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Congress Shouldn’t Roll Back Safety; the Steps We’ve Taken Keep Tired Truckers off the Road

Congress Shouldn’t Roll Back Safety; the Steps We’ve Taken Keep Tired Truckers off the Road

Improving safety and saving lives is at the heart of our mission at DOT. That's why we are committed to keeping tired truckers off the road--for their safety and the safety of others--through common sense rules backed by science, research, and data.

In 2012, thanks to our continued economic recovery and increased demand for freight shipping, there were nearly 10.7 million tractor-trailers and large trucks on the roads in the U.S., with the trucking industry experiencing unprecedented profitability this year.

But that demand has come with a price. Since 2009, we've seen an 18 percent increase in large truck crash fatalities. To put that in perspective, in one year alone, large trucks were involved in 317,000 traffic crashes resulting in an average of 75 deaths per week. That's 11 per day.

Photo collage of families torn apart by truck crashes

Fatigue is under-reported in crash accounts because drivers often don’t want to admit to being at-fault or sleepy. However, we know that driver fatigue is a leading factor in large truck crashes; in fact, analysis has shown that upward of 13 percent of commercial drivers involved in a crash were considered to have been fatigued at the time of that crash.

That’s why we have rules limiting the number of hours that train engineers and airline pilots can work, and it’s why we have a new rule for truck drivers, too. Less than one year ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put new Hours-of-Service regulations into effect to ensure that drivers have the adequate rest they need to safely operate 80,000-pound commercial vehicles on the road with other motorists.

The current Hours-of-Service rule includes common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety by reducing the maximum average work week for truckers to 70 hours from 82 hours and requiring a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of their shift.

We carefully considered the public safety and health risks of long work hours, and solicited input from everyone who has a stake in this important issue, including victims’ advocates, truck drivers and companies. The result is a balanced Hours-of-Service rule with analysis showing that the changes save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year. It also shows that the updated rule actually impacts less than 15 percent of the truck driving population –those drivers working the most extreme schedules.

Seems reasonable, right? Well, you might be surprised to learn that there’s an effort underway in Congress to suspend these important life-saving changes. To prevent this from happening, many victims are sharing their stories in support of the current Hours-of-Service rules. People like Christina and Gary Mahaney from Jackman, Maine.

Photos of devastation after logging truck crashed into house

On July 19, 2011, a tired trucker dozed off and crashed a 104,000-pound logging truck on their front lawn, spilling logs into their home and killing their 5-year-old son, Liam who was relaxing on the couch with his parents. Christina and Gary were also injured, and their home was destroyed. The Mahaneys are still struggling to find justice for the death of their son.

On August 16, 2010, a family from Cockeysville, Maryland, was devastated when the tired driver of a triple trailer truck hit five passenger vehicles and two other semis on an Ohio thruway. The first car it crashed into carried the Slattery family. Susan Slattery was killed in the crash while her two sons, Peter and Matthew, were rushed to the hospital with serious injuries. Matthew was left permanently disabled. He, Peter, and their father Ed relive the loss of Susan every day she is not with them.

And on September 20, 2004, near Sherman, Texas, Ron Wood’s mother, Betsy, his sister Lisa Wood Martin, and Lisa’s three young children were on their way home when a truck driver fell asleep behind the wheel, crossed the median into oncoming traffic, and collided with Lisa's SUV and another vehicle. After being hit by the truck, Lisa’s SUV burst into flames, making it impossible to reach the victims trapped inside.

First responders reported that it was the worst crash they had ever seen. In an instant, five members of the Wood family were gone; in all, ten people were killed and two more injured in that single crash.

I understand that long work hours can be a touchy subject, because many truckers are only paid when the wheels are rolling, not the time they spend sitting in traffic or waiting pickup or unload shipments. But these families remind all of us at the FMCSA that our work is not done until everyone on the road can make it home safely at the end of the day. And as a wife and mother of two, I am committed to preventing tragedies like those that have been shared with me.

It’s important that we continue studying the impact of fatigue on commercial drivers and public safety to make our regulations even more effective. But this we know right now: suspending the current Hours-of-Service safety rules will expose families and drivers to greater risk every time they're on the road.

