The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed cutting the hours a truck driver can spend behind the wheel. Currently, the law allows 11 hours of driving per day, but the proposal aims to cut it back to 10 while requiring more breaks.
The Hours of Service regulations were initially introduced with the goal to reduce truck-crash injuries and deaths while maintaining transportation efficiency. As the rules stand, there are companies and drivers who observe the rules and there are those who do not. Those who do not do what it takes to maximize driving time and increase income; often, this requires drivers to skip sleep and rest breaks and later falsify their logbooks to hide the violations.
Though ignoring Hours of Service regulations may financially benefit the driver and/or the carrier company, studies have shown that fatigued drivers are more prone to make poor decisions and careless mistakes.
Point and Counterpoint
Proponents believe the reduction in hours will decrease driver fatigue and improve roadway safety among all drivers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 4,000 people die each year as a result of trucking-related accidents. Of those, about 500 can be tied directly to driver fatigue.
Opponents of the proposed changes take issue with the safety argument – arguing that truck-crash deaths have actually decreased since 2005 following a 2003 increase of permissible driving hours from 10 to 11 per 24-hour period. Further, opponents warn that a decrease in drivable hours will ultimately cost consumers at least $1 billion per year. If carrier companies are forced to change routes, pay more for fuel, and hire more drivers, those costs will simply be passed on to the consumer.
Ultimately, the safety of those on the road is paramount. If these new rules help reduce fatigued driving and thus save lives, they should be heavily considered.