Trucking Industry Opposes Regulations to Keep Truckers Rested and Alert

Highway safety is in everyone's best interest, but a new proposal by the Department of Transportation (DOT) that is designed to keep America's truck drivers well-rested and alert has the trucking industry crying foul.

Since 1939, federal regulations known as Hours of Service rules have been in place that require truck drivers to log the time they spend driving, on duty but not driving, off duty, or in their truck's sleeper berth. These logs are used to confirm that the drivers are not driving long distances without rest, to ensure that the country's roads are safe. The DOT points out that trucking companies that violate the Hours of Service rules just 10 percent of the time have a truck crash rate that is almost double that of the general population.

Current Hours of Service rules call for drivers to have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before driving, and to drive no more than 11 straight hours after coming on duty. Additionally, those 11 hours must be within the first 14 hours after coming on duty. The changes proposed by the DOT would, among other things, reduce the 11 driving hours down to 10, and require that they occur during the first 13 hours after being off-duty, allowing an extra hour for a break.

Trucking companies oppose the new changes, saying they would effectively shorten the distance each driver can travel per day, often necessitating additional days on the road. The changes are backed by a coalition of highway safety advocates concerned about truck driver fatigue; the coalition has sued the DOT three times since the last time the rules were revised.

Because truck drivers are sometimes delayed due to traffic, weather, or equipment problems, the falsification of these logs has long been a problem. To combat this, the DOT has approved the use of Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs), also known as "paperless logs." These logs are computer systems that use GPS technology to pinpoint a truck's location, making these electronic logbooks nearly impossible to falsify. The DOT is so certain of the value of EOBRs that it currently requires any trucking company that has been found to violate Hours of Service rules 10 percent of the time to switch to EOBRs.

In addition to the proposed Hours of Service changes, the DOT has been pushing to mandate EOBRs for all trucks. Although trucking companies may find them burdensome, together these regulations could increase the safety of the nation's highways.