Feds Put Off Issuing New Trucking Safety Rules

Federal safety officials missed their own deadline Friday for making new rules about dangerous trucks.

A 76-year-old man in LA county was hit by a truck while riding his bike in 2008. Republicans want to keep current trucking laws in place that Democrats and others say lead to driver fatigue, causing accidents like this one. Photo: ##http://news.aitkenlaw.com/verdicts-settlements/nearly-6-million-for-elderly-bicyclist-struck-by-semi-tractor-trailer/##Aitken Aitken Cohn##

October 28 was the original deadline by which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was supposed to announce new hours-of-service regulations for trucking, but in the end, they gave themselves another month to do it.

The pending change is the result of a lawsuit brought by Public Citizen, the Teamsters Union, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and the Truck Safety Coalition against the FMCSA to tighten the standards. The suit resulted in an agreement that the FMCSA would change the current 11-hour driving day and the 34-hour rest period before starting a long workweek to a 10-hour driving day, keeping the 34-hour “restart” but with new restrictions.

The Bush-era rule has been struck down twice before by the courts, but the FMCSA kept reinstating it — first in late 2007 and then about a year later. This time, the agency appears ready to make a change.

The 11-hour rule was a “midnight regulation” made during President George W. Bush’s final days in office, according to the Teamsters. The Bush administration increased the workweek from 60 to 77 hours of driving and reduced the restart period from 50 hours to 34.

The Teamsters say truck crashes cost the nation $20 billion in 2009, and that truck driver fatigue is a major factor in truck crashes. Some statistics indicate fatigue is a factor in 30 to 40 percent of truck crashes, though the FMCSA itself puts the number at 5.5 percent.

“We will continue to push for a rule that protects truck drivers, instead of the greed of the trucking industry,” said Teamsters President Jim Hoffa when the court case was decided two years ago. “Longer hours behind the wheel are dangerous for our members and the driving public.”

The problem isn’t limited to highways. Six percent of pedestrian fatalities and nine percent of bicyclist fatalities in 2009 were caused by crashes with large trucks, according to the NHTSA. Between 1996 and 2005, crashes with large trucks accounted for almost a third of all cyclist fatalities in New York City, according to a joint report by NYC agencies [PDF].

Industry lobbying groups including the American Trucking Associations and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have mobilized against the changes. OOIDA says new safety rules would negatively impact not only “driver flexibility and the business operations of small-business truckers” but highway safety as well.

Some lawmakers have aligned with the trucking industry. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) has claimed that reducing the hours of service is “cost-prohibitive” and that the “impact on safety is unclear.” Republicans are uniformly against the changes, with everyone from House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor to Transportation Committee Chair John Mica working “aggressively” to block any alteration to the hours-of-service provisions.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has urged Congressional leaders to go along with the new safety rules, saying they apply “the most comprehensive and up-to-date data and analysis to the issue of driver fatigue and allowable hours of service” while allowing carriers “new operational flexibility.”

 

  • Anonymous

    A couple of things, since I report about this stuff on a daily basis.

    – This rule is coming about because FMCSA settled a lawsuit. It did not agree in the settlement to reduce driving time to 10 hours. It only agreed to go back through the rulemaking process.
    – The agency said in its NPRM that it “favors” 10 hours, but it did not literally propose 10 hours. It said it would considering 10 or 11, and wanted comments on that.
    – On the “midnight regulation” thing, yes, the Teamsters would likely say that.
    – On fatigue: whatever the number of truck-involved crashes, in the vast majority of them, drivers were not complying with the current hours-of-service rules. So if not following the law is dangerous, do we change the law, or do we increase compliance with the law (see also: electronic on-board recorders)?
    – On Hoffa’s quote: no, the court case was not decided, it was settled and placed in abeyance.
    – The number of truck-involved fatalities have dropped dramatically in the years since the current rule was made effective, even when accounting for changes in total truck miles driven (in other words, despite the horrible economy).
    – The personal injury lawfirm where you got the story from does not mention truck driver fatigue as a factor of the crash. Since the lawfirm doesn’t provide more than first initials and last names for the parties in the case, I can’t find whether fatigue was a factor. Are you implying it was?

    I know that Streetsblog doesn’t consider itself an objective news source, but really. You basically rewrote some Teamsters press releases here.

  • vhamer

    Gawd that image is horrifying.

  • Jerry

     Fatigue is probably a one of many major contributing factors to car/truck and other accidents, but, the fatigued factor (in my opinion based on forty years of trucking) is caused by unrealistic overly restrictive, incredibly, confusing, broad and sometimes incoherent, regulations made mostly by people using misinformation based on slanted statistics and or by people whom have never driven nor have ever even been in a truck. More regulation and control means more revenue for local State and Federal Government.