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I am quoting your last paragraph: "It’s important that we continue studying the impact of fatigue on commercial drivers and public safety to make our regulations even more effective. But this we know right now: suspending the current Hours-of-Service safety rules will expose families and drivers to greater risk every time they're on the road." Your article is heart wrenching. The loss of family members is devastating. You have done a fabulous job of pandering to the emotional side of your readers while ignoring the rational side. Every person who drives our nation's roads is assuming a risk. Accidents happen daily. Some may have been preventable, others are unavoidable. I support efforts to prevent accidents whenever possible. This stance should be obvious and universal. Now, when do we discuss the number of drivers who have given their lives to avoid a drunk driver, a sleepy driver or a driver who is talking/texting with a hands free headset???? When do we admit that most crashes involving CMVs are the fault of the 4 wheelers? When do we require the drivers of 4 wheelers to submit to drug tests randomly? When do we limit the hours of work/driving that the operator of a 4 wheeler is allowed??? When do we move to make the roads safer for professional drivers, who, by and large, are safer and more regulated than any other drivers? It is time to look at ALL of the facts. Not just the ones that garner you approval, votes or money from your lobbyists. It is getting beyond ridiculous. I am sorry for the losses people have suffered at the hands of a tired trucker. I am also sorry for the losses of my friends who have died trying to avoid a stupid 4 wheeler doing stupid things. Those drivers put the lives of that family before his or her own. Can we hear about these? Even our state troopers and police officers are seen on their cell phones (not hands free), talking and texting. They do not use turn signals. I could go on and on. This is discrimination in it's worst form. If it is good for the commercial driver, it is even better for the private automobile driver.

Your rules have hurt driver more then helped!!!! I use to be able to take a nap during the day or afternoon when I felt tired. But now I can't because of your new HOS. This leaves me having to drive longer though the day. Try actually consulting drivers not so called educated morons. You want Safier drivers? Try talking to us

This is a great article thank you Anne. Driver safety (and the efficient tracking of it) is crucial to any fleet managment company. Let's get Drivers home safely.

You have got to be kidding me, you give 4 examples, blame the truck drivers for not wanting to admit they are tired, but without proof you know fatigue is a major cause of accidents and the stupid HOS rules you come up with help. Really? Your HOS rules make it more stressful. A driver has a window of 14 hours, 11 hr driving, 10 hours off with a 30 min break during the first 8. More rest was gotten with the 10/8 and split sleeper. We are having to run in bad weather, horrible traffic hours, and tired because of it. You cannot run like that, weather, traffic and other natural conditions do not allow you to get adequate rest. Go back to the 10 or 11 driving 8 - 10 sleeper use the split sleeper, go away with the 14 hr rule, that just puts us on a clock that we have to beat regardless. Personally your HOS has made my life harder. Stop making truck drivers look like criminals when they are trying to follow your rules. Stop trying to make us work like computers that do not have outside factors affecting how we feel or what we need to do. No one knows when a person needs rest except for that person and when you put him on a time clock, well what do you think is going to happen? Yes there are some out there that do not need to be driving, but the majority of drivers are good and do whatever they can to help others, do not demoralize them. If you really want to make a difference, do a real study and make sure you go by it alone. How many crashes out there were the cause of truck drivers verses how many were the cause of other circumstances, vs small vehicles. How many crashes were the cause of dispatch pushing too hard because you had not reached the limit How many crashes were the drivers using ELD vs crashes that were not ELD users.

Not that I expect you'll see this, or that I'll ever no if you do, but. The new HOS, while done in good faith has served a larger purpose than you intended. I has guaranteed that when a driver is tired though the day, they still feel the need to carry on. Is that what you were going for? The 30 minute break is a wonderful idea, but you in your offices have no knowledge of traffic, or weather patterns, or the specific demands of our daily schedules. This is not a 9 to 5 job. We need to have the flexibility to stop outside of metropolitan areas and let traffic clear out. Not feel forced by a 14 hour clock to attempt a charge through the center of it all. Where is the safety in that? We need to have the ability to stop and take a nap without knowing that our working day is ticking away while we try to take a safety break. We need to be able to wait for weather, road construction. We, the people who deal with what we have need to have a say in how you plan our lives. One scripted 2 day trip in a truck doesn't allow you a good picture at what we do, let alone force you to deal with the aftermath of the rules that DOT has mandated without first hand knowledge of the affect it has on the very people you claim to be trying to help Thank you and good day

