For years, trucking companies have lobbied against federal hours of service (HOS) rules, which limit the number of hours a driver can operate a commercial vehicle. While these rules are meant to keep everyone on the road safe, the trucking industry argues that they too restrictive and complicated.
Now, a series of proposed changes may loosen these important regulations. In this blog, Crosley Law explains the hours of service rules, the proposed changes, and how you can protect yourself from truck wrecks involving drowsy drivers.
What Are the Hours of Service Rules?
The federal government enacted the first hours of service rules in 1937, due to concerns about truck driver safety and fatigue. Since then, all interstate truck drivers must follow strict rules about the amount of time they can be on the road. To prove their hours of service, drivers had to keep accurate logbooks that track their time driving.
Unfortunately, some drivers and companies kept fraudulent logbooks to avoid penalties and liability. In 2018, electric logging devices (ELDs), which cannot easily be forged, became mandatory for many truckers. By electronically recording truck information and drive times instead of trusting drivers and their employers to accurately report the information, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) drastically improved HOS compliance.
However, the trucking industry opposes these safety rules and is working on loosening them.
The Trucking Industry Pushes for “Flexibility” and Deregulation
Once the ELD mandate forced the industry to follow the existing federal hours of service rules, the truck industry began fighting back. Some of the opposition focuses on the ELD mandate itself. However, the industry is also pushing for deregulation and encouraging the government to create more “flexibility.”
Demands for ELD Exemptions
With encouragement from the trucking lobby, some lawmakers have proposed laws that would exempt companies from ELDs. One such bill applies to small carriers with ten or fewer trucks in their fleet. Supporters of the Small Carrier Electronic Logging Device Exemption Act argue that ELDs are too expensive and burdensome for businesses with small fleets.
However, many small carriers have poor safety records. They are also more likely to be a “chameleon carrier,” or a truck company that re-registers as a new company whenever it develops a poor safety record. This practice sometimes allows them to continue operating when they might otherwise have been shut down.
Other proposed bills include exempting trucks carrying agricultural products or livestock from the mandate.
FMCSA Proposes New “Flexible” HOS Rules
The FMCSA recently published proposed changes to its hours of service rules, in response to complaints from the trucking industry. The changes would permit longer drive times, including:
- Increasing total daily driving times and route lengths, as long as drivers take additional 30-minute breaks
- Decreasing the mandated consecutive hours of sleep to only seven hours
- Allowing trucks to operate longer in adverse weather conditions
While these rules will benefit trucking companies, short breaks and longer drive times may increase the likelihood of drowsy driving.
How Are Driver Fatigue, HOS Rules, and Truck Crashes Connected?
Research clearly shows that drowsy driving increases the risk of a serious wreck. Unfortunately, many trucking companies value speed and profits more than our personal safety. The HOS rules and ELD mandates are powerful tools that can hold coercive companies and reckless drivers accountable.
Driver Fatigue is a Top Ten Contributor in Truck Crashes
Studies show that we need roughly eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to function. Sleep-deprived adults are more likely to suffer from psychological issues like depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Additionally, fatigue has been proven to cause performance deficits that affect driving ability, including:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased reaction times
- Memory issues
- Lower overall productivity
- Poor decision making
In the worst cases, drivers can lose consciousness.
“By electronically recording truck information and drive times instead of trusting drivers and their employers to accurately report the information, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) drastically improved HOS compliance.”
According to FMCSA’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, driver fatigue is one of the top ten causes of truck crashes. The study found that fatigue causes 13% of truck crashes and has one of the highest relative risks among the other top ten contributors—only driver inattention ranked higher than fatigue in both frequency and risk. While 13% may not sound like much, this means that tens of thousands of crashes are caused primarily by fatigue every single year.
To make matters worse, most experts believe that drowsy driving is underreported and underestimated.
Hours of Service Rules Decrease Truck Driver Fatigue
There have been countless studies linking truck drivers’ time on the road and fatigue. In 2016, a group of government and independent agencies compiled decades worth of truck driving data that assessed fatigue. The results varied based on the type of truck, routes, and number of participants in each study.
However, there were some common trends. There is a clear link between a driver’s time on the road and their level of fatigue. At least one study found that taking breaks from driving, like those required under the HOS rules, increased safety.
Crosley Law Fights for Victims of Truck Accidents
Although the FMCSA claims that flexible HOS rules will not compromise our safety, the truck accident attorneys at Crosley Law are not convinced. Our attorneys have experience investigating truck companies and have first-hand knowledge of how they attempt to manipulate the law, sacrificing safety for profits. Allowing additional flexibility in the HOS rules will likely result in more companies forcing drivers to exceed their allowed driving hours.
