The Department of Transportation is moving to ease federal drive-time regulations for truckers. Such a dangerous move will allow truckers more hours on the road without rest and sleep breaks, increasing the risk of truck crashes that cause serious injury or death.
Fatigued Truckers Pose Dangers on the Road
The Trump administration may soon relax federal drive-time rules for commercial truck drivers. Safety advocates warn that more flexible “hours of service” may increase dangers on the road due to driver fatigue, a serious problem within the trucking industry. In 2017, there were 4,657 large commercial trucks involved in fatal crashes on U.S. roads and highways. Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that at least 60 truckers in these accidents were identified at crash sites as fatigued, drowsy, or asleep at the wheel.
Under current federal trucking regulations, commercial truckers are not permitted to be on the road for more than 11 continuous hours without mandated rest and sleep breaks. The regulations limit long-haul commercial truckers to 11 hours of drive-time within a 14-hour on-duty window. Truckers are required to have 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time before the on-duty drive-time clock starts again. In addition, drivers who are on the road for more than eight hours are required to take a 30-minute break before the eight-hour mark hits.
On-duty and off-duty time for commercial truckers is automatically recorded by electronic logging devices (ELDs). During the Obama administration, paper logs were replaced with ELDs to address problems with truck driver fatigue and promote trucking safety. ELDs, now mandatory for all commercial truckers, are wired to the truck’s engine and have a display screen that’s visible to the driver, so he/she can track their drive-time.
Drive-time violations are accurately recorded, and truckers who receive violations face steep monetary fines and driving penalties. In a recent incident, a 39-year-old truck driver in Pennsylvania was forced to pull off the road just five minutes from his home. Since he had reached his maximum drive-time limit of 11 hours for the day, he had to wait another 10 hours before he could drive again.
The trucking industry has a strong relationship with President Trump, who has prioritized easing federal trucking regulations. Since Trump’s first year in office, at least a dozen transportation safety rules have been delayed, withdrawn, or repealed.