The United States Senate has rolled back several controversial hours-of-service rules. According to reports, the government has suspended a requirement which limited drivers to 70 driving hours each week.
Specifically, the Senate overturned a restriction — introduced in 2013 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) –which cut driving hours from 80 to 72 per week. The U.S. Senate also overturned a restriction which forced drivers to take a 34-hour rest covering two periods between 1 and 5 in the morning
The goal was to make sure drivers got enough sleep, thereby reducing fatigue-related traffic accidents. But drivers like Dick Pingel, who works out of Norfolk, Nebraska, say that’s simply not a realistic expectation.
“It’s real nice to think you’ll be sleeping that whole time,” Pingel says. “[But] all you’re doing is being tense, thinking about how you’re going to get your hours in.”
The rule changes will be welcomed by most people in the trucking industry. Since the FMCSA helped pass the rules in 2013 carriers and truckers alike have complained that they just weren’t working. Pingel, who’s been driving a truck since 1983 and boasts a clean driving record, says the government should trust commercial drivers to determine when it’s safe for them to be on the road.
“I think I can pretty much figure out when I can drive, and when I’m tired,” Pingel says. “Now, once you start in the morning, no matter how you feel, if you get started and hit Chicago at rush hour, it’s not to your advantage to stop.”
Many truckers would add that the very hours the government wants commercial drivers off the road — 1am to 5am — feature the lightest traffic. In other words, an accident is, arguably, less likely to occur during these hours.
Still, it’s unlikely we’ve seen the end of a long-running debate about hours-of-service rules. Many safety-oriented organizations, along with the Department of Transportation, have stood against any relaxing of these rules since their introduction in 2013.