Hours-of-service (HOS) rules for truckers, which have been in place for decades, have recently been changed by Congress, and these new HOS rule changes have stirred up much concern among federal regulators at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

What are HOS Rules?

HOS rules are federal regulations that specify how long commercial drivers, like truckers, can drive and/or be “on duty” during any given shift and/or during any given work week. While the first HOS rules were put in place in the U.S. in 1938, these regulations have been updated numerous times over the years, with far stricter HOS rules being enacted within the last two or so decades.

New HOS rule changes have relaxed some of the stricter components of HOS regulations for truckers. Here’s why this is concerning safety officials.

New HOS rule changes have relaxed some of the stricter components of HOS regulations for truckers. Here’s why this is concerning safety officials.

The goal of HOS rules is to:

  • Prevent truckers from driving excessive hours on end
  • Reduce the incidence of trucker fatigue
  • Protect the American public on the roads by reducing the number of driver fatigue-related accidents (as these collisions are entirely preventable).

What are the New HOS Rule Changes?

While HOS rules are extremely detailed (with a more in-depth look at these regulations being available here), the latest HOS rule changes specifically pertain to the requirement that truckers have at least two “rest” periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. at a home terminal in a given week.

In particular, the new HOS rule changes have suspended this requirement, making federal regulations less strict. Effectively, this has meant that truckers can:

  • Once again drive for 82 hours in a given work week (bumping the maximum drivable hours up from 70 hours per week)
  • Reset their “work week” more than once in an actual given calendar week
  • Have more flexibility as to when and how they take their “rest” periods.

Why the New HOS Rule Changes are Generating Regulatory Concern

Although these HOS rule changes have been widely lauded by the trucking industry, federal transportation safety regulators have expressed their significant concern over these changes and how they may impact the public’s safety on U.S. roadways.

As U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has noted in regards to these HOS rule changes:

The evidence clearly shows that truck drivers are better rested and more alert after two nights of sleep than one night, and that unending 80-hour work weeks lead to driver fatigue and compromise highway safety.

Supporting this contention are some statistics and facts regarding the dangers of trucker fatigue. We’ll take a closer look at those numbers in an upcoming blog that will be posted soon. Don’t miss it!

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