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American Association for Justice Sends FMCSA Comments in Response to Hours of Service Proposed Rule

The American Association for Justice (AAJ) has submitted comments in response to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) advance notice of proposed rulemaking for hours-of-service (HOS) for commercial truck drivers. The rulemaking process was first announced at the end of August 2018, when the FMCSA declared that they would be reviewing the existing HOS regulations which limit the total operating hours a commercial truck driver works on duty.

The FMCSA announced that four specific areas of the regulations would be “under consideration for revision.” These areas included:

  • Expanding the current 100 air-mile “short-haul” exemption from 12 hours on-duty to 14 hours on-duty, to be consistent with the rules already in existence for long-haul truck drivers;

  • Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to 2 hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions;

  • Revising the existing mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after 8 hours of continuous driving; and,

  • Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks that are equipped with a sleeper-berth compartment.

In response, AAJ has sent comments to the FMCSA regarding the advanced proposed rulemaking explaining “the changes that FMCSA is considering to the current HOS rules for CMV drivers are detrimental to the health and safety of CMV drivers and the overall safety of the US motorways.”

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), “fatigue is a factor in 30 to 40 percent of all truck crashes.” In spite of this, the FMCSA is considering HOS proposals to increase time on the road for drivers before a break. The current rule allows drivers to drive a total of 11 hours during a 14 hour on-duty period, after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. During the 11 hour driving time, the driver must take a mandatory 30-minute rest break after 8 hours of driving.

With the proposed changes, the 30-minute rest break could be taken at any time in the 14-hour on-duty time, which would allow drivers to drive the entire 11-hour driving period without taking a break. In its comments, the AAJ said “this is counterintuitive to what the data on driver fatigue suggests and would likely increase the chances of driver fatigue, and subsequent risk of crashes.”

FMCSA is also considering extending the maximum driving time if a driver encounters “adverse driving conditions,” as well as expanding the definition of adverse driving conditions. This expansion would allow drivers to drive longer because of traffic or city center congestion as an “adverse driving condition.”

Hopefully, the FMCSA will take the AAJ’s comments under serious consideration, and will opt to reject the current advanced proposed rulemaking for HOS for commercial truck drivers.

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About this Author

Bryan M. Roberts, NJ, Personal Injury Attorney, Stark and Stark Law Firm, wrongful death, product liability
Shareholder

Bryan M. Roberts is a Shareholder and member of Stark & Stark’s Accident & Personal Injury Group. He concentrates his practice in the areas of wrongful death and catastrophic personal injuries from automobile, truck and motorcycle accidents as well as construction, product and premises liability claims. As a licensed commercial truck and motorcycle operator, Mr. Roberts has unique insight into crashes involving these vehicles.

Prior to joining Stark & Stark, Mr. Roberts was an Associate with a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania law firm where he defended wrongful death and...

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