A federal investigation into the death of an Illinois police officer concluded that the driver of the semi-truck that hit him had fallen asleep. The latest measure taken by the U.S. Department of Transportation to reduce drowsy driving truck accidents takes effect this week, as long-haul truck drivers are seeing their hours of service limits changed. The new guidelines are still being disputed by the trucking industry which claims that the rules will have a minimal impact on safety while making it difficult for truckers to make a living. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration maintains that they are a reasonable measure in combating driver fatigue.
As of July 1, long-haul truckers are required to have a 30-minute break in the first 8 hours of driving. They are limited to 70 hours of driving per week and they must have at least 34 hours off before another 70-hour work week begins. That 34-hour break must include back-to-back days where the driver rests from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. The last requirement has drawn heavy criticism from truck drivers who say it will force more trucks onto the roads during rush hour, a period they often avoid by starting early in places where congestion is an issue.
It is possible that the new rules will be short lived. The American Trucking Association has filed a lawsuit asking that the DOT measure be overturned. Many truckers believe the rules are unnecessary at best and harmful at worst. Trucking companies have faced an ongoing problem in finding drivers to fill openings. Experienced truckers may be forced out of the market, forcing an even greater reliance on inexperienced drivers to complete shipments. If that happens, the rules may have the opposite effect intended.
Source: CNBC, "Truck Drivers Not Revved Up About New Safety Rules," by John W. Schoen, 30 June 2013