With the revised Hours of Service ruling tied up in hearings, there’s grim news on U.S. trucking fatalities. An estimated 4,000 trucking-related deaths scarred our roads in 2010, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro, who revealed these initial findings in testimony on Wednesday, Nov. 5. That represents more than an 18% jump from the 3380 trucking fatalities in 2009.
In 2009, in addition to the 3,380 truck crash deaths, 74,000 others were injured. Ferro delivered these facts in testimony on the pending truck driver hours of service (HOS) reforms before a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee.
As a national truck accident attorney and author of the legal treatise Litigating Truck Accident Cases, I believe these numbers argue for a return to the 10-hour rule, which states commercial drivers can only be on roads for 10 hours at a time (versus the 11-hour rule currently in effect). More important is adopting technology that helps ensure compliance, like electronic logbooks and technology that can save lives, such as the collision avoidance systems that are now available in many automobiles.
I stand with safety groups, such as the Truck Safety Coalition, as well as victims’ families and labor groups, which have all been urging the Obama Administration and Department of Transportation to issue a safer truck driver HOS rule.
Trucking forces have been clinging to the current 11-hour rule, which permits truck drivers to drive 77 hours per work and work up to 84 hours per week. Industry reps had cited falling trucking fatalities in the last few years, but safety advocates have denied a causal link between the current HOS rule and any recent declines in deaths.
Efforts to change the current HOS rule stem from a legal agreement between the DOT and safety and labor groups, which have challenged it three times in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In 2004, the Court vacated the HOS rule on the grounds that the Bush Administration’s regulators had not considered the effects of longer hours on driver health and safety. In 2007, the court overturned the rule again for want of public comment on the agency’s analysis. FMCSA was sued for a third time on this rule after issuing it as a “midnight” rule in late 2008. That suit yielded the agreement noted above. The proposed revision of this rule is under review now by the White House Office of Management and Budget.