Aug. 19, 2005

Proposed Hours of Service Rule Still Puts Tired Truckers on Road for Too Long

Statement of Joan Claybrook,* Public Citizen President

Background: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today issued a proposed rule regarding the number of hours truckers can drive consecutively. The agency was responding to a July 2004 court ruling finding that an April 2003 rule issued by the agency failed to consider the health of truck drivers, as was required by law. The court ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed by Public Citizen, Parents Against Tired Truckers, and  Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways.

The proposed rule issued today by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding the number of hours truckers can drive is a disappointment. It is virtually unchanged from a 2003 rule that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down last year. That court found that the agency did not consider the health of drivers when writing its rule.

The danger that big rigs pose to America’s drivers is growing. The Bush administration’s own data show that fatalities stemming from large truck crashes are up 3.1 percent from 2003 to 2004.   It is well-known that fatigue plays an important role in causing big rig crashes.

Like the 2003 rule, today’s proposed rule makes permanent a dramatic increase in the allowable weekly driving time and on-duty hours for truckers. It reduces weekly off-duty time for the most exhausted drivers (truckers who drive the maximum number of allowable hours) and significantly weakens safety requirements for short-haul drivers.

While we support the portion of the rule that no longer allows drivers to split the time they spend in sleeper berths, the overall increased driving and working time is not supported by the vast body of scientific literature that exists about fatigue and driver safety. Nor does this proposal help drivers get on a 24-hour circadian schedule.

We sincerely hope that in the coming weeks the agency will reconsider this issue and redraft the rule.

* Note: Joan Claybrook was head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 1977-1981.


For more information about number of hours truckers can drive consecutively, click here.