Professional drivers, company owners and trucking industry experts consistently told the Federal Motor Carriers Administration (FMCSA) at recent Hours of Service (HOS) listening sessions that the current HOS rules are working.
The four listening sessions - in Dallas, Los Angeles, Davenport, Iowa, and Arlington, Va. - were prompted by special interest groups who insist that the FMCSA amend the HOS rules. The current rules are based on a decade of extensive research and analysis and offer an effective and balanced approach to promote driver alertness. Additionally, the government now has extensive data and information from several years of real-world, operational trucking experience since the new HOS regulations took effect in 2005.
The most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) indicate that the truck-involved fatality rate in 2008 declined 12.3 percent to 1.86 per 100 million miles, from 2.12 per 100 million miles in 2007. This decline marks the largest year-to-year drop ever and the fifth consecutive year the fatality rate has dropped. Persons injured in large truck crashes went from 44.4 per 100 million miles to 39.6, an 11 percent reduction. Under the new HOS regulations, the rate of injury-causing large truck crashes has dropped 25 percent and the truck-involved fatality rate has dropped 22 percent. The fatality rate is at its lowest since the DOT began keeping those records in 1975 and has dropped 66 percent since that time.
While the current HOS rules are good, the American Trucking Associations believes they can be improved by allowing more flexibility in the sleeper berth provision, in order to encourage circadian friendly sleep and naps. Constraining drivers to one, inflexible option overlooks the individual needs of each driver. Flexibility quickly became the buzzword at each of the sessions as virtually all who testified agreed that use of rest time should not be constrained by a rule. America's Road Team Captain Ralph Garcia, who has driven more than 2.5 million accident-free miles during his 30-year career as a professional driver, said that flexibility is important because professional drivers are more in tune with their body's clock than most recreational drivers.
ATA believes that to better address the true causes of fatigue in transportation, the FMCSA should focus its resources on (1) sleep disorder awareness, training and screening, (2) promoting the use of Fatigue Risk Management Programs, (3) increasing the availability of truck parking on important freight corridors and (4) partnering with the trucking and shipping communities to develop an educational process that identifies for drivers the location of available truck parking.