time and extending the amount of rest time required between long trips.
Currently, truckers are limited to driving 11 hours a day. The new regulations would reduce the daily driving hours-of-service to ten, and require a 34-hour rest break, including two midnight to six a.m. periods, after truckers have reached their weekly driving limit of 60 to 70 hours. Violation of the proposed law will result in an $11,000 fine.
The new proposal reflects concern over recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) data that show that truckers who drive more than eight consecutive hours are more likely to be involved in motor vehicle crashes. In addition, the IIHS found that truckers who violate daily time limits are more likely to also report falling asleep behind the wheel.
Though these studies are troublesome, other data suggest that truck accidents as the result of driver fatigue are actually decreasing. Indeed, 2009 saw the lowest ever driver fatigue accident rate, in which only 2,987 accidents occurred due to truck driver fatigue. This number was the culmination of a decade of steady decline in accident rates.
The trucking industry is not pleased with the new regulations. Though large freight companies like FedEx and UPS have the workforce and fleet size to keep their drivers on a regular schedule, these companies are the minority in the trucking industry. Almost 90 percent of trucking businesses are small businesses, and 70 percent of trucking businesses own five or fewer trucks. The American Trucking Associations, a trucking trade group, estimates the cost of the new law will be $2 billion annually.
Despite the discontentment of the trucking industry, the new daily driving limits have the potential to keep the nation’s roadways safer by requiring truckers to take mandatory breaks and drive reasonable hours.