Legal Review: The Latest in Truck Driving Safety — A Breakdown of Proposed Changes for Truck Driver Regulations

By Personal Injury Attorney Mac Hester of Mac Hester Law

A recent proposal by the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) calls for significant changes to truck driving rules, sparking a debate on whether the changes will benefit all drivers and the safety of the roadways.

According to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, they believe changes need to be made as the number of truck-involved incidents has increased alongside an increase in the regulations on truck drivers.

Current rules on Hours of Service restrict the amount of time truck drivers spend on the roads, the frequency and length of their breaks, and their sleeping hours while on duty. For example, truck drivers cannot drive for more than eight hours without taking a break. Long-haul drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours in 14 hours of driving time, which must be followed by a ten-hour consecutive off-duty break.

The proposed changes address the consecutive ten-hour sleeping requirement. As opposed to ten consecutive hours, the proposal allows the driver to split up the ten-hour consecutive sleeping requirement into two segments, a seven-hour consecutive segment in the sleeping berth, followed by a period of at least two hours in the sleeping berth or off-duty.

Additionally, the proposed changes speak to challenges that truck drivers face in situations such as lengthy traffic jams, which can account for a considerable amount of on-duty driving time.

For example, with the proposed changes, a truck driver who finds themselves in a traffic jam would be able to take the requisite 30-minute break within an eight-hour driving period, by taking the break while in an on-duty, non-driving status — as opposed to an off-duty status.

A recent North Carolina Department of Transportation report showed an increase of 900 crashes involving tractor-trailers from the year 2017 to 2018. Reports such as these shed light on a need to revisit rules and regulations, as well as other factors affecting safety on the roads.

Where cell phone usage by all drivers is reported as a threat to driver safety in general, officials of NCDOT predict that truck driver fatigue is an underreported factor in truck-related accidents.

Whether the proposed changes will help address the truck driving industry’s concern for safe and efficient transportation, as well as lessen the number of truck-involved incidents, is yet to be seen as the proposed changes are mere proposals at this point.

For the proposed changes to go into effect it will not require the approval of Congress, but, instead only the approval of the FMSCA and the Office of Management and Budget.

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