New revisions to the federal rules that govern how long truckers can drive at one stretch and remain on-duty fall short from a public safety perspective, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA).
The long-awaited rule released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is reportedly the first significant change to the hours-of-service rules since 1939.
“While the new rule tracks existing scientific data by giving drivers the opportunity to get good, quality sleep (up to ten hours), the rule ignores lots of equally high-quality research by allowing drivers to stay on the road for far too long at one stretch,” said David Snyder, AIA vice president and assistant general counsel. “Eleven hours of consecutive truck driving is excessively dangerous for all roadway users – not just the truckers themselves. It is well-documented that the risk of being involved in a crash increases significantly after only eight or nine hours of continuous driving.”
Fatigue is reported as a major contributor to truck crashes.
Numerous studies have reportedly shown that fatigue is a factor in the majority of truck crashes. Each year, these crashes claim nearly 5,000 lives, injure hundreds of thousands of people, and cost billions of dollars for medical care, property damage and lost productivity. Also, these crashes most often injure or kill the occupants of the other vehicles involved, and when hazardous materials are involved, such crashes can constitute a large-scale disaster.
Snyder noted that “AIA is particularly disappointed that the FMCSA did not mandate an effective enforcement mechanism, such as use of onboard computers to monitor compliance with the new rules. The current paper logbooks used by truckers are often referred to as ‘comic books’ because they are so widely ignored or flouted.
For years, individual insurance companies, AIA and other safety experts, such as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, have formally and repeatedly petitioned regulators to require onboard data recorders to make sure that whatever rules are on the books actually are enforced. Use of onboard recorders is reportedly a simple, cheap and effective monitoring system – yet rather than mandate recorders’ use, the new rule only calls for further study of such devices.”
FMCSA estimates that the new rule will save 75 lives and prevent 1,320 crashes annually.
“Even accepting that estimate,” said Snyder, “it’s far less than the human and financial costs that could have been saved with a stronger rule. Because of its contents and lack of effective enforcement, we believe the new rules are unlikely to help achieve the Department of Transportation’s self-imposed objective of reducing truck crash fatalities by 50 percent in the near future. Unfortunately, this was a tremendous opportunity lost.”
Under the new FMCSA plan, drivers will be allowed to drive up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. They may not drive past the 14th hour of being on-duty. Also, they may not drive after being on-duty for 60 hours in a seven consecutive-day period.
Other details of the final rule can be found at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
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