Drivers are more tired because of these new regulations. Ask any trucker. Over-regulation is killing motorist, compare today's numbers with the numbers before the HOS rule changes. Sean

too bad they can't make intelligence a need to get a drivers license. I had a moron in a BMW cutover in front of me at 70 mph because he didn't like me being in the passing lane. If I had hit him, I would have been at fault even though my truck cannot stop as fast. That is why idiot stories like this irk me. Aggressive drivers in cars cause many more accidents but there is no government mandate for stupidity.

But this article fails to mention that over 70 percent of all truck involved crashes were caused by the card involved in the crash. They can twist and turn the numbers anyway the want to fit their views but in all reality trucks are safer today per mile driven than ever before.

Perhaps drivers of cars should also be subject to random drug screen by a d.o.t. officer and have to pass a drug screen every time they renew their license. I am more than happy to comply as I personally don't use drugs. But how man of us know someone who has driven to the store after taking a pain pill? Most crashes between a car and 18 wheeler are caused by the car. They (4wheelers) don't want to admit fault because if they did,.. they couldn't file suit and get paid! How can you make laws for trucks if you've never been behind the wheel?!?!?

Safety is a big concern. What I gather from this is FMCSA changed the rules and because of these rules enacted by the FMCSA is that more deadly accidents are being caused by forcing drivers to drive when tired because if they stop to grab a 5hour nap they won't deliver the load of Iphones to Walmart on time because he would drive past his 14hr clock and will have to shut the truck down again for up to 10 more hours.

You are only focusing on the fatigue of drivers when the majority of accidents involving a tractor trailer and a personal passenger vehicle are caused by the personal passenger vehicle. Nearly 70% of all crashes and fatalities are caused by car drivers texting, following too close, cutting off trucks leaving them no escape route, and many other factors. Yes fatigue does play a part in some accidents but not all. Another factor that plays a part in accidents is the new truck drivers that these CDL Mills (trucking schools) are putting out there. They are not getting enough road training and they are being trained by drivers with fewer than 5 years road experience. All you want to do is blame the trucker for being tired, try putting the blame where it really goes and train car drivers to respect the truck driver that is out doing his or her job. Make sure the new truck driver has plenty of road training rather than these schools just teaching them enough to pass a test.

As a professional driver I do agree with what has been writing. But when is someone going to talk to the people that do the job. It is sad that when loss of life is the end of someone else's greed of companies that push drivers to make appointments or get written up because they do the right thing and and STOP AND GET REST. Companies will smile and say will we don't do that but when your back is turned they go back to business as normal run run run some more. FMCSA needs to talk to the drivers we do have something to say how about FMCSA spend time where the drivers are and talk to the men and women that do the job

Then make car's follow the same rules. I agree with rules and regulations for truck drivers. But make them fair all the way around.

The 8 hour break is ridiculous, it makes you MORE tired and extends your 11 hour day to 11 and 1/2.... WHAT is safe about that?? Most drivers do not get out of their trucks, just sit there and get sleepy waiting for that 30 minutes to pass so they can continue their grueling day. Wake up....

You folks really have no clue.

fmcsa should do a fair study on trucking instead of fabricating information that is not correct tell the truth not just one side like these stories you have seen earlier we are going to have accidents that is unavoidable and unfortunate but trying to pass all the regulations for truckers is not going to solve the problem we are not the only people on the road causing accidents but we are regulated by fmcsa

I do agree that these were horrific accidents, but need I remind you that 75% of all TRUCK related accidents are the cause of of the passenger vehicle. What Miiss Ferro has done while with FMCSA has done a lot of good, there are still things that can be issues that can be looked at again. The general public has NO idea what we do out here and what we go through to put a roof over our heads and food on our plates. The least the media can do is deliver both sides of the one sided stories we all hear about. We are not bad people, we all want to get home to our families too, but the media portrays us as HIGHWAY DEGENERATES, and not the people we really are.

