The battle continues between the public and the trucking industry. In July, 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the portions of final hours-of-service rule issued in 2005 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that permitted truck drivers to increase their driving hours. The American Trucking Association has filed a motion requesting the court to stay this decision and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has requested a delay in the requirement by the court that would reduce the allowable driving time by 1 hour a day so the trucking industry can continue with “business as usual.”
The laws that control the hours a truck driver can operate have been created for a very specific reason, the safety of the general public. More accidents are caused by distracted or fatigued drivers than any other single reason. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), “Fatigue increases the likelihood that a driver will not pay sufficient attention to driving or commit other mental errors. In-depth studies of crashes have found that inattention and other mental lapses contribute to as much as 50 percent of all crashes. The agency tentatively estimates that 15 percent of all truck-involved fatal crashes are “fatigue-relevant,” that is, fatigue is either a primary or secondary factor.
The federal hours-of-service regulations were changed in 2005 for Interstate drivers of commercial motor vehicles subject to Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR) Part 395. This law increased the number of hours truck drivers could operate in a 24 hour period. The law allowed Interstate truck drivers to drive 11 hours in a work period, prohibit driving after 14 hours since coming on-duty, and require at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty to re-qualify for a new work period. That increased the number of hours an interstate driver can operate in a week from 60 hours in a seven day week to 77 hours in seven days.
The increase in permissible driving hours is something the trucking industry is desperately fighting for because of one simple reason, increased profit. The longer a driver can operate, the faster he can get from one destination to the next and the more goods he can deliver. However, this increased profit cannot be allowed at the expense of the safety of the public. Several groups will oppose this stay, including Public Citizen, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and Parents against Tired Truckers.