Interim Rule Retains Driving Limit for Truck Drivers

A Dec. 11 interim final rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) continues limiting truck drivers to 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour period, after which they must remain off duty for at least 10 hours.

This interim rule also allows motor carriers and drivers to restart calculations of the weekly on-duty time limits after the driver has at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.

According to the FMSCA, the temporary final rule was put in place after new data showed that safety levels have been upheld since the 11-hour driving limit was first implemented in 2003.

"This proposal keeps in place hours-of-service limits that improve highway safety by ensuring that drivers are rested and ready to work," FMCSA Administrator John H. Hill said. "The data makes clear that these rules continue to protect drivers, make our roads safer and keep our economy moving."

The agency noted that, in 2006, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 1.94 – the lowest rate ever recorded. Similarly, since 2003, the percentage of large trucks involved in fatigue-related fatal crashes in the 11th hour of driving has remained below the average of the years 1991-2002. In 2005 alone, the agency noted, there was only one large truck involved in a fatigue-related fatal crash in the 11th hour of driving, and none in 2004.

FMSCA: 11-Hour Driving Limit Reduces Fatigue-Related Crashes

In addition, between 2003, when the 11-hour driving limit and the 34-hour restart were adopted, and 2006, the percent of fatigue-related large truck crashes relative to all fatal large truck crashes has remained consistent. The agency's estimates show that only seven percent of large truck crashes are fatigue-related.

According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), truck drivers are at a disproportionately high risk for fatal crash-related injuries and for serious health disorders. Long hours of driving are associated with work-related injuries and poor health status among truck drivers.

Hill noted that the agency also is working to finalize a proposed rule that would require drivers and trucking companies with serious or repeat hours-of-service violations to track their hours using electronic on-board recorders.

The agency issued the new rule in response to the recent decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacating key provisions of the existing hours-of-service rules effective December 27. In order to ensure no gap in coverage of these important safety regulations, the Dec. 11 rule temporarily reinstates those two provisions while the agency gathers public comment on its actions and the underlying safety analysis before issuing a final rule.

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