Major Regulatory Changes Coming to Commercial Trucking

Major Regulatory Changes Coming to Commercial Trucking

The United States Department of Transportation carefully regulates commercial trucking across the country. Some of the most important trucking regulations it makes limit the number of hours truck drivers can work between rest periods. This rule is a critical safeguard against tired truck drivers. Every year, many serious accidents are caused by truck drivers who are too tired to be behind the wheel. It is important for injury victims to hold negligent truck drivers and their employers accountable for their dangerous acts in order to keep the roads of Pennsylvania safe for everyone.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, call Ostroff Injury Law at (484) 351-0350. Our experienced Pennsylvania truck accident lawyers know how to protect your legal rights. We have helped many accident victims access the compensation they deserve.

Hours of Service Regulations

The current hours of service regulations were enacted in December 2011. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the following hour limits apply to drivers that carry property:

  • May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
  • May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes.
  • May not drive after 60 hours on duty in 7 consecutive days or after 70 hours on duty in 8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7 or 8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

Drivers who carry passengers must follow slightly different hour limits:

  • May drive a maximum of 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
  • May not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours, following 8 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time is not included in the 15-hour period.
  • May not drive after 60 hours on duty in 7 consecutive days or after 70 hours on duty in 8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7 or 8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

Proposed Changes to Hours of Service Limits

ABC 7 Chicago reports that the FMCSA is considering changes to the hours of service regulations. After an extensive period of public comment, the Administration has made the following proposals:

  • The Agency proposes to increase flexibility for the 30-minute break rule by tying the break requirement to eight hours of driving time without an interruption for at least 30 minutes, and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on duty, not driving status, rather than off duty.
  • The Agency proposes to modify the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off duty or in the sleeper berth. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.
  • The Agency proposes to allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but not more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour driving window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift.
  • The Agency proposes to modify the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
  • The Agency proposes a change to the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

Proponents of these changes argue that they would provide more flexibility to drivers who want to stay compliant with hours of service requirements but still have financial demands placed upon them. The FMCSA estimates that these changes could provide $274 million in savings to the United States economy and consumers. Of course, it remains to be seen whether these changes would result in accidents that detract from these savings.

Enforcement of Hours of Service Regulations

Hours of service regulations are an important safeguard to road users, but they are only effective if they are enforceable. For years, truck drivers were able to maintain their own paper logs of miles and hours. This system of self-reporting allowed provided little oversight. Some unscrupulous drivers took advantage of the system to squeeze in more hours or miles than they were legally allowed to work. Technology has enabled many important changes in enforcing hours of service regulations.

In December 2015, the FMCSA published its first rule requiring Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). ELD compliance was required in December 2017. Truck drivers can no longer rely on self-reporting through handwritten paper logs. Now, their hours and miles are recorded digitally and automatically sent to truck owners. Electronic log requirements are designed to be tamper-proof and reduce the problems associated with self-reporting. The extra oversight will be a better check to promote compliance with hours of service regulations. Of course, the ELD mandate has been less than popular with truck drivers and transportation companies. Some drivers complain that it is an invasion of privacy. Some companies complain that the mandate will cut into their profits. But like it or not, ELD is now the law.

Experienced, Aggressive Auto Accident Lawyers Fighting for Pennsylvania Injury Victims

New technologies continue to offer improved methods of reducing truck accidents. In the meantime, it is important for injury victims to hold transportation companies accountable for the negligence of their truck drivers. This ensures that they adhere to life-saving safety regulations that protect all road users. At Ostroff Injury Law, we have a track record of success helping injured victims recover compensation. Call or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced truck accident lawyers.