    Why isn’t the information included, whereby, AAA did a study that shows 80% of car/truck accidents are caused by drivers of cars that have no clue as to how to drive around large trucks. This appears to be the failure of the State to properly set standards to qualify new drivers.  It’s much easier to blame and create more regulation than to address the underlying problem. Kinda’ like the medical system. Fix the symptom and ignore the cause.

    I’m not suggesting deregulation, but, I believe that the miss-regulations are the number one factor that cause drivers to drive while tired. First of all the10 hour sleep requirement is totally unrealistic and absurd.  How many (working) people actually sleep 10 hours? Especially if you are forced to.

    I myself need less than 8 hours. So waiting around for the ten hours to pass causes anxiety because the beginning of your day is wasted. Then when it’s time to drive you must drive 11 hours without being able to take a break or catch a nap if you become tired because you have a limited amount of time to get to your destination.

    Not to mention the pressure placed on the driver to “get there” by the company (dispatcher) who’s only trucking experience comes from a computer program that doesn’t factor in real time driving conditions. So now you are forced  to “get there“ tired or not!.  This is a very stressful environment. Stress causes fatigue.  

    With the old rules you could have stopped and napped for 2-3 hours and then extended your on duty time while driving rested and still drive for only ten hours. Giving the driver the option to control his own body clock.  We would be better off with the old 10-12 hour day with the option to extend it.  

    You can tell that some advocates of more draconian rules have no clue because they think the 34 hour off duty restart causes more fatigue. They can’t have it both ways. If less driving time (11 to 10 hours) equals a more rested less fatigued driver then how can 34 hour off duty cause a more fatigued driver?  

    Cumulative fatigue is a combination of factors caused by miss-regulation. It’s the result of the pressure to “get there” when there is not enough time, less compensation, warehouse receivers that tie up drivers for anywhere from 2 to 10 hours on a simple unload without compensation and then dispatch blames the driver for not hustling, overzealous police and D.O.T. who will actually pull over a truck on the side of the highway shoulder and conduct an inspection, putting both the driver and inspector in danger. They are probably pressured into it by their superiors for revenue gathering.

    The stress, distraction, depression, anxiety, sleepiness and who knows what else is what is causing severe fatigue.  If you haven’t experienced it, it’s hard to grasp.  Don’t ask a politician or some mislead feel good organization, ask a truck driver.

    I started driving in 1967. Trucks were much less powerful, it took longer to get where you were going, but it was a pleasant job.  Heck, it actually was an adventure. There were regulations, but not like now. Now it’s like being on a chain gang. Every scale, cop and inspector looking to fine you to bankruptcy. Even a typo on your log book is considered “Falsification”!!  If congress were held to the same standards (which they should) they’d all be in Leavenworth!

    How would you like to be in surgery when the doctors 11 hour operating time was expiring and he had to just rush the surgery?  He’d only kill one person if the rush job proved to be a bad option… a stressed out, rushed, depressed and ultimately fatigued driver could kill many more.

    I added “depressed” because I have spoken to many drivers over the years and they now make about half the money because of  “miss-regulation” as they did before and most of them are struggling to keep up with simple living expenses.  That adds to the “stress”, which causes “fatigue”.

    Another major factor in car/truck accidents is the fact that state licensing requirements do not include any instruction in the pre-license manuals for new drivers that includes information on skills regarding interaction between large commercial vehicles and cars.

    Most drivers, young and old, new and experience haven’t the slightest clue how to drive around trucks. They insist on getting on your right blind spot and wonder why they have an accident. They’ll speed up to prevent you from moving over when it is absolutely necessary in emergencies.  They’ll get on your right side while you’re making a wide right turn and end up under the trailer. And the most dangerous and dumb thing they do is cut in front of an 80,000 lb laden truck and stop with incredible disregard for their own life; and then when any of the above results in an accident every one assumes it must be the trucks fault because of fatigue. Wrong, it‘s mostly because of untrained, careless, arrogant and downright stupid (emphasis added)  drivers of cars.  

    The cumulative factors of fatigue are actually caused by many factors. Starting with the lack of adequate time causing pressure to “get there“  no ability to take short breaks, anxiety, untrained and dangerous car drivers, draconian regulations based on miss-information and intentionally slanted statistics,  overzealous  D.O.T. inspectors, who’s main job is to collect revenue under the guise of “safety” .  

    All of the above is not remedied simply by restricting the drivers even more. Remember, whenever Government tries to make something better, it usually gets totally screwed up. Do you know of anything Gov. has done that actually work for the better?? Remember when they “simplified” the tax code? I rest my case.

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