Nearly a decade ago, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) began making efforts to reform the rules and regulations that govern our nation’s truck drivers. In order to reduce roadway accidents and promote highway safety, the DOT began reducing the number of hours worked by truck drivers. On July 1, 2013, the department issued a rule limiting the number of hours a driver could work and implementing required breaks. The new rule reduces the average maximum weekly hours worked to 70 hours. This is a 15% reduction-down from 82 hours per week. The rule also prohibits a driver from working if more than eight hours have passed since the driver’s last sleep break or off-duty period, which must have last for at least thirty minutes. The DOT explained: “The goal of this rulemaking is to reduce excessively long work hours that increase both the risk of fatigue-related crashes and long-term health problems for drivers. The objective of this rule, therefore, is to reduce both acute and chronic fatigue . . . .”
While it appears the U.S. Department of Transportation had the best interests of the truck drivers in mind when formulating these changes, the drivers are none too pleased about the new rules. Arkansas Trucking Association board member, Greg Carman, and vice chairman of the American Trucking Association, Duane Long, are two of the many truck drivers voicing their opinions on the restrictive new rules. Carman stated: “The agency used logic that forcing break, rest or driving periods at a particular time was a one size fits all proposition. [Data] were introduced by people that have never experienced being in a truck.” Echoing these sentiments, Mr. Long explained that “[T]he gap between the administration’s rhetoric and the trucking industry’s operating reality is very wide. These changes are having a very real and very negative impact on hundreds of thousands of drivers and motor carriers.” Additional criticism of the rules is also undoubtedly a result of the estimated $470 million in added expenses the trucking industry in now facing due to these changes.
Despite the negative comments by those in the trucking industry, the Department of Transportation stands by its revisions. DOT officials defend their actions by citing fewer accidents and fatalities in recent years than in those before the changes took place. Ultimately, the department and its officials are concerned with the health and safety of truck drivers and other drivers on the road, and they feel as though their efforts to improve safety are the top priority.
Nevertheless, those in Washington who represent the interests of the truckers are seeking to delay the implementation of the DOT’s new rules. United States Representative Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., filed the TRUE Safety Act in an attempt to delay such implementation until the accuracy and reliability of the methodology underlying the changes in the rules can be determined. The bill is expected to pass the House, but likely will not survive a vote in the Senate.
It will be interesting to watch this debate play out. If you want more information on the Department of Transportation’s new rules and regulations concerning the trucking industry, feel free to contact The Higgins Firm today.