Springfield, MO- Drowsy and fatigued driving is a problem that affects all drivers, whether they drive a large commercial truck or a passenger vehicle. While the feds can’t regulate all drivers, they recently passed new regulations to keep fatigued truck drivers off the roads, but truck drivers say the rules are actually making the roads more dangerous.
The new regulations, which went into effect, July 1st, restricts a driver’s daily “hours of operation.” While a driver can work up to 14 hours a day, they are limited to driving only 11 hours a day and truck drivers are capped at 70 hours of work for an eight day work week, reduced for the 82 hours they were previously allowed. Additionally, a driver must have at least 34 consecutive hours off in between work weeks. They are also required to take a mandatory 30 minute break in the first 8 hours of their shift.
Transportation secretary Ray LaHood stated these regulations were developed after years of scientific research and could prevent over a thousand truck accidents a year. Truck drivers however say that after four months of the new regulations they suffer from more fatigue.
A recent survey of 4,000 trucker members of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association showed that the truck drivers are not more rested. On the contrary, 46 percent of respondents stated they are more fatigued now that the new rest regulations have be put into effect, according to TheTrucker.com.
Thirty percent of respondents said the mandatory 30-minute break is actually making them more fatigued since they rarely use this time to sleep and merely sit in their trucks until the rest period is over. One respondent said the “half hour break has increased stress, cut down time to drive, cut down on the ability to find a parking spot, and extended my day, increasing fatigue.”
A few respondents said they were forced to speed and driver more in order to get their loads to their destination in time.
These respondents stated that the new rules caused “more fatigue” and left them with “less home time, less flexibility, and less money.” Sixty-five percent reported that they have lost income because of the new rules. Many say they are unable to haul the same number of loads and are experiencing more stress because of the reduction in income and the restrictive driving hours.
Truck drivers also say that the 34 hr. reset and requiring two rest periods between 1a.m. and 5 a.m. are actually putting them on the roads at times when they are more likely to be involved in a traffic accident. The majority of truck accidents do not occur in the middle of the night, but take place in daylight hours and during rush hour when there are more passenger vehicles on the road.
Some truckers like the new rules, but it remains to be seen if the new regulations will actually reduce the number of truck accidents, but they will make other motorist feel safer.