A rig with shipping container on a highway

The oft-delayed and yet-to-be-released changes by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to the trucking industry’s hours-of-service (HOS) rules are again causing controversy. As a reaction to lawsuits challenging the FMCSA’s rule changes to the trucking industry in 2004, the FMCSA (under the Obama Administration’s guidance) agreed to amend the rules – further promoting driver safety and health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average commercial drivers’ life expectancy is 16 years less than similarly situated people in other industries. FMCSA spokesperson Anne Ferro notes other alarming health statistics about truck drivers, including:

  • 54 percent of commercial drivers smoke tobacco versus just 21 percent of the general public
  • Just 10 percent of commercial drivers exercise on a regular basis
  • Half of commercial drivers are overweight or obese, compared to only 33 percent of the adult population as a whole

It’s with these startling statistics in mind that the FMCSA set out to amend the rules governing the working conditions of commercial drivers, and not any attempt to outsource driving jobs or cost trucking companies more money.

Driver Safety at Heart of Proposed HOS Rule Change

Not Everyone’s in Favor of Amending the Rules

The proposed rules have still not yet been released. The publication date has been repeatedly delayed, but isn’t set before the end of this year. The American Trucking Association (ATA) hasn’t slowed its opposition of the new HOS laws, however, fearing that they’ll reduce a driver’s efficiency by:

  • Reducing the number of driving hours
  • Increasing the number of hours of rest required to restart a driver’s on-duty time
  • Establishing a rule of at least one rest break for every shift

In its opposition, the ATA cites data showing that motor vehicle accident fatalities involving semi-trucks were down 33 percent in 2009 compared to those reported in 2003, the year before the current rules took effect. The ATA also notes that property-damage-only crash rates involving tractor-trailers are the lowest they’ve been in over 30 years. The ATA also states that advancements in diesel exhaust reduction, power steering, automatic transmissions and improved suspensions on trucks are aiding in driver health and safety.

Furthermore, the ATA reasons that if driver on-duty hours are reduced, companies will have to hire additional, possibly inexperienced drivers to move the same amount of cargo, thus forcing freight companies to incur additional expenses that’ll be passed along to the consumer. They also fear that inexperienced drivers – with an accident rate more than three times that of veteran drivers – pose a huge risk to the public.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident involving a semi-truck, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate the complex rules and regulations that govern the transportation industry.