The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has plans in place to test new hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers. The adjusted rules would allow drivers to divide their off duty time into two shorter periods without exceeding current on duty driving limits.
Approximately 200 commercial truck drivers will be enrolled by the FMCSA into a pilot program that will basically reinstate a previous standard, allowing drivers to split their sleeper berth time.
Truckers who routinely use a sleeper berth would be allowed to split their 10 hours of off-duty time into two separate sleeper berth periods of no less than three hours, under the test program. The FMCSA hopes to develop “statistically reliable evidence” how split sleeper berth time affects driver safety performance and fatigue.
The current hours-of-service rules require commercial drivers to “take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate period of 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two before returning to on-duty status. “
The required periods of rest and restricted hours of driving, established by the hours-of-service rules, are intended to reduce driver fatigue, which is a leading cause of commercial truck and bus crashes.
Proponents of the of pilot program share the belief that the rest time flexibility, which allows drowsy drivers to take a nap without going against their driving time, will result in less driver fatigue.
Under the current rules, drivers are required to continue driving without a break once he or she starts. Taking a break would affect the driver’s on-duty time. This rule affects their ability to drive safely and earn income, according to the beliefs of the proposed hours pilot advocates.
“Drivers metrics would be collected for the duration of the study and participants safety performance and fatigue levels would be analyzed,” the FMCSA’s notice explains. “This pilot program seeks to produce statistically reliable evidence on the question whether split sleeper berth time affects driver safety performance and fatigue levels.”
Many Causes of Truck Driver Fatigue
Studies have shown that driver fatigue is a contributing factor in 40% of trucking accidents. Combatting fatigue has been an ongoing issue for both drivers and lawmakers. The hours-of-service rules are one aid in reducing fatigue but they do not approach complete elimination of the problem. Making the rules more flexible, where the driver does not have to choose between taking a nap and delivering on time, should be beneficial in one area, but still not a solution to the overall problem. Many more areas must be addressed.
Fatigue can result due to the following contributing factors:
· Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea – A federal regulation requiring sleep apnea testing is pending
· Unrealistic or irregular schedules – Some trucking companies encourage or force drivers to break the rules with schedules that cannot be completed by adhering to the HOS.
· Physically taxing work in between driving hours such as lifting, cleaning and loading
· Trying to sleep in daylight hours
· Lack of truck parking
· Trying to sleep in noisy conditions
· Monotonous driving
· Night driving
· Stress, depression or problems back home
· Alcohol and drug abuse – Drivers may self medicate with stimulants such as caffeine, ephedrine or amphetamines to stay awake longer. They may use alcohol or sleep medications to force sleep.
· Poor visibility from weather conditions
· Heavy or erratic traffic
· Health issues
Vititoe Law Group is a California personal injury law firm dedicated to making our country’s highways safer. If you were injured in a truck crash or have a loved one who was injured or killed, reach out to Vititoe Law Group for a free consultation with a truck accident attorney today. We have the experience and the resources required to conduct a thorough investigation and stand up to the powerful trucking companies.