Truck drivers are a vital part of our economy. They deliver goods across the nation, and as COVID-19 continues to present challenges and increase the demand for certain items, we rely on truck drivers for many essential products. Getting deliveries on time is more important than ever, but at what cost?
To ensure road and commercial truck driver safety, there are Hours of Service (HOS) regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA). HOS revisions during COVID-19 have sparked debate about the impact on safety. With driver exhaustion already an industry concern and known cause of truck accidents, the changes have called to question whether we’re doing our best to protect both truck drivers and other people sharing the road.
There is support and scrutiny around these HOS regulations, with advocates pushing a review and repeal of the changes. Here’s why.
Hours of service revisions and safety concerns
Hours of Service regulations exist to address and limit truck driver exhaustion and prevent truck accident fatalities and injuries from occurring. While the FMCSA says the HOS changes were put in place to add flexibility and offer better safety for drivers, there are many concerns by advocates who feel otherwise.
There were four revisions to the HOS regulations: an increase in maximum shift hours, additional time allowed in adverse driving conditions, changes to how many and how long rest periods are, and a new split-sleeper option. Advocates against the Hours of Service changes feel they increase the risk of driver exhaustion, the very thing the HOS rule is supposed to limit. It’s led highway and auto safety groups to petition and challenge the new rules in federal court, arguing that the provisions have reduced safety instead of improving it.
Those against the changes reason that research on fatigue and truck accident data outright contradicts the FCMSA’s reasoning. With a new maximum shift length of 14 hours from the previous 12, as well as a 50% increase in air-miles for what qualifies as short-hauls, the argument is that fatigue will only rise. The increased drive-time and flexibility of rest and off-duty periods makes roadways less safe and puts every driver at greater risk. Overall, the changes are putting pressure on drivers who could, under the new rules, be afraid to drive up to 77 hours in seven days for the company.
Another aspect of the HOS revisions allows truck drivers to stay on the road up to an additional two hours during adverse weather conditions. Icy roads, fog and snow are a few of the conditions the FCMSA considers adverse. The option of extending time on the road when it’s more dangerous to do so contributes to the safety concerns.
The dangers of truck driving
A national census on the most dangerous jobs concluded that heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers had the highest number of fatalities among occupations from 2016-18. The data also showed that transportation incidents are by far the highest cause of fatal work injuries. Add in that truck accidents have been on the rise for many years, and there’s added cause for concern about what the HOS changes are causing.
What causes truck wrecks?
Known causes of truck accidents include negligence, such as truck driver exhaustion, driver intoxication, improperly loaded cargo, and poorly maintained trucks. Accidents involving them can be brutal; the truck’s size and weight are much larger than the average personal vehicle on the road. They can’t brake nor stop quickly, something smaller and lighter vehicles do to avoid or lessen the seriousness of damage and injury or death.
Whether advocates win their case to repeal the Hours of Service revisions or not remains to be seen, but no doubt organizations on both sides will be watching carefully.
If you or a loved one is involved in a crash with a commercial truck, contact the personal injury attorneys at Murray & Murray today to discuss your legal options.
Partner at Murray & Murray Co., L.P.A.