DOT to Allow Truckers to Drive More Hours
Truck drivers will be able to stay on the road for up to 11 straight hours but will have to take at least 10 hours off before they can again get behind the wheel of their rigs, according to new federal regulations taking effect on January 4, said an Associated Press story on December 31. The government said on December 30 that the new rules will make the roads safer because truckers will have to rest for two more hours between driving shifts. The Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates the change will reduce deaths associated with truck driver fatigue from 440 to 335 a year. Some safety groups and the truckers' union disagreed, saying that allowing a trucker an extra, 11th, hour behind the wheel — compared with the 10 hours maximum now permitted — will result in more, not fewer, dangerously fatigued truckers on the road. Public Citizen, a consumer group, sued earlier this year to overturn the new regulations before they were put into effect. The case is pending in federal court. The American Trucking Associations supports the new rules. Critics said the biggest problem with the regulations is that they don't require electronic on-board recorders — black boxes for trucks — that would automatically monitor the truck's movement. “Truckers refer to their log books as comic books,'' Rader said. “Enforcement was a joke before and that hasn't changed under these new rules.'' Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief Annette Sandberg conceded that the hours-of-service regulations are difficult to enforce because truckers falsify their logbooks. The agency said 3 million inspections revealed 18 percent of drivers violated the rules at least once between Oct. 1, 2002 to Sept. 30.