Wake Up Call: New Hours of Service Regulation for Truck Drivers

You probably know how it feels to drive tired. Your reaction time slows, you have trouble focusing, and holding your head up grows more difficult as you continue to drive. You are in danger — and so is everyone else on the road around you.

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Now imagine you are driving an 18-wheeler. In the last decade, research revealed driving fatigued is driving impaired. Examining the problem, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found driver alertness is variable, truck drivers are not objectively good at estimating their alertness, and driving ability may be tied to time of day, rather than time spent on the driving task.

In November, 2011, FMSCA Administrator Anne Ferro reported almost 4,000 people died in truck accidents in 2010. Responding to the rising death toll and the growing body of evidence about fatigued driving, FMSCA revised hours of service (HOS) regulations for those who drive commercial vehicles.

HOS regulations were first established in 1938 and quickly became a battleground for industry and safety advocates. The latest revision to the HOS rules took effect in February of this year. Elements of the revised HOS rule include:

Maximum number of work  hours per week were reduced by 12 hours
After eight hours, a driver must take a 30-minute break
Truckers can drive a maximum 11 hours per day

Fatigued driving is dangerous. Several of my clients were permanently disabled, or their loved ones killed, in trucking accidents. Fatigue research and HOS revisions serve a wake-up call to anyone who drives too tired to see straight.

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