If you or a loved one has been in a truck wreck, please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys about your case. Call 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or complete this brief online form to schedule your free consultation today.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. (June 2018). Electronic logging devices: Improving safety through technology [infographic]. Washington, DC.: U.S. Department of Transportation. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/regulations/enforcement/406471/eld-infographic-6-month-update-f2508621.pdf
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Publishes Hours of Service Proposal to Improve Safety and Increase Flexibility for Commercial Drivers. (2019). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/newsroom/federal-motor-carrier-safety-administration-publishes-hours-service-proposal-improve-safety
Field, A. (14 January 2009). Why sleep is so important. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2009/01/why-sleep-is-so-important.html
Jaillet, J. (21 March 2019). Bill to exempt small carriers from ELD mandate filed in U.S. House. Commercial Carrier Journal. Retrieved from https://www.ccjdigital.com/bill-to-exempt-small-carriers-from-eld-mandate-on-deck-in-u-s-house/
Panel on Research Methodologies and Statistical Approaches to Understanding Driver Fatigue Factors in Motor Carrier Safety and Driver Health. (2016, August 12). 7, Fatigue, Hours of Service, and Highway Safety. In Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Fatigue, Long-Term Health, and Highway Safety: Research Needs. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK384974/
The large truck crash causation study (July 2007). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief
Watson, N., Badr, M., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D., Buxton, O., Buysse, D.,… Tasali, E. (2015). Joint consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society on the recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult: methodology and discussion. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 11(8), 931–952. Retrieved from https://aasm.org/resources/pdf/pressroom/adult-sleep-duration-methods.pdf
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
Related ArticlesView All Blog Articles
Your Guide To Texas Rollover Crash ClaimsFeb 15, 2021
The aftereffects from a large truck rollover accident can be extensive and potentially devastating. When a large truck like a semi or delivery van is involved in a crash, the damage can extend beyond just the commercial driver and their vehicle – and the results may be severe. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 71% of people killed in large truck crashes in 2018 were the occupants of other vehicles. Or take it from the Insurance […]
6 Common Causes of Truck Accidents and How to Prove ThemNov 19, 2020
After a serious truck accident, your friends and family will probably ask you, “what happened?” Many times, there’s no clear answer. Sure, the truck veered into your lane or jack-knifed, but what happened in the moments before the wreck? Could it have been avoided? What should you do next? At Crosley Law, we help answer […]
What’s Negligent Hiring and Will It Affect My Truck Wreck Case?Jun 16, 2020
After a catastrophic truck wreck, most people focus their attention on the driver who caused the crash. However, there’s usually a lot more to the story. When trucking companies value profits over safety and people, they make irresponsible hiring decisions that contribute to wrecks. Truck injury lawyers refer to these claims as negligent hiring cases. […]
How Does Insurance Work in a Commercial Truck Accident?Apr 21, 2020
Many truck wreck victims have never been in a collision before and aren’t sure where to start. At Crosley Law, we know how overwhelming the aftermath of a truck crash can feel, especially if you or someone you loved suffered serious injuries. Before you contact the insurance company or accept a quick settlement, you need […]
What Causes Truck Tire Blowouts?Feb 25, 2020
An average of 8,000 truck crashes involve tire failures each year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study. However, the cause of these tire failures is not always clear. While speed and tire maintenance may play a significant role, other factors can contribute to a failure. If you’ve been […]
Truck Wrecks vs. Car Crashes: 3 Essential DifferencesJan 14, 2020
Truck wrecks are over two times more likely to be fatal than car crashes, according to recent Texas crash data. But that’s not the only difference that sets them apart. If you or a loved one have been injured in a truck wreck and are considering filing an injury claim, your claims will be more complex because you may have to navigate federal trucking rules and a tangle of competing […]
Will “Flexible” Trucking Rules Encourage Drowsy Driving?Nov 12, 2019
For years, trucking companies have lobbied against federal hours of service (HOS) rules, which limit the number of hours a driver can operate a commercial vehicle. While these rules are meant to keep everyone on the road safe, the trucking industry argues that they too restrictive and complicated. Now, a series of proposed changes may […]
What Is the ELD Mandate and Is It Making Our Roads Safer?Sep 26, 2019
In 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) began requiring that all commercial truck companies install electronic logging devices (ELDs) in their fleet vehicles. These devices have now replaced the paper logs that drivers formerly used to track their on-duty hours, helping to enforce hours of service laws. If you or a loved one […]
Who Is Liable in a Commercial Truck Accident?Sep 12, 2019
Truck collisions are often more traumatic and cause more severe injuries than regular passenger vehicle crashes. But the physical and psychological effects aren’t the only differences between the two types of collisions. Large truck cases are significantly more complex than those involving only passenger vehicle crashes because they involve more parties and defenses — and […]
How to Get a Fair Settlement in Your Truck Accident ClaimAug 27, 2019
In 2018, there were 37,515 crashes involving commercial vehicles in Texas, resulting in over 600 fatalities and thousands of serious injuries. Truck crashes can cause devastating injuries — leaving victims overwhelmed, pressured, and struggling to figure out what to do and how to move on. Have you been injured in a truck wreck? Personal injury […]
Do you or a family member
need legal advice?
Crosley Law Firm, PC is a professional corporation of trial lawyers focused on representing individuals and families who have suffered serious personal injuries or wrongful death. If you’ve been injured, fill out the form for a free consultation, or call 210-LAW-3000.