On March 18, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) lifted hours-of-service (HOS) regulations for commercial vehicles carrying certain emergency supplies, including fuel, medical equipment and food.
“These exemptions will remain in effect until the termination of the emergency or April 12, whichever comes first,” Transport Topics reports. Drivers must also take a minimum of 10 hours off once they complete delivery of property, and eight hours off after the delivery of people.
Because the HOS regulations have been relaxed, and because more and more people are ordering supplies and food online, there is an increased chance you will see more commercial trucks on the road at any given time. There is also an increased chance that these drivers will be urged to complete as many runs as possible in the new hours they can drive, which can lead to distraction and fatigue – a dangerous combination.
Lifting the HOS regulations puts all drivers at risk, including truckers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have jointly produced the Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LTCCS) for years. That study has found that 13% of all commercial truck drivers are fatigued at the time of their crashes. The data from these studies have driven the FMCSA to push for tighter restrictions when it comes to drivers’ hours. A fatigued trucker is a dangerous trucker – not only to himself or herself, but to the people with whom he or she shares the road.
Understanding the fatigue risk
Being tired behind the wheel can have a dangerous ripple effect. There is a risk of a driver actually falling asleep, but the greater dangers are related to decision-making and performance. For example, assume a driver is reaching the end of an extended shift based on the new HOS regulations. Because the driver is fatigued, he or she:
- May be more easily distracted, or actively seeking a distraction to avoid “highway hypnosis” and to stay awake.
- May decide to speed to finish a shift faster, or
- May decide to take a stimulant of some kind to keep him from falling asleep.
These decisions can lead to unsafe driving, such as tailgating another driver, abruptly moving from lane to lane, or not seeing a car in front of him. Because fatigue slows down reflexes, the trucker is unable to stop or move in time to avoid an accident.
Factor in drivers who may have less experience, or who are now driving to unfamiliar places, and you create a risky scenario for everyone on the road.
We understand that at this time, we need truck drivers to keep working because the entire country is reliant on the emergency supplies they bring. However, if these drivers are overworked and exhausted, that can pose serious dangers to everyone. We urge you to please be careful when sharing the road with commercial trucks. Lives may depend on it.
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