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A portion of new 2013 Hours of Service rules for truckers: Thrown out!

September 14, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

“Short haul” truck drivers hauling freight less than 150 miles are exempted from taking a mandatory 30-minute break after working 8 hours

short haul hos exemption

Aiming to reduce truck driver fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration instituted new Hours of Service (HOS) rules for truck drivers, starting July 1, 2013. In a case brought to the U.S. Court of Appeals, all but one of the new rules were upheld… bringing a victory for the trucking industry.

The 2013 HOS regulations includes a rule that requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break after working 8 consecutive hours. This break is mandatory. But the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the 30 minute break was not necessary for short haul drivers.

A short haul driver is a trucker who drives the freight within 150 miles of his or her dispatch base. The court exempted these short haul truck drivers from the 30-minute break rule.

For more information, take a look at the Enforcement Policy and Court Decision on the 30 Minute Rest Break Provision.

Of course, the ATA (American Trucking Associations) announced that it was pleased with this result.

The powerful trucking lobby, including the ATA, maintains that the new Hours of Service rules are too cumbersome, too restrictive, and that they will significantly raise the costs of land transport. This is a perfect example of the truck industry  putting its bottom line over safety and preventing truck accidents.

Exempting short haul drivers from the new and improved HOS rules is disappointing and  dangerous.  When a truck driver is fatigued, it doesn’t matter how far he or she is driving; a tired and overworked trucker is dangerous behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound commercial truck, period.  Also, keep in mind that most car accidents occur within a few minutes or blocks of home.  To think that a truck is somehow excepted from the effects that fatigue plays on judgment and driver reaction time, even though they’ve just worked 8 hours, is plain silly.

The people who will be injured or killed in the  truck crashes that follow will be the same, just closer to the truck driver’s dispatch base. The exception is just wrong.

As a truck accident attorney and a proponent of highway safety who has been awarded a Leader in the Law recognition by Michigan Lawyers Weekly for my work in this area, I believe this is just the latest blow to safety, amid an ongoing battle between the FMCSA and the trucking companies.

The Judge who wrote the Court of Appeals decision, Judge Janice Rogers Brown, noted that the decision “brings to an end much of the permanent warfare surrounding the HOS rules.”

But we are no where near the end. The truck lobby and bad trucking companies will still fight to water down rules that will increase profits at the expense of other people’s safety on our roads.  The ATA has even vowed that more lawsuits would be brought to challenge the existing rules.

Meanwhile, advocates of truck safety  like the Advocates of Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen the Truck Safety Coalition and the attorneys at Michigan Auto Law are challenging the rules for being too lenient. We’re arguing that the 2013 HOS rules do not go far enough in preventing truck accidents due to fatigued driving.

The FMSCA estimates that the new rules will prevent 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries and 19 deaths a year. This accounts for an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from reduced fatigue and improved truck driver health, according to the FMSCA.

This is simply not enough.

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