U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater yesterday called on leaders from the trucking industry, labor unions and safety groups to gather together with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to update the 60-year-old hours-of-service rule to help prevent truck and bus crashes involving fatigued drivers.
"Our purpose is to ensure that drivers of trucks and buses have sufficient opportunity for rest so that we can reduce the number of fatalities that result from fatigue-related crashes," Slater said. "The purpose of these meetings will be to obtain information these groups may have so that we can incorporate it into our deliberations and continue our rulemaking process."
Participants will be expected to provide in-depth information in three topic areas for three roundtables. The roundtables, each of which is expected to last two days, will be scheduled for September and October.
Participants will be invited to join others at the table, based on comments they have submitted or made at public hearings. The roundtable also will be open to the public.
Topics at these meetings include the economic impact of revising the safety standard, fatigue research, law enforcement, sleeper berth requirements, communication during rest periods, end-of-work-week rest periods and hours of work permitted each day.
Slater also announced that the comment period on the hours-of-service rulemaking will be extended to Dec. 15. This is the second time the comment period has been extended to obtain the most input during the process. The comment period, originally ending July 30, was first extended to Oct. 30.
There were 5,203 truck-related fatalities in 1999. Approximately 800 each year are fatigue related, according to DOT.
DOT said the proposed rule would prevent an estimated 2,600 crashes, 115 fatalities and 2,995 serious injuries annually.
by Virginia Sutcliffe