Drowsy Driving Warning SignAtlanta, GA- Recent changes to the federal trucking regulations were intended to prevent fatigue-related truck accidents, but the new rules have many truckers up in arms saying the laws are costing them hard-earned cash.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, one out of four truckers admits to falling asleep at the wheel at least once while driving over the previous month. The average trucker gets only five hours a sleep a night when they are working. And many truckers are under the impression that missing sleep doesn’t affect their driving.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, however, disagrees and sees drowsy driving among truckers as a serious issue. After a year-long court battle, they managed to pass new regulations which will require drivers to take longer rest periods and limit the number of hours they can work each week.

“Safety is our highest priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement announcing the regulations.  “These rules make common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety for every traveler on our highways and roads.”

The FMCSA said the new regulations were developed after years of scientific research on the effects fatigue has on a driver. The DOT estimates that the new rules will prevent 1,400 semi-truck accidents each year and save 19 lives.

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.

Truckers are capped at 70 hours of work for an eight day work week. Under the previous rules, a driver was allowed to work up to 82 hours a week.

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.

The new rules may be intended to make truckers and more motorists safe while they are on the roads, but opponents of the new regulations says it will cost the trucking industry close to $18 million each year. The average trucker will lose two hours of work a week, just from the 30 minute break rule, overtime that adds up.

“What they are doing is applying rigidity where there should be flexibility,” said Norita Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Not all driver’s jobs and businesses are run the same, and not all people run the same in regards to their body clock.”

 The FMCSA says, in contrast, that the new regulations will save $280 million in savings from fewer truck accidents and an additional $480 million in improved health of truck drivers.

Truckers may be unhappy with the rigidity of the new rules, but it will make other motorists feel safer and less fearful of sharing the roads with semis, tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles.