U.S. Department of Transportation Combats Truck Driver Fatigue

Washington takes action to ensure truck driver rest time and improve safety for the truck drivers and the passenger vehicles alike.

Each year truck accidents kill over 5,000 people and severely injure thousands more. Nearly one in four passenger vehicle deaths in multiple-vehicle collisions involve a large truck. Most often, in a collision with a large truck, it is the driver and passengers of the smaller vehicle which are injured or killed. Additionally, almost 800 large truck drivers are killed each year in these devastating crashes.

Driver fatigue substantially increases the risk of crashes that result in fatalities or serious injury and damages. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), more than 750 fatalities and 20,000 more injuries are due directly to fatigued commercial vehicle drivers.

Therefore, the FMCSA has published new rules regarding truck driver’s Hours of Service (HOS) to help prevent crashes due to fatigued commercial vehicle drivers. The purpose of the rule change is to limit work to no more than 70 hours a week on average. According to research studies by the FMCSA, working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes, and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers.

“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives. Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely.”

The FMCSA’s new HOS final rule reduces the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week by 12 hours from 83 hours within a seven-day-period to 70 hours. Additionally, truck drivers must take a 30 minute break every 8 hours of driving and cannot drive more than 11 hours per day. Finally, the rule’s “34-hour restart” provision allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty to use once over a 7 day period.

“This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency’s history,” says FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “With robust input from all areas of the trucking community, coupled with the latest scientific research, we carefully crafted a rule acknowledging that when truckers are rested, alert and focused on safety, it makes our roadways safer.”