The Department of Transportation is famous for making rules that seem fantastic when spoken about in morning news shows, but always fall short when implemented. The rules are often created to ease the public’s mind about a specific problem, but professionals know all too well that the problems were much more complicated than one simple rule change.
A famous example is the DOT and Federal Aviation Administration’s reaction to the Colgan Air crash in 2009. Complicated rest rules and changes in airman certification testing have been set in effect, but these rules are causing more problems than they are solving, and the odds that the crash would have been prevented under the new regulations are dismally low.
Similar problems have reared their ugly heads in the truck driving world when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created a new rest rule that sounded great on paper, but left truck drivers exhausted. The rule has proven so unpopular that the FMCSA is doing another study to see if things really were better the “old way.”
Hours of Service Changes and Split Sleeping
Truck drivers have always been limited in how much driving they could do in a day and week, and what rest was required to restart their work “timer.” Older rules, however, allowed a driver more flexibility in splitting his or her rest and work times into a day that was better tailored for their own needs. The rest breaks—taken when they were tired and usually around five hours—would essentially “pause” their work clock, “charging” their rest clock.
New rest and work hours look fantastic to the public—14 hours of driving followed by 10 hours of rest. The problem with this is that the respective clocks never stop—it operates on a strict “use it or lose it” policy. If a driver needs to stop and take a two hour nap because they are tired, the 14 hour duty clock keeps running—so most drivers opt to drive through fatigue rather than waste their valuable work time.
How Are You Affected?
While it sounds safer to have truck drivers receiving longer rest requirements, the results are not as idyllic. Most truck drivers say that they almost never drove fatigued under the old rules when they could split their rest and work. They would typically drive during hours where traffic was lighter, and pull over and get four or five hours of sleep during heavy rush hour twice each day. If they were tired, they rested—period.
With new rules, truck drivers are pressured not to waste a minute of their available 14 hours. This leaves you and your family on the road with drivers that are tired. While the FMCSA is working to undo the damage, you may be at risk of being injured by a driver that is following the rest rules but exhausted—and nobody wins in that scenario.
If you have been injured in a truck accident with a drowsy driver, click on our live chat link now to connect with our law firm.