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New Rules for Truck Drivers Spur Debate

The new hours-of-service rules reflect the administration’s concerns that truck drivers who do not get enough rest put other motorists at risk. Studies conducted by the FMCSA concluded that working long hours on a continuing basis can lead to chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes, and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers. The agency estimates the new safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 truck accidents and 560 injuries each year.

FMCSA’s new hours-of-service final rule:

  • Limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours
  • Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume driving if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most – from 1-5 a.m.
  • Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift
  • The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.

Companies and drivers that commit flagrant violations could face stiff penalties. Trucking companies and passenger carriers that allow drivers to exceed driving limits by more than three hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Legal battle underway

Some members of the trucking industry are challenging the changes, which they see as too restrictive. The American Trucking Associations have filed a law suit against the FMCSA to prevent the new rules. The suit alleges the rules contain “arbitrary and capricious” provisions that force “unwanted and unnecessary” changes on drivers.

However, according to the FMCSA, “Only the most extreme schedules will be impacted, and more than 85 percent of the truck driving workforce will see no changes.” The agency also contends that the new regulations will provide a broader economic benefit. They estimate there will be $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health. “Most importantly, it will save lives,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro.

Dangers of drowsy driving

Commercial truck drivers are especially susceptible to drowsy driving. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported that drowsy driving was probably the cause of more than half of crashes leading to a truck driver’s death and for each truck driver fatality; another three to four people are killed. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2011 there were 329,000 motor vehicle crashes involving large trucks and buses that resulted in 73,000 injuries, and 3,568 deaths.

Whether or not the lawsuit is successful, accidents with large trucks and commercial busses will undoubtedly continue to occur. Distracted driving, improper training, neglected equipment, and even the erratic driving of a motorist near a large truck can all contribute to a crash.

At Elk & Elk, our attorneys have the resources and the knowledge required to tackle even the most complicated commercial vehicle accidents. If you have been hurt in an accident, Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our experienced lawyers. We are available 24/7/365 to make sure we are there when you need help the most, and we never charge any fees upfront.


Federal limits on truck drivers’ hours fuel controversy” by Emily West and Chas Sisk, USA Today, July 9, 2013.

Initial Brief for Petitioner and Intervenors in Support of PetitionerAmerican Trucking Associations, et al. v. FMCSA (D.C. Circuit, Case No. 12-1092) Oral arguments took place on March 15, 2013 before Circuit Judges Brown and Griffith, and Senior Circuit Judge Randolph.

“Commercial Motor Vehicle Facts” Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, March 2013.