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Bill Targets Trump’s Rollback of Rules that Prevent Fatigue-Related Truck and 18-Wheeler Accidents

Democrats in the House of Representatives are making a last-ditch effort to delay implementation of weakened Hours of Service rules, the vital safety regulations intended to prevent truck and 18-wheeler accidents caused by driver fatigue.

Earlier this month, they introduced the INVEST Act, a five-year, $494 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill that, among other things, would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct a “comprehensive review” of the revised Hours of Service rules before they could take effect.

The provision, if passed, would delay implementation of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollback by as much as 18-months.

Trump Targeting 4 Key Hours of Service Provisions

The federal Hours of Service rules have been on the books since the late 1930s and limit the number of hours interstate commercial drivers may remain on the road without taking a break or going off duty.

The Trump administration began targeting the Hours of Service rules more than two years ago. In May, the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) finalized a proposal that would drastically weaken four critical provisions by:

  • Modifying the 30-minute break provision to require a break after 8 hours of consecutive driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows time on duty, but not driving, to qualify as a 30-minute break.
  • Increasing on-duty limits for short-haul operations from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air-miles to 150
  • Extending the maximum driving window by two hours if a driver encounters adverse conditions
  • Altering the sleeper berth exception by allowing drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods. The revised rules permit a driver to take one break of at least seven hours in the sleeper berth, while a second lasting at least two consecutive hours could be taken either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the 14‑hour driving window.

Truck Accidents and Driver Fatigue

Driver fatigue is considered a significant contributor to truck and 18-wheeler accidents. The Trump administration maintains the revised Hours of Service regulations will save the economy millions and allow truck drivers more “flexibility” without compromising safety. But critics assert that the FMCSA’s proposal ignores established science that proves driver fatigue and crash risk are impacted by the quality of sleep, as well as the times when driving occurs.

“For years the safety community, including the [National Transportation Safety Board] have provided studies revealing that fatigue is a real problem, and a contributing factor in too many truck crashes,” Peter Kurdock, general counsel for Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, told shortly after the weakened regulations were unveiled.

“Crashes continue to go up, and it’s made worse when you have the added issue of drivers already risking their lives by being on the front line of this pandemic, along with first responders and hospital workers. This is a particularly bad time to make their job even more dangerous than it already is.”

FMCSA Not Anticipating Hours of Service Rule Delay

The INVEST Act must still pass the House of Representatives. If it does, the House version would need to be reconciled with the version released by the Republican-controlled Senate earlier this year. Unfortunately, Republicans in both chambers of Congress oppose many of the INVEST Act’s provisions, including those related to the new Hours of Service rules.

For now, the weakened Hours of Service regulations will take effect on September 29th. Joe DeLorenzo, director of the FMCSA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement, recently told members of the National Tank Truck Carriers that his agency was “not anticipating any delay in implementation,”

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