U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) officials met yesterday with representatives from the truck and bus industries, labor unions and safety groups to focus collectively on revising the nation''s 60-year-old hours-of-service rule to prevent truck and bus crashes involving fatigued drivers.
In April, DOT proposed to improve highway safety by changing the current hours-of-service rule, which regulates the number of hours drivers of big trucks and buses can operate without resting.
The current rule permits drivers to be behind the wheel for 10 hours and then rest for 8, which means they can drive for 16 hours out in a 24-hour day.
The proposed rule would limit the number of hours to 12 in a 24-hour period.
"In the interest of safety, we must revise and update this safety standard so that the number of people who die and are injured in fatigue-related truck and bus crashes decreases," said Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. "With this goal in common, I am confident we can produce a rule that is good for American and that improves safety."
The first of three two-day roundtables continues the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration''s (FMCSA) ongoing commitment to involve all stakeholders in the rulemaking process which has included:
- issuing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking;
- considering negotiated rulemaking;
- publishing the notice of proposed rulemaking;
- holding extensive public comment period sessions across the country;
- and extending the formal public comment period through Dec. 15.
The meetings are addressing such topics as the economic impact of revising the standard, sleeper berth requirements, and categories of carrier options.
FMCSA Acting Deputy Administrator Clyde Hart Jr., who opened yesterday''s meeting, said that FMCSA would not float new or compromise alternatives at the meeting but would be open to alternatives based on additional facts and material from stakeholders who may support or oppose provisions in the current proposal.
There were 5,362 truck-related fatalities in 1999. Approximately 800 truck-related fatalities each year are fatigue-related.
The proposed rule would prevent an estimated 2,600 crashes, 115 fatalities and 2,995 serious injuries annually, according to DOT.
The proposal and comments can be viewed at www.dms.dot.gov.
by Virginia Sutcliffe