Safety Groups Sue Over New Rule Governing Truckers’ Hours

June 30, 2003

Safety Groups Sue Over New Rule Governing Truckers’ Hours

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and Parents Against Tired Truckers are challenging new government regulations covering the number of hours truckers drive.

In a petition filed earlier this month in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the three groups asked the court to review the final hours-of-service rule issued April 16 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The one-page petition is the first step in legally challenging the rule.

Under the new rule, truckers can spend more consecutive hours driving than previously, which increases the risk of crashes. The new rule permits a 14-hour workday with up to 11 hours of consecutive driving. Previously, truckers could drive no more than 10 consecutive hours. Also, truckers now can be compelled to drive up to 77 hours in seven days, or 88 hours in eight days. Overall, the new rule increases truckers’ driving hours by more than 20 percent.

The agency did this despite the fact that research shows that increasing the length of time a worker must spend performing certain tasks correspondingly reduces alertness and performance, and leads to an increased risk of driver error. Other research shows that when work days are lengthened, the corresponding length and quality of sleep for recovering performance and alertness is reduced, so that even having enough time to sleep does not ensure that one receives sufficient quality sleep. The FMCSA has estimated that in 15 percent of all fatal crashes involving trucks, fatigue is a primary or contributing factor.

 

Large truck crashes are particularly lethal because they usually involve much smaller passenger cars. In fact, 98 percent of those killed in truck-vs.-passenger vehicle crashes are in the smaller vehicles.

“The new rule is a formula for more truck crashes, more deaths and more injuries,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen and former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “This rule works truckers harder than ever. It also violates the mission of FMCSA, which is safety.”

Further, the rule does not require on-board recorders, which would provide reliable data on how many hours truckers drive. Truckers have admitted that they frequently lie when they fill out their paper log books.

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