FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 14, 2020
CONTACT: Pete Daniels, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety / firstname.lastname@example.org / 301-442-2249 (C)
Truck Driver Hours of Service Rule Changes Issued by Transportation Department Will Endanger All Roadway Users
Announcement comes just days after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced 2019 estimate showing a fifth consecutive year of increased truck crash fatalities
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced final changes to federal truck driver hours-of-service (HOS) rules. Under the guise of increased flexibility, the changes will further exacerbate the already well-known threat of fatigue among commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers by significantly weakening current HOS and electronic logging device (ELD) rules. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has repeatedly cited fatigue as a major contributor to truck crashes and has included reducing fatigue-related crashes in every edition of its Most Wanted List of safety changes since 2016.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety President Cathy Chase: “Deaths from crashes involving large trucks are skyrocketing with nearly 100 people being killed and over 2,800 more being injured every week on average. Any regulatory changes should be focused on reducing this preventable death and injury toll. Extending truck drivers’ already highly demanding work days and reducing opportunity for rest will endanger the public. The rule issued today contradicts the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s statutory duty to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities. At a time of national crisis, the Administration should step up and protect truck drivers who have been heroically delivering essential goods and supplies, not put forth dangerous and deadly detractions from current safety policies.”
International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa: “Allowing truck drivers to work longer and longer each day puts everyone on the roads at risk. Many of these ‘reforms’ are shameful giveaways to industry. They fly in the face of the scientific evidence that was the cornerstone of the hours of service regulations, rules that required sensible limits on how long a driver could be on the job each day. Proposals like expanding the short haul exemption for local delivery and waste drivers will hit Teamster members the hardest. This specific change would allow drivers to work 14 hours a day without a single federally protected break during their day. That’s the wrong way to go for safety and a slap in the face to the men and women who work tirelessly to keep our country moving.”
Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) Chair and of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) former Administrator Joan Claybrook: “It’s no coincidence that this latest effort to expand hours of service began once truck companies and drivers were required in 2017 to objectively verify their driving time by using electronic logging devices to ensure compliance with federal rules. We know that in the past, skirting the rules or falsifying hours of service records was common and widespread. Now that it is harder to do, segments of the industry have been clamoring to eviscerate hours of service limits and pushing dangerous changes like the ones issued today.”
Truck Safety Coalition President Dawn King: “My father, Bill Badger, was killed just before Christmas in 2004 when a tired trucker fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into Dad’s car. The driver stated that he had been driving all night. We cannot allow safety to be compromised in the name of flexibility, which is just a code word for danger and deregulation.”
Current HOS rules already allow truck drivers to maintain grueling schedules of up to 11 hours behind the wheel during a 14-hour workday. On this existing schedule, truck drivers can be on the road up to 77 hours in seven days, nearly double the average American work week. It is unsurprising yet distressing that truck driving is one of the most dangerous occupations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The final rule runs counter to established science which shows that driver fatigue and crash risk is impacted by the quality of sleep, and by the times driving is occurring. Driving later in the day, later in a shift, and changing the nature of breaks all lead to more fatigue and more risk of crashes. Self-reports of fatigue, which almost always underestimate the problem, document that fatigue in truck operations is a significant issue. In a 2006 driver survey prepared for the FMCSA, “65 percent [of drivers] reported that they often or sometimes felt drowsy while driving” and almost half (47.6 percent) of drivers said they had fallen asleep while driving in the previous year.
NHTSA’s 2019 estimate projects a one percent increase in fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck. If these estimates hold, this would be the fifth increase of such deaths in a row. Nearly 5,000 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks in 2018 alone. The number of fatalities in 2018 is also the highest since 2007. Costs associated with crashes involving commercial motor vehicles totaled $135 billion in 2017, the latest year for which such data is available.
Chase concludes: “Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and numerous other groups engaged in a good-faith effort to provide FMCSA with research and data-based feedback during this rulemaking process. Unfortunately, this final rule does not reflect reality and yields to pressure from certain segments of the trucking industry that continue to push for unwise, unjustifiable and unwarranted weakening of HOS rules and other truck safety regulations.”
MORE: Advocates’ August 2019 Statement on Proposed Changes to Hours of Service Rules
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, law enforcement, public health, and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer. Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.