Will the FMCSA miss its July 26 deadline for posting a final hours rule? This week, the agency placed into its hours-of-service docket four new studies on driver fatigue — all of which suggest that stricter standards saves lives. It is accepting public comment on the studies until June 8.
Hours of service rules state that a commercial driver cannot drive more than 10 (or 11) total hours without a minimum amount of rest. As a trucking attorney, I am in favor of anything that makes roads safer. On the other hand, most trucking companies and industry associations oppose changing the 11-hour rule back to a 10-hour rule.
Two of the new studies focused on fatigue in truck drivers, and one found that crash risk in the 11th hour wasn’t necessarily higher than in the 10th hour of driving. However, it found increased risk of a “safety critical event” if truckers drove late in their 14-hour shift. These findings come from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, where researchers spent four weeks studying 97 drivers covering 735,000 miles.
The other truck-specific study found much higher crash risk in the 11th hour of driving, but it did not track when in the workday the 11th hour occurred. That study came from Penn State’s Larson Transportation Institution. (The remaining two studies addressed fatigued bus drivers in Florida.)
’11th Hour’ Actions
A variety of commercial entities voiced concern about the FMCSA’s “11th-hour” actions, noting that introducing the new studies so close to the agency’s court-ordered July 26 deadline for a new HOS ruling makes it much easier to violate that deadline.
That deadline arose from an October 2009 settlement in a lawsuit that challenging the FMCSA’s current HOS rule. Public Citizen, the Teamsters union and Advocates for Highway and Automotive Safety filed the lawsuit.