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New hours-of-service rule implemented for truckers

On Monday, new federal regulations intended to reduce the occurrence of truck accidents caused by driver fatigue were imposed upon commercial carriers. The new regulations will reduce the maximum average workweek for truck drivers from 82 hours to 70 hours and require commercial carriers to take at least one 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

The new hours-of-service rules are expected to save an average of 19 lives per year and prevent some 1,400 crashes annually.  The new rule was originally announced back in December 2011 in the wake of litigation initiated by Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group. Trucking companies were at that time given 18 months to incorporate the rules and train their drivers according to the new rules. 

The new rule has been controversial, though, with representatives from the trucking industry attempting only two weeks before the implementation of the rule to make a last ditch effort at opposition. The most controversial aspect of the new rule is the so–called “restart provision,” which previously permitted truckers to reset their weekly clocks after taking a work break of 24 hours or more. The new rule specifies that the provision may only be used once per week, and must include two rest periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

The restart provision was originally implemented in 2004, and has been a long-time sore spot among advocates for highway safety. By means of the provision, truckers were able to go beyond federal hour limits and become fatigued.

Only around 15 percent of truckers will be affected by the new rules, and there will likely be improvements in the number of fatalities to show for it. 

Source: Commercial Carrier Journal, “Happy hours-of-service day!,”  Dean Smallwood, July 1, 2013. 

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