Trump Administration to Relax Truck Safety StandardsSeptember 17, 2019
Fatal truck accidents have risen 40 percent in the past decade. In 2017, 4,657 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes, a nine percent increase from the previous year. Nearly every day, a fatigued truck driver falls asleep behind the wheel and a fatal accident occurs. Overall, one-third of fatal truck accidents result from driver fatigue.
While there are current hours of service rules in place mandating that truck drivers must take certain rest breaks, the Trump Administration plans to relax these safety standards meant to reduce truck fatalities. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the proposed changes will provide the 3.5 million truckers on the nation’s roads with more flexibility.
Current FMCSA Standards
Current FMCSA standards cap driving time at a maximum of 11 hours daily. During those 11 hours, truckers must stop and rest for at least 30 minutes. Truckers must quit driving for the day, no matter how much downtime they experienced, after 14 hours of driving.
Among the proposed changes, the Trump Administration is considering eliminating the 30-minute mandatory break period. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed comments with the Department of Transportation, stating that truckers should be allowed to stop the 14-hour clock for as many as three consecutive hours. While not driving, truckers could rest.
However, safety advocates see the proposed changes differently. The president of the Truck Safety Coalition, whose father was killed by an overtired trucker, says all proposed service hour changes involve extending the amount of time a driver is on the road and increases work limits. There is no data available showing that the proposed changes would increase safety. The head of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety says regulations need enhancing, not weakening, to protect the public traveling on the nation’s roads.
Safety advocates alleged that flexibility is another term for deregulation, arguing driver fatigue will increase and so will truck accidents if the proposed changes become law.
Public Comment Period
Once the FMCSA releases its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, a two-month public comment period on the hours of service changes will commence. After the public comment period, the Trump Administration can move forward with new regulations. Safety advocates say they intend to fight the proposed changes.
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