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Road safety advocates look to keep hours-of-service restart rule intact

Washington – At least one advocacy group and two truck safety advocates are calling for the federal government to maintain strict hours-of-service regulations for commercial motor vehicle drivers as a way to combat fatigued driving.

At press time, the outlook for the HOS rule for CMV drivers remained uncertain as Congress weighed the Omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017. Language in the bill could repeal a requirement for drivers to take a 34-hour break once a week – including two stints between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

The Arlington, VA-based Truck Safety Coalition states that if such language is approved, CMV drivers would see their working and driving hours increase to 82 hours from 70 and the elimination of a required “weekend” off.

In a letter sent Nov. 10 to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Jackie Novak of the Truck Safety Coalition and Jennifer Tierney of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways wrote that “if this anti-safety measure is enacted, it will result in more overtired and overworked truck drivers driving alongside our loved ones, which will inevitably lead to more crashes, injuries and fatalities. … Clearly, the solution to this pervasive problem is not to add more driving and working time, but rather to consider ways to address and prevent fatigue.”

The Department of Transportation originally issued the restart rule in 2011 after considering material from about 21,000 formal docket comments, six public listening sessions, a review of 80 sources of scientific research and approximately 10 years of rulemaking, according to the Truck Safety Coalition. Any policy rider attached to the fiscal 2017 omnibus appropriations bill will not have been subject to public scrutiny, committee hearings or safety reviews, the coalition states.

On May 19, the Senate approved a transportation funding bill that would preserve the HOS rule, with specific details hinging on the results of a study conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association. FMCSA aimed to determine if the weekly break improves safety or creates additional crash risks during the morning rush hour. The rule was suspended, pending further research into its safety effects, as part of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015.