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Former NHTSA Administrator Decries Trucking Industry Supplied Language Likely to Further Harm Highway Safety

Safety watchdogs and advocates focusing on the trucking industry have long insisted that hours of service rules are necessary to protect the millions of motorists who share the roads with large commercial trucks. These advocates also argue that drivers themselves need these limits because the economic incentive to drive even when it is not safe to do so is too significant. The simple fact is that large commercial truck crashes kill more than 4,000 people and injure more than 100,000 each year. Common sense safety rules can reduce the likelihood of fatigued driving and other dangerous practices and reduce the likelihood and incidence of highway accidents.

Unfortunately, according to an array of highway safety groups, it appears that industry lobbying groups are attempting to push through legislation that safety advocates claim would significantly increase the number of hours a commercial vehicle operator could drive. They claim that this proposal will significantly harm highway safety.

Dispute Stems from 2013 Debate Over FMCSA Rest Rules

The debate over the hours of service regulations stems from a 2013 dispute over two new regulations introduced to supplement the hours of service rules. The standard rules set forth limits on the number of hours both property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers can operate their commercial motor vehicle. For instance, under the rules, there is an 11-hour driving limit that does not allow a driver to exceed 11-hours of driving after 10 hours off duty. Furthermore, property-carrying commercial motor vehicle drivers are typically limited to 60 or 70 service hours over a seven or eight consecutive day period, respectively.

The provision that generated significant debate, legislative action, and distrust among safety advocates was the scuttling of the 34-hour restart rule by Senator Collins from Maine.  Safety advocates claim that this action was a concession to the trucking industry that endangers the health and safety of all motorists. By contrast, industry representatives claim that the rule was ill-conceived and failed to consider all factors affecting highway and trucking safety.

A new trucking hours of service proposal spearheaded by Senator Collins again has safety advocates on edge. This proposal would allow a truck driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle for up to 73 hours in a week in an increase over the current limits of 60 or 70 service hours. However, the increase under the rule would not become available until the driver had taken a 34-hour restart rest period. The 73-hour cap would allegedly eliminate any possibility or loophole that would allow an operator to be on duty for more than 73 hours.

Proposed Rule Faces Criticism by Former Head of FMCSA, Safety Advocates, and Trucking Groups

Despite passing out of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee chaired by Collins unanimously, the bill has run into significant opposition advanced by an array of groups. The Trucking Alliance, an industry group comprised of some of the largest trucking companies in the nation, opposes the rule on the basis that Congress’ electronic logging device mandate is scheduled to come into effect in December 2017 and any further hours of service restrictions should be guided by statistical data provided by this program. Furthermore, the industry group opposes the rule on the grounds that it would preclude drivers from operating a CMV for greater than the 73 hours in a period.

However, other groups seem to have concerns about the rule for more positive safety-related reasons. For instance in a letter to the Portland Press Herald, former administrator or National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Joan Claybrook, claims that the measure introduced by Senator Collins is evidence that she “continues to be the star quarterback for special trucking interests seeking to repeal safety regulations that protect the lives of truck drivers and Maine families.” She further charges that the “annual government spending bill has become [Collins’] private domain for pushing anti-truck safety measures.” Claybrook cites as examples Collins’ efforts to significantly increase permissible truck weights in Maine and throughout the nation despite the existence of reasonable limitations in 39 states.

Injured by a Fatigued Commercial Truck Driver? Let an Experience Truck Accident Lawyer Work for You

Driver fatigue is a significant problem among commercial drivers. Fatigue significantly increases the likelihood of driver error while also dulling one’s ability to react quickly and appropriately to situations one might encounter on the road. If you or a loved one have been affected by a fatigued truck driver, contact the truck accident lawyers of Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team today by calling (215) 246-9000 or contact us online today.

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