Trucking association hails new rule on HOS

Jan. 1, 2008
The American Trucking Associations welcomes the interim final rule on drivers' hours of service issued December 11 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety

The American Trucking Associations welcomes the interim final rule on drivers' hours of service issued December 11 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Truck drivers will continue to be limited to driving only 11 hours within a 14-hour duty period, after which they must go off duty for at least 10 hours.

This rule retains key components of the 2004 rule, which ATA has supported because in four years it has led to significant decreases in the number of fatal large truck crashes, the fatal large truck crash rate, the number of injuries from truck-involved crashes, and the injury crash rate.

“FMCSA has made an important contribution to highway safety by keeping in force hours-of-service rules that have led to a reduction in deaths and injuries over the last several years,” said American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves, commenting on the latest FMCSA action.

The new rule reflects research that shows the regulations in effect since 2004 (except for a change in sleeper berth regulations in October 2005) promote driver alertness and enhance highway safety. Components of the rule include:

  • Increasing from eight to 10 hours the minimum amount of time that drivers must be off-duty between shifts, providing a greater opportunity for seven to eight hours of sleep.

  • Reducing the maximum daily on-duty time by one hour from 15 to 14 and eliminating the provision allowing this time to be “tolled” by breaks.

  • Providing a maximum 11-hour driving time per shift to complete runs safely.

  • Promoting schedules nearer to a 24-hour circadian cycle.

  • Allowing for a minimum of 34 consecutive off-duty hours of rest, recovery, and restart to eliminate potential sleep debt.

FMCSA issued the new HOS rule in response to the recent decision by the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals vacating key provisions of the existing HOS rules effective December 27. In order to ensure no gap in coverage of these important safety rules, the December 11 rule temporarily reinstates those two provisions while the agency gathers public comment on its actions and the underlying safety analysis before issuing a final rule, according to FMCSA information.

The latest rule was developed after new data showed that safety levels have been maintained since the 11-hour driving limit was first implemented in 2003. “This proposal keeps in place hours-of-service limits that improve highway safety by ensuring that drivers are rested and ready to work,” FMCSA Administrator John H Hill said.

“The data makes clear that these rules continue to protect drivers, make our roads safer, and keep our economy moving.”

The agency noted that, in 2006, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 1.94, the lowest rate ever recorded. Similarly, since 2003, the percentage of large trucks involved in fatigue-related fatal crashes in the 11th hour of driving has remained below the average of the years 1991-2002. In 2005 alone, the agency noted, there was only one large truck involved in a fatigue-related fatal crash in the 11th hour of driving while in 2004 there were none.

FMCSA said that in addition, between 2003, when the 11-hour driving limit and the 34-hour restart were adopted, and 2006, the percent of fatigue-related large truck crashes relative to all fatal large truck crashes has remained consistent. And the agency's estimates show that only seven percent of large truck crashes are fatigue related.

Hill noted that the agency also is working to finalize a proposed rule that would require drivers and trucking companies with serious or repeat hours-of-service violations to track their HOS using electronic on-board recorders.

The FMCSA cited data collected by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute that showed there is no increase in crash risk in the 11th hour of driving. Government and industry safety data and metrics clearly indicate that the current HOS rules are an improvement in truck safety over the pre-2004 rules. For example:

  • The number of truck-involved fatalities decreased 4.7 percent in 2006 — from 5,240 in 2005 to 4,995 in 2006 — the largest percentage drop in truck-involved fatalities since 1992.

  • The projected truck-involved fatality rate for 2006 is at its lowest since record-keeping began in 1975.

  • The number of truck-involved-crash injuries decreased by almost 2,000 in 2005 and dropped another 8,000 in 2006.

  • The injury crash rate, another accepted metric, also is at its lowest point since Department of Transportation recordkeeping began.

The interim final rule is in effect while the agency collects more data on the safety impact of the two challenged provisions. ATA will work with its members during the next stage of the HOS rulemaking process to document motor carriers' safety experiences under the 11- and 34-hour provisions. A 60-day comment period follows the FMCSA ruling.

Graves also noted that ATA continues to pursue other goals on its safety agenda, including a requirement for speed limiters on new trucks, a 65-mph national speed limit for all vehicles, and increased use of seatbelts.