ATA: Current Hours-of-Service Rules Improve Safety

On Jan. 28, representatives from affiliates and member companies of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and other trucking industry speakers told the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that declining fatality and crash numbers show that safety has improved under current hours-of-service (HOS) rules.

“The truck-involved fatality rate has reached an all-time low under the current hours-of-services rules,” Brenda Neville, president of the Iowa Motor Truck Association (IMTA), an ATA affiliate, told the FMCSA during a listening session. “These are good rules that allow drivers to gain quality rest.”

The most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) indicate that the truck-involved fatality rate in 2008 declined 12.3 percent to 1.86 per 100 million miles, from 2.12 per 100 million miles in 2007. This decline marks the largest year-to-year drop ever and the fifth consecutive year the fatality rate has dropped. Persons injured in large truck crashes went from 44.4 per 100 million miles to 39.6, an 11 percent reduction.

Since the new HOS regulations took effect in 2005, the rate of persons injured in large truck crashes has dropped 25 percent and the truck-involved fatality rate has dropped 22 percent. The fatality rate is at its lowest since the DOT began keeping those records in 1975 and has dropped 66 percent since that time.

Neville asked FMCSA to enhance the rules by adding flexibility to the sleeper berth provision, which would improve motor carrier safety and promote overall driver health by encouraging naps, shorter continuous driving periods and a more natural sleep approach.

“Greater flexibility would also help reduce highway congestion and promote operational flexibility,” she said. “These important factors would have a positive impact beyond just the trucking industry.”

Neville also said that increasing the availability of safety rest area parking would improve safety for truck drivers and the motoring public as well. “If we are requiring drivers to abide by hours of service regulations, we need to make it possible for them to do so. Drivers must have the ability to gain quality sleep without worry over the loss of life or property,” Neville said.

America’s Road Team Captains Dennis Day of Con-way Freight and Tim Dean of Werner Enterprises, professional truck drivers with a combined 50 years of experience and more than 5.2 million accident-free miles, told FMCSA that “except for the sleeper berth provision, the current HOS rules are not broken, so don’t fix them. They are working and the 34-hour restart has increased truck drivers’ quality of life.”

To better address true causes of fatigue in transportation, trucking industry representatives believe FMCSA should focus on:

  • Sleep disorder awareness, training and screening;
  • Promoting the use of Fatigue Risk Management Programs;
  • Increasing the availability of truck parking on important freight corridors; and
  • Partnering with the trucking and shipping communities to develop an educational process that identifies for drivers the location of available truck parking.
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