Congress has passed $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill to keep the federal government running through 2016.
Included in the bill: a Senate amendment to suspend the parts of the hours of service (HOS) rules for trucking safety.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented the current HOS rules in 2013. The current rules dictate a maximum work-week of 70 hours, but after a 34-hour “restart,” a driver can resume driving before the new week begins.
Comparison of HOS Rules
Prior rule: No limits
Current rule: Two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., home terminal time. May only be used once per week, 168 hours, starting from the beginning of the previous restart.
New rule: 34-hour restart with no time restrictions. No limit on the number of times truckers can declare the start of a new workday.
The new rule is undoing the 2013 changes meant to prevent driver fatigue, and reduce the risk of serious truck crashes.
The Safety Impact of Trucking Laws
A study by Washington State University Sleep and Performance Research compared fatigue levels in truck drivers who took one nighttime (1 am – 5 am) break between shifts with drivers who had two or more nighttime breaks between shifts.
- Semi-truck drivers who had two or more nighttime periods between driving shifts did not experience as many lapses of attention;
- Truckers maintained their lane position better; and
- Drivers reported less sleepiness while on duty.
FMCSA implemented the current rule based on research showing that truck driver fatigue was one of the most common factors in semi-truck accidents and fatalities.
The current HOS rules will be suspended until at least September 2015.
As a provision of this trucking law change, FMCSA has to complete a study on the current rules and their impact before they can take effect again.