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Petition Aims to Preserve Regulations that Prevent Fatigue-Related Truck and 18-Wheeler Accidents

The nation’s largest truckers’ union has joined forces with a trio of prominent safety groups in a bid to invalidate weakened Hours of Service rules that will take effect later this month.

In a petition filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on September 16th, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, as well as the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) argued that the new rules aren’t backed by data and would only lead to more fatigue-related truck and 18-wheeler accidents.

“By issuing this HOS regulation FMCSA has bowed to special trucking industry interests at the expense of highway safety, seeking longer workdays for drivers who are already being pushed to the limit,” said Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa. “We join this lawsuit to ensure that our members and their families are protected from fatigued drivers when they use our nation’s highways.”

The groups had already petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to prevent the watered-down rules from taking effect earlier this year, to no avail.

Fatigued Driving a Factor in 40% of Truck and 18-Wheeler Accidents

It’s estimated that fatigued drivers contribute to as many as 40% of the trucking-related accidents in the United States every year.

The Hours of Service rules were first implemented in the late 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 fatigued driving is dangerous for obvious reasons, the trucking industry – one of President Trump’s staunchest allies — has long sought to gut the regulations, arguing they deny truckers needed flexibility.

The Trump administration directed the FMCSA to revise the Hours of Service rules shortly after the president took office in January 2017. The modified regulations made their debut in June 2020 and will take effect on September 29th.

Trump Administration Weakens 4 Key Hours of Service Provisions

The final proposal weakens the regulations in four key areas:

  • 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.

The Trump administration claims the new Hours of Service rules will allow the trucking industry more flexibility and save the economy $274 million per year without compromising safety. But the petition’s filers obviously disagree.

“The FMCSA regulators are once again failing to protect public safety.  Under this Administration, truck crash deaths are increasing, and we know what needs to be done to reverse this trend,” said CRASH Chair Joan Claybrook. “Nevertheless, FMCSA is working overtime to dismantle and weaken the minimal safety protections that still remain for drivers and the public.  We hope the courts will halt FMCSA’s ill-advised and dangerous proposal.”

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