The Fight Over Federal Rest Rules

Are Today’s Federal Rest Rules Safe?

There has been a lot of talk lately regarding recently changed federal regulations that govern rest periods a driver must take before returning to the job. USA Today recently posted an opinion article stating current regulations are “dangerous” and lead to nearly 10 fatal crashes a day (Full Article Below).

Bill Graves, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations opposed USA Today’s article stating that current systems have lead to a 22% decrease in truck-related fatalities from 2003-2012 (Full Article Below).

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Tracy Morgan crash spotlights trucking safety: USA Today

Arduous work schedules, tired truck drivers and 40-ton rigs have long been a dangerous combination. On an average day in the USA, large trucks are involved in nearly 10 fatal crashes. The death toll rose every year from 2009 to 2012, the most recent for which data are available.

The victims include entire families, newlyweds heading home from honeymoons, teenagers and infants. About one of every seven crashes involves a driver who was considered “fatigued” at the time.

These accidents typically don’t generate wide attention, unless they are particularly gruesome — or involve a celebrity such as Tracy Morgan. The Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock veteran was critically injured, and a fellow comedian was killed, when a sleep-deprived tractor-trailer driver slammed into their Mercedes limousine about 1 a.m. Saturday.

That made national news. But you probably didn’t hear about the crash along an Illinois highway in January, when a trucker who had slept less than four hours during a marathon 37.5-hour shift rammed into a police car parked with its lights flashing. A tollway worker was killed and a state trooper was severely injured.

Despite this carnage, safety advocates seeking regulations that would shorten drivers’ hours and require more rest time have made little headway against the trucking lobby.

In 2003, the Bush administration increased the time drivers could be behind the wheel each day to 11 hours. For nearly 70 years, the limit had been 10 hours. In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration refused to reverse that dangerous addition.

But the agency did add some improvements, including a change to the so-called restart rule. The new rule requires drivers who’ve hit their maximum hours (for instance, 70 hours in eight days) to take 34 hours off. It requires that the break include two periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Common sense, scientific studies and experts all agree on the restorative powers of nighttime sleep, which coincides with people’s circadian rhythms. Regulators studying truck drivers found — surprise! — that those who began the week with just one night’s sleep had more attention lapses and reported greater sleepiness than those with two nights.

Last year, a federal appeals court agreed there was “compelling” evidence that two nights are better than one and rejected the trucking industry’s objections.

Having failed in the courts, the trucking industry has turned to its friends in Congress. Last week, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, joined by 20 colleagues in a committee, voted to suspend the new rule for a year. The gutting of the rule was barely noticed — until the Morgan crash. The full Senate and House ought to have enough sense to leave it alone.

Rules, of course, don’t mean much unless they are enforced. Regulators have a ready solution.

Many drivers now keep manual logs of hours, breaks and time off — records that are easy to manipulate. Under a proposed rule, those records would be kept digitally. That would deter drivers from gaming the system, and make the roads safer.

This article originated from the following link:

ADA’s Response to USA Today’s Recently Posted Article

In wake of USA Today’s post, Bill Graves, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations stated the following:

“First, let me state unequivocally that American Trucking Associations supports almost all of the hours-of-service rules for professional truck drivers. We support daily and weekly driving limits, mandatory off-duty time, the daily rest break rule, and the concept of the “restart” provision that prescribes rest periods between workweeks.

What we take issue with are limitations on how that restart is used and the process employed to implement those new restrictions.

For a decade, America’s truck drivers delivered the vast majority of our nation’s freight with the ability to restart their workweeks by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off. This simple and enforceable rule contributed to a 22% decline in truck-involved fatalities between 2003 and 2012, even as trucks drove over 50 billion more miles.

In the face of this safety improvement, federal regulators imposed changes in 2013 without doing required research into what would happen if they limited restarts to once a week and required the off-duty period to include two stretches between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

In the past year, these changes have put more trucks on the road during morning rush hour, a riskier proposition than overnight driving, according to the government’s own statistics. The changes reduced productivity. And they disrupted many truck drivers’ chosen sleep and duty schedules, leading some to leave trucking. The agency charged with regulating trucking told us these were “unintended consequences.”

A Senate committee requested, and we support, a one-year suspension of these restart restrictions while the unintended consequences are studied. That’s how good public policy gets made.

Right now, sensible regulations are languishing. These include rules requiring trucks to have electronic logs, or have their speed electronically limited. This will prevent more crashes than this restart rule. But the agency has focused on a rule that potentially hurts safety.

We ask the government to return to the previously effective restart rule and advance sensible regulations to improve highway safety for all Americans.”

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