MAP 21 Provisions to Take Effect in October 2012

While recent surveys of suggest that a majority of Americans have a negative view of Congress (because of the partisan in-fighting that has led to legislative paralysis), trucking safety advocates are applauding the passage of a new bill that incorporates a number of new provisions to improve safety on America’s highways.

MAP-21 is a two-year reauthorization bill that was signed into law on July 6, 2012, and it is geared towards helping the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in meeting its core safety principles.

Among the many new provisions, commercial trucks will now start carrying EOBRs (Electronic On-Board Recording devices) that will record a truck’s course and time on the road. This latest amendment comes after the FMCSA implemented new rules regarding how long drivers can be on the road without resting, commonly referred to as hours-of-service (HOS) rules.

Commercial drivers may work a maximum of 70 hours during a seven day period. (Under the old rule, they could work up to 82 hours a week). Drivers are also prohibited from driving more than eight hours at a time without taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Drivers may take such a break at any time during the eight hour window. However, they may not drive more than 11 hours in a day.

Regulators also hope EOBRs will deter the practice of falsifying driver logs and increase accountability for following the rules. Safety advocates saw this as a pervasive problem. Since many drivers were paid by the mile, there was a powerful incentive to ignore federal regulations and stay on the road longer, regardless of the risks they pose to the public. FMCSA estimates that hundreds people die in accidents each year where fatigued drivers are involved. A 2011 FMCSA study also found that truckers were much more likely to be in accidents after being on the road six hours or longer. (The odds of a crash were highest after being on the road for 11 hours.)

As such, regulators found ample evidence to cap truck drivers’ working hours.

The new rule will be implemented on October 2, 2012. However, there are foreseeable legal challenges regarding administrative penalties for not using EOBRs, how drivers may be monitored, and whether hours of service (HOS) violations create presumptions of negligence. For questions about how the new law affects parties injured in trucking accidents, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.