Myth: There was no need to update the Hours-of-Service rule.
Fact: Thousands of people die in large truck crashes each year and driver fatigue is a leading factor. In 1995, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Transportation to address fatigue-related motor carrier safety issues. Through a series of rulemakings, FMCSA attempted to do so but was embroiled in litigation for nearly 10 years, creating uncertainty for the industry.
In 2011, after years of research and public input from industry and safety advocates, FMCSA finalized the rule that took effect on July 1, 2013 and is in place today. In August 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the current hours-of-service rules, after twice overturning previous versions. The Court said, “…our decision today brings to an end much of the permanent warfare surrounding the HOS rules.”
Myth: The latest rule was put into place without proper research, study or public input.
Fact: Before finalizing the current Hours-of-Service rules, FMCSA held six public listening sessions, an online question and answer forum and carefully considered approximately 21,000 comments that were also submitted from drivers, carriers, and industry associations.
The 2011 final rule lists 80 sources of scientific research and data considered by the Agency and the Regulatory Impact Analysis cited nearly 50 scientific sources. All of this was on top of hundreds of studies regarding fatigue and hours of work that were considered in past HOS rulemakings.
A third-party also conducted one of the largest naturalistic field studies to measure fatigue among commercial motor vehicle drivers that concluded the current 34-hour restart provision is more effective at combatting fatigue than the previous version.
Researchers measured sleep, reaction time, subjective sleepiness and driving performance, and found that drivers who began their work week with just one nighttime period of rest, as compared to the two nights in the updated 34-hour restart break:
Exhibited more lapses of attention, especially at night;
Reported greater sleepiness, especially toward the end of their duty periods; and
Showed increased lane deviation in the morning, afternoon and at night.
Myth: All truck drivers are negatively impacted by the updated rule.
Fact: Less than 15 percent of long-haul truck drivers — those who worked the most extreme schedules– are impacted by the current rule, according to the Regulatory Impact Analysis. Those extreme schedules, averaging more than 80 hours per week, are limited in the revised HOS rules by requiring these drivers to adopt schedules averaging no more than 70 hours per week. Short-haul truck drivers who operate within a 100 or 150 mile radius are not even required to take the new 30-minute break.
Furthermore, working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a higher risk of crashes and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers. A recent study by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that 69 percent of truck drivers were obese and 54 percent smoked. Additionally, 88 percent of long-haul truck drivers reported having at least one risk factor (hypertension, smoking, and obesity) for chronic disease, compared to only 54 percent of the general U.S. adult working population.
Myth: Crashes, injuries and fatalities were lower under the old Hours-of-Service rule.
Fact: While the rate of fatal crashes involving large trucks per 100 million vehicle miles traveled decreased each year from 2005 through 2009, it rose, along with increased demand for freight shipping, from 2009 through 2012.
Myth: The Hours-of-Service rule is hurting a trucker’s ability to make money and trucking companies’ bottom lines.
Fact: This rule has been in place almost a full year; a year in which the industry has seen higher profitability than any year since 2009. Only those drivers who were working up to 80 hours per week before may be affected by having their work limited to an average of 70 hours per week, which is still nearly double the national standard of a 40-hour work week. Such long hours of work can lead to ailments and disabilities that would greatly impact the driver’s income.
Myth: The Hours-of-Service rule is forcing truck drivers to be on the road during the day and rush hours.
Fact: This rule does not prevent drivers from setting their own schedules or restrict them from being on the roads during any time of the day. Only if a driver exceeds 60 hours of work in 7 days (or 70 hours in 8 days) does he or she have to take at least 34-hours off duty including two periods from 1-5 a.m. in order to “restart” the clock on a fresh work week. Even then, there is no requirement that such a driver “hit the road” at 5:00 a.m. The revised HOS rules provide considerable operational flexibility.
Myth: The rule’s drive-time restrictions are forcing some drivers to shut down their trucks when they’re just a few miles from their destinations.
Fact: That will always be the case, no matter what the limits on driving and work hours are, if the motor carrier and driver plan the schedule so tightly that the driver can barely complete the run legally.
Myth: This rule is exacerbating the driver shortage.
Fact: As the economy strengthens and demand increases, more truckers are needed to transport freight. However, high driver turnover is endemic in the trucking industry due to the difficult working conditions, low wages and the demands of the job. The American Trucking Associations determined that in 2013, driver turnover averaged 96 percent compared to 2005 when it reached an all-time high of 130 percent. Shortages of drivers, when and where they do exist, depend more on salaries and working conditions than on other factors.
(Note, 12/8/16: I think that this is from here: http://annaleahmary.com/2014/06/fact-sheet-on-truck-driver-hours-of-service-from-dot-fmcsa/)