Hours of service are good only to a point. The new 34 hr restart is very unproductive. It causes drivers to run harder to make up for the extra hours lost waiting for a restart. This happens when people make laws that have no idea what they are doing due to lack of experience in the trucking industry! If you want to talk safety, let's close the borders and stop letting trucks from other countries drive into our country without their trucks having to meet our safety regulations. Not only their trucks don't have to meet US safety standards, law enforcement has no jurisdiction over them! There are many issues making our roads dangerous and the current hours of service or putting electronic logs in all trucks is NOT the answer!!

Seriously, the new hours make me more tired, the 30 minute break that is mandated gives my body just enough time to wind down and get tired. You can do all the data you want but real life says it. Do this actual job for 3 months and see how it affects you. With all do respect I understand safety is a great thing, but regulation doesn't help. Those that are the problem have always been the problem. If they were driving tired before and running longer hours before your new rules, they are still gonna do it on your new rules. This basically just regulates those that did the safe thing in the first place. Just the same as speed limits yeah it keeps the honest person doing that speed but most speed because they don't give a shit about rules. Rules don't work just like locks don't keep crooks out, only honest people honest.

Its all good, what you do at FMCSA, but you can't put regulation on drivers only, a lot of other sides of the trucking industry needs to be under regulation as well. Things such shippers and resivers, brokers, thru lines for traffic.

I can't see how a 30 minute stop in the day has any impact at all. Forcing these truckers onto roads in rush hour traffic would add to the chances of an accident, why can't they take rest periods when they feel tired? Why can't they rest and avoid traffic congestion without being penalized under the HOS rules? Why is it that the DOT can't figure out a sane method for travel times during a 24 hour period? Surely with Elogs reporting can be more precise as to when these truckers are on the road. Comparing truckers with airline pilots and railroad engineers isn't fair, they have relief crews that are called in to continue the movement of trains/planes, ever been happily sitting on a tarmac for two hours waiting for a new crew to show up and fly the plane??

The numbers are there BUT! The statement states that the trucks were "involved" in those accidents. But how many of those accidents were the "fault" of the truck driver? This article implies that ALL the truck drivers were at fault 100% of the time, and that is wrong. You can use statistics to further an agenda especially if you word it correctly which has been done here. I will not say that truck drivers don't have accidents for which they are at fault, but let's get the REAL NUMBERS. The statement that fatigue is under-reported and to quote you "analysis has shown that upward of 13 percent of commercial drivers involved in a crash were considered to have been fatigued at the time of that crash". What analysis is that. And were your analysts at the scene of ANY of those crashes? The officer(s) investigating the accidents will find whoever is at fault during their investigation. If the driver is at fault because of fatigue or being over his hours that will be in his/her report. Please tell everyone using the numbers you have used in your post, EXACTLY how many of the 317,000 traffic crashes were the fault of the TRUCK DRIVER? How many of the “average 75 deaths per week” were directly the fault of the TRUCK DRIVER? Do you have those facts? And do you have the courage to post those facts instead of using sensationalism as you do later in your post with pictures and descriptions of accidents? How about spending some time and effort with a better driver education system for teen drivers, and/or the motoring public. As a Truck Driver and Trainer I watch people in automobiles and motorcycles cut me off in traffic on a continual basis. While sitting at a DMV office waiting to register my car (about a 2 hr wait) they had on TV screens the weather channel. How about videos on safe driving habits instead? I have asked many “driver education” teachers this question: Which one of the following three large trucks will stop the quickest on a wet surface in an emergency, Fully Loaded Semi, Empty Semi, or a Tractor without a trailer (bobtail). None have answered correctly or state they don’t know. Yet they are teaching our youth to drive our highways. Tons of money is being spent on Trucker Safety, use some of those tax dollars to buy TV time and have short spots to educate the motoring public on being safe around trucks.

Stupidity has reared it's ugly head by not allowing team drivers to do a 24 hr. reset whenever needed. The one reset a week rule is crap.

Problem here is 95% of the time the truck driver is not at fault, in this case this looks like a classic issue of the car not paying attention. I don't no because I was not there. I am sure getting tired of everyone blaming the driver for all the accidents out there!! The media sure does not help.. Besides you can't make all the roads safe because you are only regulating the trucks not the biggest problem, the people driving the cars and pickups that should not even have the right to be on the road... I have seen so much that the dot never takes into account and the the police never see or even try to see. It's not the trucks, it's more the general public that the trucks.. Stop treating truck driver like criminals!!!

