By Richard Shapiro, Virginia Trucking Injury Lawyer
Last week the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on a 2014 GAO study that looked at the hours-of-service (HOS) changes that were made four years ago. The report looked at both the assumptions and effects of the new rule. The new HOS rules were implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2011.
The HOS rules state how long commercial truck drivers moving freight can work and drive each week. The provisions required all drivers that work the longest hours using the 34-hour restart option must have two overnight periods during such a restart. The theory was that this would provide big rig drivers with a better chance for restorative sleeping, which would improve driver safety. Drivers also could only use the restart one time per 168 hours.
During the 18 months that the new HOS rules were in effect, the GAO report found strong evidence of less driver fatigue and better road safety. For example, the study found the following:
- Fewer fatal truck crashes
- Fewer drivers working maximum hours
- Lower risk of drivers falling asleep at the wheel
- No increase in truck accidents during the 5 am to 9 am rush hour
The GAO report also found that HOS study data supporting the provision that mandating that drivers taking a restart must be off duty for two nights does reduce fatigue. Further, the report concluded that the new HOS rules would have the most effect on drivers working the longest hours.
US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated that the GAO report “provides further evidence that the changes FMCSA made to the HOS rules improve highway safety by saving lives and lowering the risk of driver fatigue.”
Our Virginia trucking injury lawyers applaud the new HOS rules and are glad to see that the new regulations seem to be working well. Trucking companies’ highest obligation is the general public, and ensuring their drivers are moving freight safely.
In the future, we would like to see the FMCSA look more closely at how truckers and dispatchers often look at safety differently. Some truck drivers have reported that they were forced by their dispatchers to continue driving, even when they were exhausted. We think the FMCSA would be well served the next time they want input from stakeholders to keep in mind this dilemma that drivers often face.