“I’ve been driving all night,
My hand’s wet on the wheel…“
– Radar Love by the band Golden Earring (1973).
Who’s in charge here?
Driver fatigue is serious stuff, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has the job of establishing regulations to best protect against it for commercial drivers, while still making economic and business efficiency an element to the equation. Just check out the FMCSA’s “Regulatory Impact Analysis” last published in December, 2011 (144 page PDF here). The European Union has similar regulations.
These rules are ever changing and subject to many various public policy and ecomonic viability arguments from such organizations as Public Citizen Litigation Group, Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH, which has merged with PATT), and the American Trucking Associations (ATA), to name a few.
Effective July 1, 2013, after an 18-month adjustment period for commercial trucking companies, the new rules limit the average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours to ensure that all truck operators have adequate rest.
- 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 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., and;
- 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 egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense. 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.
A driver’s log book or electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) are essential for keeping the required timing records for all on or off-duty activities and are reviewed by employers and, at times, law enforcement officers. For log book examples, see this PDF publication by the FMCSA here.
FMCSA’s Predicted Benefits
The FMCSA estimates these new safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year, while only the most extreme truckers’ schedules will be impacted with more than 85% of the workforce seeing no change.
- Fewer large truck crashes – $280 million saved
- Improved driver health – $470 million saved
- Saved lives and safer roadways – Priceless