Did changes to trucking hours of service rules make the roads more dangerous?

On Behalf of | Nov 21, 2023 | Truck Accidents

Many of us take time to travel to see family during the holidays. While on the nation’s highways, we likely notice lots of commercial trucks. Although most truck drivers operate their big rigs safely, we have probably noticed some that seem a bit erratic. They may weave through lanes or drive too fast.

Unfortunately, these drivers are often under pressure to make their deliveries and keep a tight schedule. Time is money in the trucking industry, and the holiday season comes with high demands. The federal government recognizes that this pressure can lead to unsafe practices and has put together regulations to help better ensure our roads stay safe. One of the most notable are the hours of service (HOS) regulations.

What are HOS regulations?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put together the HOS regulations to help better ensure a balance between an efficient means to transport goods and safe roadways. Some examples of the rules within the HOS include:

  • Breaks. The HOS regulations require drivers take a 30 minute off-duty break after driving for eight consecutive hours.
  • Daily limit. The rules also put limits on how much a driver can drive in a single day, even with breaks. This is generally 14 hours for property carrying trucks and 15 for passenger carrying trucks.
  • Weekly limit. HOS rules also put limitations on how many hours drivers can drive during seven consecutive days.

The rules are complicated and vary depending on factors like whether the truck is carrying people or goods as well as the weight of the truck. Even more complicated is the fact that these rules change. A set of changes went through recently.

What changed?

Changes included expansion of when trucks can drive during adverse driving conditions and allowing for the driver to complete other non-driving related work during the required 30-minute break after eight consecutive driving hours.

How did the change impact the safety of our roadways?

The feds originally stated that the changes noted above would help to improve trucking efficiency without an impact on safety. Thus far, this does not seem to be the case. The FMCSA compared data from prior to the change with data from after the change and found both violations of HOS regulations and crash rates increased after the change went into effect.

The findings have led safety advocates to push for the feds to take further steps to address large-truck accidents by requiring large-truck automatic emergency braking systems and use of speed-limiters.

Regardless of whether these changes are made, it is important for drivers to be aware of commercial trucks when traveling. Simple physics means it is more difficult for those vehicles to stop so it is wise to give them space and, in some cases, practice defensive driving to avoid a crash.

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