Trucking Industry Grumbles about New Hours of Service Rules

On July 1, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)’s new trucking rules went into effect, limiting the number of hours a trucker could be on the road. As expected, the trucking industry has complained that the new Hours of Service (HoS) rules will make it harder for them to make a profit and will raise prices on goods that have to be shipped. Their response is to be expected, but the new rules are a reasonable compromise and they are a good thing for everything, truckers included.

A Reasonable Compromise

An FMCSA press release highlights the primary provisions of the new law that are going into effect, which are three:

  • Truckers must take a 30 minute break within the first 8 hours of driving
  • Truckers can only restart their clock once per 168-hour week
  • Restart must include two night periods between 1-5am

In every case, these provisions represent an attempt at compromise between what researchers think will be safest and what trucking companies want, and in every case the provisions are backed up by scientific evidence. The trucking industry has nonetheless filed lawsuits challenging these provisions.

For example, the law still allows truckers to drive for 11 hours a day, after an increase from 10 in 2003. Originally, policymakers wanted to reduce the driving day limit back to 10 hours a day, but there was no scientific evidence that doing so would reduce accidents, so they allowed the limit to remain at its current state.

Public Citizen and other safety groups have protested the retention of the11-hour driving day, and have filed their own lawsuits.

Give ‘Em a Break!

A mandated 30-minute break seems like a reasonable compromise between optimizing safety and recognizing that drivers want to increase profit by staying on the road. According to studies, off-work breaks led to a 50% reduction in risky events after the break. However, the benefit is short-lived, lasting only for an hour or so after the break.

It seems that if the FMCSA were truly prepared to sacrifice productivity for safety, it would mandate a system like what the American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends: a 15-minute or so break every 2 hours. The question should be: is the FMCSA mandating enough breaks, not are they mandating too many.

Turn the Clock Back

Truckers are only allowed to work 70 hours before they have to take some time off, specifically a 34-hour “restart” break. The goal of the one-restart-per-168-hour limit is to make sure that drivers really are only working 70 hours a week. Without limiting the restart period to once per 168-hour week (as under the previous HoS rules), drivers were able to crowd in more 11-hour driving shifts to work more than 80 hours a week. It also increased incentive for drivers to crowd their schedule, which meant that they were driving at all hours of the day and night. By shifting their sleeping and driving patterns completely out of keeping with the day-night cycle, these drivers were more likely to become fatigued.

Research shows that grueling 80-hour a week schedules are not good for workers. And they’re ultimately not good for employers, because they lead to costly mistakes. It’s reasonable that anyone who operates a potentially deadly piece of machinery like an 80,000-pound semi-truck should be expected to work less than 80 hours a week. As should anyone performing surgery, writing prescriptions, or delivering babies—but that’s a different issue entirely.

A Good Night’s Sleep (or Two!)

The new rule that requires restart periods to include two night periods has caused some complaints among night drivers. And this is the rule that has probably the weakest scientific basis. Although there is some evidence that most people can’t fully adjust to working at night, there is also evidence to support that if people are going to work at night, they do better if they always work at night. By mandating drivers to sleep at night on their off hours, it could create problems for some night-delivery drivers.

As the FMCSA points out, drivers with families are likely to spend at least part of their off-days awake, but it seems illogical to mandate this provision on the basis of what some drivers are expected to do.

Onerous New Regulations or Preventing Externalized Costs?

Trucking companies are expected to balk at this type of regulation. It costs them money (the new HoS is expected to cost them $300 million to implement, though they argue the cost is much, much higher). And it will likely cost some long-haul truckers some income. I sympathize with truckers’ complaints, but their anger should not be directed at the FMCSA. No matter what some companies (like McDonald’s) would have you believe, no one should be expected to work 80 hours a week to maintain a reasonable standard of living.

Long-haul trucking has jockeyed its way into its current position of dominance (70% of all freight in the US is carried by trucks), partly by externalizing costs. Externalizing costs is when a business isn’t paying all the costs necessary to maintain its business, such as, in the case of trucking, the interstate highway system and other parts of the infrastructure that are maintained by state and federal funds mostly to encourage and permit interstate trucking.

Another externalized cost is fatal trucking accidents, which cost us about $39 billion in 2011, more than 99% of which is borne by society at large and the family of the deceased. Trucking company revenue in the US was more than $600 billion dollars in the US in 2011. Considering the large costs we bear for them, it seems reasonable to ask them to pay half a percent of one year’s revenue to implement this change for safety.

In its testimony “The Impacts of the DOT’s Commercial Driver Hours of Service Regulations,” the American Trucking Association disputed practically every one of the FMCSA’s numbers about the regulatory change except for one: that the changes would save 19 lives every year. In fact, the words “life” or “lives” never appear in the testimony. Why the omission? Because some things matter to the trucking industry and some do not.

Columbus Ohio Truck Accident News – Did Texting Semi Driver Cause Death

Columbus Ohio Truck Accidents

Texting truck drivers may be more common than revealed by news statistics, especially as a fatal Columbus truck accident may have been caused by texting. We all know teens are texting and causing accidents as well as adults. But are professional truck drivers texting while they drive.

