For many years, the hours-of-service rules, part of the federal trucking regulations governing truckers across the nation, dictated that all drivers had to complete what is known as a 34-hour restart period. Essentially, this meant that once their workweek was complete, truckers needed to spend 34 consecutive hours off duty before getting back behind the wheel.
This all changed on July 1, 2013, however, thanks to newly introduced federal regulations dictating that the 34-hour restart period between workweeks must now include at least two consecutive time periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Here, this rather significant change was introduced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as a means of cutting back on the number of serious and even deadly truck accidents attributable to driver fatigue.
While the amendment to the 34-hour restart period was lauded by vehicle safety advocates, it has encountered major opposition from a variety of parties, including the trucking industry.
Indeed, the chair of the American Trucking Associations announced at a conference just last week that one of his group's top regulatory priorities for the upcoming legislative session is a rollback of the newly introduced restrictions on the 34-hour restart period.
Here, the primary arguments made by opponents of the amendment is that it gives drivers less time on the road, which, in turn, creates a need for more drivers and trucks, while working to drive down salaries. They also argue that it results in more truckers hitting the road at 5 a.m., the start of heavy morning rush traffic in many U.S. cities.
It remains to be seen whether these lobbying efforts prove successful. It is worth noting that Senator Susan Collins sponsored legislation calling for a yearlong suspension of the new 34-hour requirement pending completion of a study on its potential impact. While it passed a Senate appropriations committee, it failed to make it to the Senate floor.
It will be interesting to see whether Congress seeks to change the new 34-hour restart rule in the coming year. Here's hoping that they don't move too hastily given its potential to prevent truck crashes and save lives.
Source: JOC.com, "Trucking lobby 'not letting go' of battle over driver work rules," William Cassidy, Sept. 26, 2014