Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) introduced revisions of a few hotly debated rules. These revisions aren't making trucking companies too happy - but safety advocates aren't fans, either.
The rules, which aim to improve highway safety and reduce the number of trucking accidents, requires that truckers limit the amount of time truckers can spend behind the wheel. The daily driving limit remains 11 hours, as it was before, but new rules also require drivers to be off duty for 34 hours, including two-full nights, once they reach their driving limit for the week. The rules also require at least a 30-minute break after seven straight hours behind the wheel, and a maximum work week of 70 hours (previously, 82 hours was the maximum). If a company exceeds these new limits, they could face fines up to $11,000 per offense. Individual drivers can be fined $2,750 per offense.
Companies report that these limits are going to make them fall short of their destinations and deadlines, before having to take a break for the day, according to the The Wall Street Journal. The consequences, they say, will be more trucks on the road and more costs associated with shipping expenses. Meanwhile, safety advocates have pressed for these limits, arguing that they combat driver fatigue, a common factor in accidents involving big rigs. However, these groups had hoped to see the daily driving limit reduced to 10 hours instead of 11.
Federal regulators report that the measures are necessary to reduce the number of highway deaths from accidents that are caused by truck-driver fatigue. Fatigue was reported to be a possible cause in the deaths of six people last year when an 18-wheeler plowed into an Amtrak train in Nevada.
According to Transportation Department data, nearly 3,000 highway fatalities occurred because of accidents that involved a truck in the last 10 years. Another 51,000 motorists were injured in these accidents. Nearly 1,500 vehicles were involved in fatal accidents with trucks in Missouri in 2008 alone.
The trucking industry strongly opposes these new limits. They say that the number of trucking accidents in recent years has seen a steep decline and that these rules are unnecessary. They also say that the burden of these new rules would most likely affect small trucking firms, as they wouldn't be able to adapt to as easily as larger companies with fleets of thousands of trucks.
To comply with these new rules (which all companies must do by July 2013), a number of trucking companies would be forced to either slow their transports by making fewer trips or by adding more drivers to routes that require more than 10 straight driving hours. This would most likely affect a company's overnight or same-day services.
The American Trucking Association (ATA), a trade group based in Arlington, Va., predicts that the rule changes will force trucking companies to hire at least 100,000 new drivers, costing more than $2 billion in additional wages a year.
"It's going to be tough," said Dave Osiecki, the group's director of regulatory affairs. "They're going to need more trucks and more drivers to haul the same amount of freight."
There are more than 10 million registered commercial trucks on U.S. roadways, according to the Transportation Department. It is estimated that 70% of trucking companies around the country have fewer than five trucks. More than 90 percent of these companies are classified as small business under U.S. Small Business Administration guidelines.
"We'll comply with whatever regulation is enacted," says Dan McMacken, a spokesman for UPS, one of the largest members of the ATA, with more than 90,000 vehicles.
If you are dealing with a trucking accident in Kansas City, Cape Girardeau, Joplin, Columbia, Springfield or anywhere else in Missouri, call 1-888-777-AUTO (2886) today for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Trucker fatigue rule faces detour, by Adam Snider, Politico
New rule limits truck drivers' hours, by Mark Gilger, Jr., The Republican Herald
Truck firms Gird for New Limits, by Angus Loten, The Wall Street Journal