Truck Driver Sleeping Rules May Be Relaxed By Senate

Less than one year after caps were put in place on the number of hours truck drivers can spend on the road, which were designed to reduce the risk of deadly truck accidents, some U.S. Senators want to allow the industry to reinstate the longer hours.  

In July 2013, truck drivers were restricted to “only” a 70-hour work week. However, some Republican Senators and the truck industry say that the rule has placed more trucks on the road and increased congestion. They are now seeking to reinstate the industry’s 82-hour work week, which is more than double that of the average American worker.

The amendment, sponsored by Republican Senator Susan Collins, from Maine, claims that the rule had unintended consequences and resulted in more trucks being on the road during rush hour, causing inconveniences for businesses and drivers. However, the trucking industry and Republicans opposed the move all along.

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The amendment, which would suspend parts of the new rules for a year, has already been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, the American Trucking Associations announced in a press release issued last week.

The Hours-of-Service of Drivers rule limits the hours per week a truck driver can spend on the road to 70 hours. It also requires two rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. over two consecutive days.

According to a study published earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and researchers from Washington State University’s Sleep and Performance Research Center, the reduced truck driving hours could prevent 1,400 accidents and 19 deaths every year. Researchers found that drivers who had two consecutive nights of rest suffered fewer nighttime lapses than those who only had one.

The rule requires that drivers who have reached 70 hours over eight days, or 60 hours over seven days, take 34 hours off. However, proponents of the rule point out that 85% of truck drivers are not affected by that part of the rule, and that there is no requirement that they drive only during the day time.

That particular provision was targeted by the amendment and would be suspended if passed by the full House and Senate as part of a larger transportation bill.

Trucking lobbyists said that the rules were not based on science and did not anticipate the impact it would have on trucking. However, the rules were crafted following what Transportation officials said were extensive medical research. It took 15 years for the rules to come to fruition, and truck industry lobbyists lost a battle in the U.S. Court of Appeals to have the rules thrown out.


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