Hours-of-service rules upheld for truckers, fewer fatigued drivers likely

Due to their sheer size, commercial carriers, including 19-wheelers and commercial buses, pose a heightened risk to motorists on the roadways. Depending on the loads they carry, in some cases, each can weigh in excess of 10,000 pounds-surely no match if a roadway collision were to occur with a much smaller vehicle.

As such, these vehicles are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA, as it’s known, issues rules and regulations these carriers must follow, including hours-of-service, or HOS rules.

Recent HOS rules were finalized a couples of years ago and many of them were implemented July 1, 2013.

Specifics of the new HOS rules

Specifically, the rules involve limiting drawn-out driving times of drivers who push the limits-essentially helping to cut down on trucking accidents caused by fatigued drivers. The just of the HOS rules essentially require operators take breaks after driving 8 consecutive hours and mandate that they take at least two breaks during of 1-5 am.

Despite the safety concerns, the new rules were not unanimously accepted-particularly by those doing business in the trucking industry. The American Trucking Association, an organization advocating on behavior of thousands of truckers, took the issue to court this past March.

A Court of Appeals panels finally issued a decision earlier this month.

The decision on the HOS mandates

The court essentially upheld most of the HOS rules – dismissing the arguments made by the plaintiff, American Trucking Association, that the rules were baseless.

One rule, however, relating to rest periods after 8 hours of driving was stuck down. The Court stipulated that this rule would not apply to short-haul drivers, or those operating commercial vehicles within a 100 mile air radius. The rule, however, was upheld for all other drivers.

Commercial carriers play catch-up

Hopeful that the court ruling would side with the trucking industry and strike down the rules, many commercial carriers took a gamble and did not implement the new mandates within their fleets.

Now, the July 1 deadline has come and gone and the new rules are seemingly permanent. Many commercial carriers will now have to make swift changes in their procedures to make sure drivers are following the new rules. If they don’t they could face strict penalties or even shut-down.

Once all drivers are following the strict driving and rest periods, safety advocates are hopeful trucking accidents associated with fatigued drivers will decrease.