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FMCSA Confirms Weakened Hours of Service Rules Will Take Effect September 29th

Trump to Gut Regulations that Prevent Fatigue-Related Truck Crashes | Louisiana Truck Accident Lawyer

It appears the Trump administration’s plan to weaken regulations intended to keep exhausted truckers off the road is moving forward.

During the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) 2020 Truck Safety Summit held virtually on August 5th, acting administrator Jim Mullen confirmed the administration’s revised Hours of Service regulations were “on track” to take effect September 29th, despite concern the impending changes will lead to an increase in fatigue-related truck and 18-wheeler accidents.

Trucking Industry One of Trump’s Staunchest Allies

The Hours of Service rules date back to the 1930s and limit the number of hours long-haul truckers and other interstate commercial drivers can remain behind the wheel without taking a break or going off-duty.  While fatigue driving is clearly dangerous, the trucking industry has long sought to gut the regulations, arguing they deny truckers needed flexibility.

Eager to curry favor with one of his staunchest allies, President Trump directed the FMCSA to “reform” the Hours of Service rules shortly after taking office in January 2017.  Earlier this year, the White House granted final approval to a proposal that will significantly weaken four crucial Hours of Service provisions:

  • Modifies the 30-minute break rule 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 the half-hour break.
  • Increases on-duty limits for short-haul operations from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air-miles to 150
  • Extends the maximum driving window for adverse conditions by two hours.
  • Weakens the sleeper berth exception by allowing drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods.

Driver Fatigue May Contribute to 40% of Truck & 18-Wheeler Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that deadly crashes involving at least one large commercial truck were up 1% in 2019. Fatigued drivers could be responsible for as many as 40% of the trucking-related accidents that occur in the United States every year.

While proponents of the new Hours of Service rules insist the changes will not compromise safety, opponents remain unconvinced.  Earlier this summer, the Teamsters Union, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers, and the Truck Safety Coalition petitioned the FMCSA to reconsider the planned reforms.

“The weakening of the hours-of-service rules will undoubtedly endanger the lives of truck drivers and the citizens with whom they share the roads every day,” the organizations wrote. “Despite claims that these revisions will empower drivers to make independent choices to address fatigue more efficiently, the repeated mention of traffic, foul weather, and detention time belies this claim as the agency’s actual justification for this proposed change to the hours-of-service rules.”

Unfortunately, Mullen’s recent remarks strongly suggest the petition did not have its intended effect.

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