Yesterday, a Senate Committee on Appropriations approved an amendment that would effectively suspend the current Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours of service (HOS) 34-hour restart mandate. If the amended bill is passed, the restart mandate will be suspended for one year while the government undertakes a field study on the issue.
If passed, this shift in policy would likely be considered a major victory for the trucking industry, which has been pushing to reverse or revise the restart provision since it became law. Under the current law, truckers must rest on two consecutive nights between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. as part of a once-per-week 34-hour restart before they can resume certain commercial trucking schedules.
While the restart provision was initially revised in order to prevent drowsy commercial drivers from causing preventable accidents, the trucking industry has been justifiably concerned that this mandate forces more commercial traffic to navigate busy roads during the day. This schedule shift is arguably creating unique road hazards. As a result, the restart provision arguably needs to be studied in more depth in order to definitively determine its ultimate effects on public safety.
The chief of the FMCSA is not backing down without a fight, however. Anne Ferro recently insisted on her blog that, “The current Hours of Service include common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety… We carefully considered the public safety and health risks of long work hours and solicited input from everyone who has a stake in this important issue, including victims’ advocates, truck drivers and companies. The result is a balanced Hours of Service rule with analysis showing that the changes save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.”
Source: TheTrucker.com, “U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approves amendment to suspend 34-hour restart,” Lyndon Finney and Dorothy Cox, June 5, 2014