Semi tractor trailers have all sorts of electronics guiding and reporting on the operation of trucks. But make no mistake, texting has been banned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety rule. (1) These drivers are professionals. They have to take a special test to get their CDL license. That’s why its so upsetting when the suspicion is raised that texting , or any kind of cell phone use distracted a truck driver and caused an accident.

But in a recent double fatality where a truck driver on I-70 did not slow for traffic the allegation was made. In a comment to a media article on the truck crash it was suggested that just before the crash the truck driver was seen on the cell phone.

Police reported traffic was backed up because of an motor vehicle crash and the trucker did not slow down in time to avoid the slowing vehicles causing a crash and the death of two women. Although the media article did not say why the driver did not slow down, a later comment to the article suggests that the trucker was seen using a cell phone moments prior to the crash that ended up killing two ladies. You can find more information and read the text of the comment here

Distracted driving in my mind, when caused by cell phone use is as bad as drinking and driving. Maybe worse. The statistics are sobering. But what is shocking and not really known, is the number of professionals using cell phones.

(1)
http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/topics/distracted-driving/texting-factsheet.aspx

More on Fatal Truck Accidents

Fatal Columbus Truck Accident Caused By Trucker Negligence Not Backed Up Traffic

Two people are dead because a truck driver failed to keep a proper look out for what was going on in front of him on I-70 in Columbus. Two families are now forever broken because of what appears to be the negligence of the semi 18 wheeler operator Tony D Smith.

Diana L Schwab of Beavercreek and Robin S. Jones operating separate cars were killed in the tractor trailor wreck. Hopefully they never saw it coming. But who really knows. It’s sad very sad. What’s troubling is that the article reporting on the crash by the Columbus Dispatch focused on the Ohio Depatment of Transportation’s plan to quickly remove non-fatal motor vehicle crashes from the highway quickly so traffic does not back up. I guess the plan did not work here. I’m wondering why they did not focus on truck accident safety.

The Facts of the Truck Car Crash

Traffic was backing up from a crash on I-70 eastbound. Apparently Ms Schwab and Ms Jones were slowing their cars . At that time truck driver Tony Smith failed to slow down enough and hit a jeep, then hit two cars and another truck. That truck was knocked into another car. The first two cars contained Ms Schwab and Ms Jones. It was reported the the Franklin County police stated that semi driver Tony Smith failed to notice the cars slowing.

Then there was extensive commentary how ODOT rolled out a plan in April to get the road cleared faster. Here is the link to the article http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/05/09/fatal-crash-underscores-backuprisks.html titled Fatal Crash on I-70 Underscores Back up Risks.
In my mind it underscores the risks of distracted driving by a truck driver.

In fact here is a comment to the article. It’s chilling.

“I was in that backup, crash happened about a half-mile in front of me. The truck driver I was talking with had talked to the trucker that Smith passed just moments before the crash said Smith was texting. One other thing. In the west bound lanes, I noticed a late30’s-early 40’s woman with short dark hair driving a silver SUV/crossover about 30-35 mph in the inside lane. She had her phone out the driver’s window in BOTH hands and was shooting video while looking at the backup. I don’t know who was driving, but it **** sure wasn’t her. This kind of reckless stupidity, on both Smith and the woman’s parts, are what kill or maim innocent people. The mobile shutdown app on newer phones needs to be universal on all phones. If you need to text or call someone, get off of the road!”

So if this comment is accurate the headline should read: Texting Druck Driver Kills Two Women

Oh yes the victims. At the end of the story in the Columbus Dispatch there was brief mention of who these two ladies were .

“Regarding the victims, Schwab was a well-known amateur golfer in the Dayton area who was headed to the home of her daughter, Carey Ker, in Gahanna to leave her dog, Lucky, there while she took a golfing trip to New Jersey. Lucky fled the accident scene yesterday but was found last night.

Jones was a married mother of three who owned Robin’s Nest Professional Nail Care in London in Madison County. She was studying at Nationwide Beauty Academy in Columbus, according to her Facebook page. Her family could not be reached last night.”

Certainly their lives were so much more. So much more.The grief of this loss will last a lifetime.

Truamatic loss is such a tragedy. If it was caused negligently it is called wrongful death in the law.But if the driver was texting the conduct is more than negligent it’s reckless and wanton. Truck safety is implicated here. Not the back up of traffic. That’s why we have R.C. 4511.21. Because we know that people stop in front of us traveling down the highways. Everyone but especially truckers need to respect and follow the law.

Report from 10tv Columbus with video
http://www.10tv.com/content/stories/2013/05/08/columbus-i70-fatal-crash-near-hilliard-rome-road.html

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration: A Analysis of Fatal Truck Crashes

http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/809-569.pdf

We have a great truck accident safety resource right here in Ohio in Attorney Michael Leizerman

By Anthony Castelli Attorney

I can’t help but wonder who this trucker was driving for and the safety record of the company. I did not see it reported.The police report should show it and the DOT #. I have a hunch.