New Hours of Service Laws Spark Controversy

A federal trucking regulation that limits a trucker’s hours on the road took full effect in July 2013. This trucking rule, called Hours of Service, was mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The new law is aimed at reducing trucker fatigue and increasing overall safety on the road for truckers and other drivers. However, the regulation is sparking controversy from opponents who argue that truckers, consumers, and small business owners are negatively affected.

Hours of Service Rule

The main component of the Hours of Service rule states that truck drivers are limited to a 70-hour work week. This figure has been reduced 12 hours from the outdated 82-hour maximum. In turn, it is expected that drivers will be more rested, and therefore road safety from fatigued drivers will improve. The FMCSA notes that the Hours of Service rule will only impact the most extreme schedules. An estimated 85 percent of truck drivers will remain unaffected.

Other components of the Hours of Service rule state that:

  • Drivers who reach the 70-hour limit may resume driving under the condition that they receive 34 hours of consecutive rest, including a minimum of two nights when the body’s clock most demands sleep: 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Drivers must take a 30-minute break within a shift’s first eight-hour period

Trucking Law Controversy

Critics of the new Hours of Service regulations argue that the trucking industry will suffer a yearly loss of roughly $376 million, which will affect drivers, businesses, and other parties who depend heavily on the industry. The American Trucking Association has filed a lawsuit against the FMCSA in an attempt to halt the regulations. In addition to the limitations on hours, truckers and trucking companies face large fines when the rule is violated. Each time a driver violates the new regulations, he or she may face up to $2,750 in civil fines. The company allowing the driver to do so may face fines of up to $11,000.

Trucking Law Projected Benefits

The FMCSA asserts that the Hours of Service rule will have a number of benefits for the public. Long hours are often associated with a lack of adequate sleep. In turn, a lack of sleep is associated with chronic fatigue and an increased risk of crashes. Sleep deficit may also cause several chronic health conditions in drivers, including high blood pressure, obesity, sleep apnea, and diabetes. The FMCSA projects that the new regulations will save 19 lives each year. Additionally, an estimated 560 injuries and 1,400 crashes are expected to be avoided.