US presses ahead with new fatigue rules


As Australia grappled with and finally agreed to a National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, the US was looking at tightening up its driver fatigue rules. <br /><br /> The new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hours-of-service (HOS) “final rule” was announced just before Christmas, with US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood saying: "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.”

By Rob McKay | January 9, 2012

As Australia grappled with and finally agreed to a National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, the US was looking at tightening up its driver fatigue rules.

The new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hours-of-service (HOS) "final rule" was announced just before Christmas, with US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood saying: "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."

To start on July 1, 2013, the final rule reduces by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week.

Under the old rule, truck drivers could work on average up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new HOS final rule limits a driver's work week to 70 hours.

Truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes.

Drivers can take the 30-minute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window.

The FMCSA says the final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit and
it will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time.

"The rule requires truck drivers who maximise their weekly work hours to take at least two nights' rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most - from 1am to 5am," the FMCSA says.

This rest requirement is part of the rule’s "34-hour restart" provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.

Drivers will be allowed to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period.

Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by three or more hours could be fined US$11,000 per offence, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to US$2,750 for each offence.

The move has encountered opposition from the trucking firms and the shipping firms and others that employ them, with representative body American Trucking Associations (ATA) saying the changes would compromise rather than enhance a safety record that was already improving.

The ATA is considering a legal challenge.

The National Association of Manufacturers believes the changes will adversely affect its members supply chains while the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the National Retail Federation say the mandatory early morning sleep requirement will add to road congestion while driving up costs.

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