(Following is a statement from Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, on hours of service rule for truck drivers)
The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) still doesn’t get it. Today, the agency issued a revised hours-of-service rule that is nearly identical to the rule that went into effect in January 2004 and was unanimously struck down as flawed and illegal by the US Court of Appeals on July 16, 2004. Despite nearly a four percent increase in truck-related highway fatalities while the rule was in effect, (to 5,190 in 2004), the agency made no significant changes to the critical regulations that contribute to truck driver fatigue and overwork. FMCSA once again passed up a golden opportunity to reduce driver fatigue, safeguard the health of truck drivers, and improve highway safety for everyone, truck drivers and the public alike.
The revised rule keeps nearly all of the unsafe aspects of the current rule that went into effect in 2004. It allows truck drivers to drive 11 hours instead of 10 hours each shift, and permits total weekly driving hours of up to 77 (instead of 60) hours and 88 (instead of 70) hours each work week, while keeping the time off-duty allotment for rest and recovery at a woefully inadequate 34-hours. Also, the revised rule fails to address the issue of electronic on-board recorders for keeping track of driver hours-of-service and improving the job of our police to enforce the truck safety rules.
The revised rule included a lone improvement to address fatigue in long-haul drivers, requiring solo drivers using sleeper berths to take a longer single rest period of at least 8 hours as part of their 10-hour off-duty time. However, even this change includes a negative aspect because it also allows the remaining 2 hours of off-duty time to be taken as break-time during the day. This type of shorter break time is often abused by drivers and employers and is used as additional work time instead of rest time.
Unfortunately, by re-packaging and re-issuing an unsafe rule, the FMCSA has failed once again to protect the health and safety of working truck drivers and American families on our roads and highways.
(Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of consumer, health, medical, safety and insurance companies working together to advance highway and auto safety. http://www.saferoads.org)