Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in Washington D.C. upheld – with one small exception – the new hours-of-service (HOS) regulations that govern truck drivers and how long they are permitted to drive without taking a break. This particular decision concludes the most recent chapter of the on-going feud between federal regulators and trucking companies regarding the controversial HOS rules.

New federal HOS regulations

The HOS rules in dispute were first announced the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) over 18 months ago and went into effect on July 1 of this year. Specifically, the new HOS regulations added several safety-enhancing limitations to trucking hours, including:

  • Maximum Work Week. The rule limits the maximum average workweek to 70 hours for truck drivers.
  • 34-hour Restart. The rule permits drivers who reach their 70-hour weekly limit to start driving again so long as they rest for 34 consecutive hours, which must include at least two blocks of time from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
  • 30-Minute Break. The rule prohibits truckers from driving longer than 8 hours unless they take at least a 30-minute break.

In particular, these rule changes were designed to fight truck driver fatigue, which is extremely important in states that experience a large number of trucking accidents due to their busy transportation hubs, such as Missouri. In fact, according to numbers reported by the Missouri State Highway patrol, a person was killed or injured every 2.4 hours in a commercial vehicle accident on Missouri roadways in 2011 – indicating much can still be done to improve trucking safety.

Thankfully, the FMCSA estimates that the new HOS regulations will prevent roughly 1,400 trucking accidents and 560 injuries every year in the U.S. – not to mention they will save 19 lives each year as well.

Sadly, not everyone believes these new rules will actually improve highway safety as those in the trucking industry initially met them with skepticism. For instance, during the litigation recently before the federal appellate court in Washington, the American Trucking Associations argued that the new rules would simply add to the industry’s costs without improving safety. The group further maintained that the additional/longer break periods would reduce productivity by 3 percent, thus costing the industry $18 billion annually.

However, this reasoning did not convince the court. Ultimately, the court’s decision upheld the rule changes stating that these “highly technical points” were best left up to the FMCSA’s discretion. The only exception to this decision was that the court vacated the 30-minute break rule as it applied to short-haul drivers.

Fortunately, rule changes such as these are being made to improve traffic safety. However, no matter how many rules are created, trucking accidents caused by careless drivers will likely continue to occur. If you or a loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, it is often best to seek the counsel of an experienced trucking accident injury attorney. A skilled attorney can review the facts of your case and outline what your rights and options may be given your circumstances.

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