WASHINGTON, D.C. --- At the request of safety and labor groups, the Obama administration has agreed to reconsider the expanded hours-of-service rule that permits long-haul truckers to drive up to 11 straight hours.
The rule, implemented during the Bush administration, has drawn criticism from safety advocates who argue that longer hours can lead to greater driver fatigue and more crashes. Prior to the rule change, for 60 years truckers were allowed to drive a maximum of 10 hours at a time. Adding the extra hour drew support from the trucking industry. The Bush-era rule change also cut rest and recovery time requirements at the end of a work week from 50 or more hours off-duty to as little as 34 hours off-duty.
On Monday, Oct. 26, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration signed an agreement with safety and labor groups to revise the rule, the Associated Press reported.
"We believe that starting over and developing a rule that can help save lives is the smart thing to do," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.
The FMCSA said it will propose a new rule within the next nine months.
In response to FMCSA's plans, the American Trucking Associations released a statement arguing that the existing rule should be maintained instead.
"As the American Trucking Associations (ATA) has communicated for the last five years, the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations, as they are currently constructed, are good safety rules. They are working and the proof is in the industry's safety performance since they took effect in 2004," the ATA said.
"Safety in the trucking industry has greatly improved while operating under the current hours-of-service rules," said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. "Over the past five years we've seen a strong decline in truck-involved crashes on our nation's highways."
ATA added that it "looks forward to participating in the upcoming rulemaking process to further demonstrate how the current safety-based HOS rules are working and why they should be maintained."
A federal appeals court struck down the existing rule twice, but the FMCSA under the Bush administration reinstated it each time. Public Citizen, Parents Against Tired Truckers, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters had sued to get the rule overturned. Those groups have argued that truck driver fatigue is a factor in 30 to 40 percent of all truck crashes, and the hours-of-service rule change dangerously increased the total hours a truck driver can work to 88 hours in a calendar week -- a 28 percent increase.
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said he is pleased that federal regulators agreed to reform the hours-of-service rule for truck drivers.
"Longer hours behind the wheel are dangerous for our members and the driving public," Hoffa said. "It's time for FMCSA to do what Congress has told it to do all along -– protect drivers' health and safety."