Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations dictate how long a truck driver can be on the road without a period of rest. The goal of HOS regulations is to prevent drivers from driving too long and becoming fatigued, a factor that contributes to 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle crashes. These are important safety measures for everyone on the road.
However, hours-of-service regulations are designed by politicians, not truck drivers; and sometimes drivers feel as though they are not a good fit. Over a decade ago, the rule was set that drivers could not drive for more than 14 hours after coming on duty. After 14 hours, regardless of how many of those hours were actually spent driving, the driver had to clock out for 10 consecutive hours.
Also, under current regulations, drivers must take at least one 30-minute break per eight hours of driving time. That break is included in their 14 hours of on-duty time, even though they are not driving. While this may seem logical to some, drivers often complain that the current regulations are not practical for all situations and create a scenario where drivers have to rush to complete runs within the 14-hour period, sometimes compromising safety. To make HOS regulations more practical for drivers, a bipartisan group of senators has proposed changes to the current regulations.
What Are the Proposed Changes?
The group of senators took the time to listen to truck drivers, and as a result they proposed a bill that would change the hours-of-service rules just a little. Specifically, with the recommendation of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the bill, designated the REST Act, proposes a new rule that allows the 14-hour clock to stop for up to three consecutive hours of rest. This gives drivers better control over how they spend their 14 hours and when they choose to rest. Under the proposed legislation, drivers would still need to take a 10-hour rest period when their 14 hours of drive time are complete, but they could stretch that 14 hours by taking an extended rest period in the middle.
This change would help truck drivers in a few ways, according to Safety and Health Magazine. Since the previous requirement was a 30-minute rest in an 8-hour driving period, but without pausing the 14-hour clock, drivers would take no more than 30 minutes. Sometimes they would have to take the 30 minutes when it was unsafe or impractical to do so. The change would allow drivers to control their rest times better, taking longer rests when needed to stay alert on the road, without sacrificing the timeliness of their deliveries.
Do the Changes Make Others Safer?
While these proposed changes may make the situation safer or more convenient for truck drivers, the real question is how well they will protect the safety of everyone else. The key to answering this question is determining whether a longer break that stops the 14-hour clock would allow sufficient rest to prevent driver fatigue. As the bill goes before Congress, this will likely be a key talking point.
Whether under the current regulations or the new proposed regulations, commercial truck drivers who drive when they are tired create a serious risk for other drivers. If you have been injured in a collision involving a truck and want to learn more about your legal options, contact Billy Johnson for a free consultation.