April 25, 2000
Truck Hours-of-Service Proposal Falls Short of Protecting
Motoring Public, Truckers
Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook
The hours-of-service rule proposed today by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has some positive aspects but contains some very serious problems. It increases by two hours the amount of time truck drivers can remain behind the wheel in a day. That will lead to more risk to motorists on our highways and the truckers themselves. At least the current 60-hour limit in a seven-day period is retained.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have documented that driver fatigue is a major factor in up to 40 percent of all heavy truck crashes. And studies show that driving more than eight hours significantly increases the risk of driver errors, injuries and deaths. Thus, we are very disturbed that this proposed rule would increase the number of driving hours from 10 to 12 hours a day. This will pave the way for more fatigue-related crashes, more innocent victims. We also believe that allowing companies to require some drivers (who mostly perform other tasks) to work up to 78 hours in a week is a grave mistake and is basically inhumane.
We are very pleased that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has agreed that drivers work cycle should be based on a 24-hour day in accordance with circadian rhythm.
There are other flaws, however. By establishing a variety of rules for five different driver categories, the government standard presents significant enforcement problems for police. We strongly support requiring on-board recorders for long-haul and regional drivers. But we believe this device should be standard on all commercial trucks.
This is the first major proposed rule since the Office of Motor Carriers was reorganized in January into the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which under the statute must have safety as its priority. This proposal contains advancements but falls short of that goal.