Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced the intention to move forward this fall with a proposed rule requiring electronic record keeping of driver hours. While some trucking companies currently have electronic systems designed to track the number of hours truckers can drive, many still use paper systems. These paper systems can easily be manipulated and falsified, making it harder to determine if a truck driver actually followed the hours-of-service rules.
The FMCSA's move towards electronic logging of drive time could help create more accurate records and will hopefully reduce the number of truck accidents caused by tired truck drivers.
In 2011, FMCSA also instituted other hours of service (HOS) rules for truckers designed to make our roads safer. Among the changes was a mandate that truckers take a 34-hour rest break, including two periods between 1 AM and 5 AM, after reaching the maximum number of weekly hours or maximum driving hours over eight days. This requirement, among other new HOS rules, proved controversial and was challenged by trucking industry lobbying groups. Truckers argued that the new HOS rules would force drivers onto roads during peak times, causing more crashes instead of preventing them.
Despite court challenges and industry arguments, most of FMCSA's hours-of-service rules went into effect. Two years later, data is starting to emerge on the impact of these new rules in terms of driver fatigue as a factor in motor vehicle collisions.
How Have New Hours of Service Rules Affected Truck Accidents?
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said a new government report vindicates FMCSA's efforts to push tougher hours-of-service rules. Referring to a study of the rule changes conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a FMCSA press release quoted Foxx as saying: "This GAO report provides further evidence that the changes FMCSA made to the HOS rules improve highway safety by saving lives and lowering the risk of driver fatigue."
The same FMCSA press release about the GAO report highlighted various ways the new HOS rules have had a positive impact. GAO data suggested a decline in fatigue-related truck accidents, a reduction in the number of truck drivers who worked the maximum number of hours and a reduction in fatigue among truck operators. In addition, GAO data showed no increase in fatalities in truck crashes during the 5 AM to 9 AM rush hour period, suggesting concerns about having truckers on roads during prime driving time may have been overblown.
Trucking Info, an industry group, has some disagreements with the FMCSA's interpretation with the GAO study and with the agency's press release. Trucking Info argues FMCSA cherry picked information from the GAO report in order to paint the new, hours-of-service rules in a positive light. Trucking Info pointed to several sections in the GAO's report where it was noted more information must be obtained. For example, GAO suggested a longer-term study was needed to show if crash rates declined over a longer period of time. A larger study might also produce information about the impact of HOS rules on trucker fatigue and driver health.
Even if it is true that more data is necessary to reach more firm conclusions, initial reports seem to suggest FMCSA is on the right track towards reducing truck accidents caused by driver fatigue.
If you were injured or a loved one was injured or killed in an accident, contact us today. The Law Office of John R. Solis has experience protecting the rights of accident victims in Laredo, Del Mar, Hillside, Nye and across Texas. Call 866-465-9093 for a free case consultation.