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The FMCSA's proposed changes to hours-of-service regulations may put drivers at risk

The current hours-of-service (HOS) regulations exist for a reason: to prevent crashes caused by truck drivers who get drowsy behind wheel. According to EHS Today, changes to the HOS rules have been proposed by trucking industry advocates the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

“This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

What changes are being proposed?

The proposed rule changes include five critical revisions that are believed to address both convenience and safety within the trucking industry:

  1. 30-minute break rule: The agency seeks to relax the 30-minute break rule by integrating it into eight-hour shifts. In addition, truckers will be allowed to take uninterrupted 30-minute breaks while being on-duty rather than off-duty.
  2. Changes to the 10-hour off-duty requirement: Currently under the HOS regulations, truck drivers are required to take 10 consecutive hours off-duty between 14-hour shifts. The FMCSA proposes to allow truckers to split those hours into two periods. The first period is seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. The second period is no less than two hours off-duty or in the sleeper birth. This off-duty time wouldn't have any impact on the 14-hour shift.
  3. Changes to off-duty breaks: The agency seeks to allow truck drivers to take one off-duty break for a minimum of 30 minutes within a 14-hour driving period, but no more than three hours. Truck drivers are still required to take 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time between 14-hour shifts.
  4. Extended driving time: Drivers are currently only allowed to drive for 11 consecutive hours within a 14-hour shift. The FMCSA proposes to extend permitted driving time by two hours during adverse driving conditions.
  5. Changes to short-haul exception: The short-haul exception applies to commercial drivers who report back to their work location on a daily basis. The FMCSA seeks to extend the maximum on-duty time up to 14 hours. In addition, the agency proposes to extend the driving distance limit up to 150 air miles.

Safety concerns raised by these proposed changes

The FMCSA believes these changes will save the U.S. economy and American consumers up to $274 million. Since authorizing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in 2018, the FMCSA has received more than 5,000 public comments both for and against the proposal. The American Trucking Association estimates that these changes will help improve safety on U.S. highways.

Opponents to these changes have expressed safety concerns. Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa believes the revisions to the HOS regulations will only encourage truck drivers to push beyond their limits.

“We shouldn’t be sacrificing the health and safety of drivers just to pad the profits of their big business bosses,” said Hoffa.

Unlike smaller passenger cars, commercial trucks are massive and can weigh up to 80,000 lbs. when loaded with cargo. Whether or not these proposed changes to HOS will make our roads safer is yet to be seen, but truckers and the companies that employ them still have a duty to uphold. When their failure to do the right thing results in someone being injured or killed, they should be held accountable.

If you were injured in a truck crash, or lost a loved one, the experienced Indiana truck accident attorneys at Boughter Sinak, LLC can help you in the pursuit of justice. We'll fight tirelessly to maximize your compensation. Our law office is located in Fort Wayne. Contact us online today to schedule your free case evaluation.

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