|WASHINGTON - Companies and truck drivers that commit egregious violations of a new rule that ensures that the drivers get the rest they need to operate safely while on the road could receive maximum penalties for each offense. The rule that must be adhered to by July 1, 2013 is based on the latest research in driver fatigue and was announced by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on behalf of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
"This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency's history," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "With robust input from all areas of the trucking community, coupled with the latest scientific research, we carefully crafted a rule acknowledging that when truckers are rested, alert and focused on safety, it makes our roadways safer."
FMCSA's new HOS final rule reduces by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week. Under the old rule, truck drivers could work on average up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new HOS final rule limits a driver's work week to 70 hours. In addition, truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30-minutes. Drivers can take the 30-minute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window.
The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit. FMCSA will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time.
The rule requires truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights' rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most - from 1-5 a.m. This rest requirement is part of the rule's "34-hour restart" provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty and is a provision allowed only once during a seven-day period.
Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by three or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.
According to an article posted earlier in the year by PRNewswire, in 2010 in the U.S. over 500,000 large truck and commercial vehicles were involved in accidents with over 100,000 people sustaining serious injuries and over 5000 people dying in these crashes. According to information released by the Missouri Department of Transportation traffic deaths on Missouri highways declined for the sixth straight year and are expected to fall below 800 in 2011, the lowest they've been since 1949. Traffic accident statistics reported only through 2009 may be found here.
DeAnne Rickabaugh contributed to this article.