Changes to Hours of Service Rules for Truckers Raise Questions About Safety

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced proposed changes to its hours-of-service rules. These rules govern how long truckers can drive in a stretch, as well as break times and how they spend their off-duty time in the sleeper berth of the truck. The hours-of-service (HOS) rules are a crucial safeguard for ensuring drivers of heavy commercial vehicles are well rested and alert on the roads.

“This proposed rule seeks to enhance safety by giving America’s commercial drivers more flexibility while maintaining the safety limits on driving time,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a statement.

However, others disagree. “In an effort to increase so-called ‘flexibility’ for trucking companies, the FMCSA is abandoning safety and allowing drivers to push themselves to the limit even further,” International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said in a statement.

The proposed changes to the HOS rules include:

  • Lengthening the maximum on-duty period for short-haul truck drivers from 12 to 14 hours.
  • Modifying the “adverse driving conditions” exception by extending by 2 hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted ─ allowing drivers to stay on the road longer if they encounter bad weather, for example.
  • Allowing one off-duty break of 30 minutes to 3 hours that would pause the driver’s 14-hour driving window (provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the shift). This could allow drivers stop the clock while they sit out traffic jams, then get back on the road.
  • Allowing drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one of at least 7 consecutive hours in the truck’s sleeper berth and the other of not less than 2 consecutive hours either off duty or in the sleeper berth. (Truckers do not have to be sleeping in the sleeper berth.)
  • Increasing flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after 8 hours of “driving time” instead of “on-duty time.” The proposed change would also allow for an on-duty break rather than the current requirement of an off-duty break.

At Burch Law Firm, we know how crucial it is for commercial truck drivers to get the rest they need to stay safe on the road. We have seen the devastation that a fatigued truck driver can cause. All too often, we represent crash victims and families who have lost loved ones because a truck driver did not get enough rest or violated HOS regulations.

“The driving factor in any changes to hours-of-service regulations should be improvements in safety for everyone on the road, not flexibility for truck drivers and trucking companies,” said respected truck collision lawyer Troy Burch of Burch Law Firm in New Braunfels, Texas. “As advocates for those who have suffered catastrophic injuries at the hands of fatigued drivers, we urge the FMCSA to carefully consider the impact of these proposed changes.”

About Burch Law Firm

For more than 25 years, the truck collision attorneys at Burch Law Firm have been fighting for the rights of accident victims. The law firm is widely respected for having the knowledge, the skills, and the resources to take on large insurance companies and trucking companies. The semi-truck accident attorneys serve injured individuals throughout South Central Texas, including New Braunfels, San Marcos, Seguin, and Comal County.