Truck driving has always been an industry where regulations are plentiful. The large size and weight of commercial vehicles means it is crucial that drivers adhere to safety mandates.
One of the more popular and results-driven laws in the freight industry is the hours-of-service rule. HOS requirements are designed to ensure drivers don’t spent too many hours working without a break. Long hours without rest can lead to drivers nodding off behind the wheel, resulting in serious accidents.
The rule has undergone many changes over the years, with individuals on both sides of the debate voicing their opinion about its effects. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has suspended certain provisions of the HOS rule for property-carrying vehicles, including two mandatory rest periods from 1 a.m. to 5 p.m. before drivers could restart their work duties after a certain amount of time on the road.
Currently, drivers are prohibited from driving more than 60/70 hours in a span of 7/8 consecutive days. Drivers may restart the period after taking 34 or more hours of consecutive rest, a provision known as the 34-hour restart rule.
One trucker recently committed a glaring violation of the HOS rule, resulting in an accident that took the life of one individual. Carlos Alberto Garcia was traveling outside of Washington, DC on Interstate 495 on June 24th when he drifted into the caution-striped paved median.
Two individuals had stopped in the area to re-secure a boat to a trailer. The trucker struck the individuals, taking the life of one and leaving the other with severe injuries. When Virginia State Police investigated, they discovered the trucker had logged 103 hours within an eight-day period. During this time, the driver had only taken one ten-hour rest break.
Garcia had also been involved in an accident the previous night, rear-ending a Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority bus and injuring numerous passengers onboard.
Garcia has been given an out-of-service (OOS) order by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Officials have said that Garcia represents an immediate threat to the safety of the motoring public. If he violates this order, he will be subject to fines and possibly criminal charges. He also faces potential charges for violating the HOS rule.
This type of practice is all too common in the trucking industry. Sometimes drivers are pressured by their managers to pursue unrealistic deadlines and work overwhelming schedules. Other drivers pursue these hectic schedules of their own volition, doing so for the purpose of getting more miles on their next paycheck.
Regulators have seemingly found a way to get around this problem. On December 18th, all truck drivers will be required to switch from paper logbooks to electronic logging devices. The ELD rule is designed to stop drivers from falsifying logbooks, and to make it easier to discover if HOS rules are being violated.
While some trucking groups like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) have stated the mandate is unfair to smaller carriers and self-employed drivers, it is expected to go into effect on schedule.