Truckers Want Longer Hours. Is That A Good Idea?
Trucking industry interest groups may have finally gotten their way. The United States Department of Transportation is considering weakening current hours of service regulations to provide motor carriers and truck drivers with greater flexibility. The move comes at an interesting time, with the most-recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports indicating that fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses have increased by 42% since 2009, with driver error one of the leading truck accident causes.
How Big is The Problem?
Although only 60 truckers involved in fatal crashes in 2017 were found to be asleep or fatigued, safety advocacy groups such as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have long held that drowsy driving is significantly underreported on police crash forms. And with updated hours of service rules potentially extending the current 14-hour on-duty window to 17 hours, the number of truckers driving drowsy is likely to increase.
Truckers, however, chafe at the idea of complex regulations that are increasingly out-of-step with the day to day realities they face. Poor road conditions and congested highways make mandatory breaks and limited service hours impractical, they say, forcing drivers to pull over at unusual times and in potentially unsafe locations.
Dealing With Drowsy Driving
To address the issue, the NTSB has included reducing fatigue-related accidents in its 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. Amongst the 200+ recommendations proposed are a combination of science-based regulations, fatigue risk-management programs, and individual actions, all designed to mitigate the risks of driving while fatigued.