An organization representing truckers says federal Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations intended to reduce fatigue and improve safety have actually done the opposite.

HOS rules are aimed at reducing driver fatigue that can cause accidents by limiting the number of driving hours per day, and the number of driving and working hours per week.

In comments filed in response to an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) said current HOS rules “are overly complex, provide virtually no flexibility, and in no way reflect the physical capabilities or limitations of individual drivers.”

Pressured to drive faster

The OOIDA, whose 160,000 members are predominantly small business truckers, said the federal requirements “effectively force drivers to be on the road when they are tired or fatigued, during busy travel times such as morning and afternoon rush hour, during adverse weather and road conditions, or when they simply are not feeling well. The unyielding 14-hour clock pressures truckers to drive faster when they’re running short on available time. Additionally, drivers are frequently at the mercy of shippers and receivers in regards to loading and unloading their truck, which consumes between 11 and 20 hours each week.”

The OOIDA also said current HOS rules have not achieved their goal of improving highway safety, pointing to statistics showing a 45.4 percent increase in crashes involving large trucks and an 8.7 percent increase in fatal crashes involving large trucks since July 2013, when HOS changes were made.

OOIDA called for the elimination of the arbitrary 30-minute rest break and allowing drivers to take rest breaks once per 14-hour duty period for up to three consecutive hours as long as the driver is off-duty. Other recommendations included expanding split-sleeper berth flexibility and updating the definition of the “Adverse Conditions” exception and applying it to the 14-hour clock among other HOS changes that would benefit highway safety.

"A one-size-fits-all approach"

“Small-business truckers are the safest and most diverse operators on the road,” said OOIDA President Todd Spencer. “Yet, for far too long, the federal government has failed to grasp the importance of this diversity, and continues to burden the trucking industry with a “one-size-fits-all” approach that punishes small businesses, stifles competition, and overregulates an industry deregulated by design.”

OOIDA's complete comments can be found here.