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Groups challenge trucker fatigue rule

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Advocates for highway safety and truck drivers filed suit challenging a new federal rule that they said fails to protect the U.S. public from tired truckers.

The Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, the Truck Safety Coalition and two truck drivers filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, seeking judicial review of the final hours of service rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

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Henry Jasny, vice president and general counsel for the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said the federal agency failed to reduce the 11-hour limit on consecutive driving hours of truck drivers to 10 hours, despite the agency's statement in the proposed rule that "the 10-hour rule is ... FMCSA's currently preferred option" because it would be most effective in reducing driver fatigue.

Although the agency had no data to support its adoption of the longer 11-hour limit in 2004, the agency decided to stand by that rule even though it comes at the cost of numerous additional fatigue-related crashes, Jasny said.

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The final rule also failed to eliminate the 34-hour restart provision, first instituted in 2004 without any supporting data or research, which reduced the off-duty time drivers are allowed from 48 or more hours to just 34 hours off-duty after driving up to 70 hours and working more than 80 hours over eight days, Jasny said.

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Jasny said driver surveys sponsored by the agency showed that under the current rule, 65 percent of truck drivers acknowledge that they drive while tired, and 48 percent admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel in the previous year.

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