A new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety survey indicates that drivers of interstate trucks spend more time behind the wheel under the federal hours-of-service rule that went into effect in 2004.
This rule lengthens the mandatory rest period by two hours but lets drivers stay on the road an extra hour every day. A workweek restart provision increases allowable driving hours in a seven-day period from 60 to 77. A quarter of drivers who were surveyed said they drive more than the new daily limit of 11 hours. Eight of 10 drivers said they're taking advantage of the restart provision that allows them to drive 25% more in a week.
While the drivers said their sleep time has increased under the new rule, they reported slightly more instances than the previous year (when the old work rule was in effect) of driving drowsy or falling asleep at the wheel. The reported percentage of drivers dozing at the wheel at least once in the past month rose from 13% (2003, under the old rule) to 15% (2004).
“The new rule was supposed to improve safety, but our survey shows the opposite,” says Anne McCartt, Institute vice-president for research. “Truckers are using the restart provision to squeeze even more driving hours into the week.”
Enforcement of work hours has long been a problem. The survey shows this hasn't changed. About a third of drivers said they sometimes or often omit hours worked from their logbooks. A proposal to include electronic onboard recorders was dropped before the new rule went into effect.