Would like to share

I'm sure since you know it all, you're probably aware that electronic logs do nothing in the tune of safety. A driver now has to race a clock. What does that mean? Speeding, tailgating, erratic driving. A driver now has to sleep in the window of time now, or really lose out on pay in a low pay job. If he can't sleep from 8am to 4pm, his 10 hour break, anything after that is going to cut into his time he can work. So a 10hr break is now 18. Or what if he can't sleep, and gets on the road after 10? He was forced to sleep when not tired and couldn't sleep. Nobody time limits your day. Why don't you focus more on the car aspect of a lot of these accidents.

That is why I say stop paying drivers by the mile and pay them by the hour. That way we as drivers are paid for what we really do.

Let me start by saying that I am a truck driver. And it is as a trucker that I definitely know the ramifications that comes with working the long hours that we work. While I do my due diligence to make sure not only my equipment is safe for operation but myself as well. While I dont agree with everything that the D.O.T. and FMCSA does as regards to this industry I do think that both agencies and truckers need to work closer together to come to some common ground when it comes to safety. I strongly believe that you can't judge what is or isn't safe by sitting behind a desk, I think you should put people out in the field with us truckers where the rubber meets the road. That way you can get not only a better idea of the things that we put up with on a daily basis and the things that could be done to not only improve our jobs from a safety standpoint but also help make our highways safer in general.

While there should be rules, the low number of crashes and deaths the rule prevents compared to the potential number of crash and deaths each year is insignificant compared to the amount of frustration, and inconvenience the current rule brings to the industry by now recognizing the different variables. The professional driver will be professional, and for the driver that's driving sleepy, there are already laws to punish them without burdening the entire industry with needless hand holding. The problem is the lack of understanding of the public that as a professional I can only prevent what I have time to react to, and that gap in front of my truck and the car I'm behind is my safe reaction zone space.

Mrs. Ferro, I agree with you as many others do. As a general rule the new HOS is pretty close to perfection with the 30 minute mandatory break and a few other items in question. However, as we grow I think we need to study different types of trucking and find a realistic balance for them as well since the demands of each are different, ie: long haul, short haul/local, over-dimensional/weight, etc. So HOS would not be a generic rule for all types of drivers. We also need to reach out further into each of them and learn. For instance pilot cars/truck escorts aren't subject to HOS for some reason and they need to be. While it is not in my best interest to say this as we also own PiloTrac the safety of the public must come first. In case this actually finds your eyes i must comment on the recent approval of 52 million dollars to study HOS. I don't think it will cost this much money. I would like to see you create a driver survey where the driver answers questions/options by marking a circle for their selection. Then hiring a competent programmer off of elance or freelance (or even using one of my friends for 10 or 15g without them knowing who the real customer is for your safety) and then process these surveys. TV campaigns and advertising is not required, simply use the major truck stops with a simple drop box and a small cheap form holder. Publish it on your blog and let grass roots take care of the rest. You will be able to collect enough data like this to summarize the driver side of these issues which will hold the true answers enabling you to evolve. Of course you will need to define what type of driver they are; long, short, heavy, oversize, hopper, hazmat, etc. Bust ass on everybody else that seems to cost a lot of money, then give the left over 30 million to the highway trust fund as the post office is in enough trouble on their own. Then your career soars and you are the next VP. Best, Michael Rader WideloadShipping.com The Mega Movers Marketplace 503-877-1999 ext. 1 mike@wideloadshipping.com

The hour of service rules as they are right now actually make the roads twice as dangerous and actually forces more drivers to drive more tired....with these hours of service laws....it prevents drivers from being able to stop and grab a power nap....we have to keep moving and cant stop because of the law.....say for instance....a driver takes his 10 hours off...but for some reason he didnt get much sleep...then now he is forced by law to drive tired because he has to get there....and once he starts his 14 hour time. He cant stop to maybe take a hour nap...because his time has started and he has only 14 hours regardless that he can use so he must keep moving

Safety, humm! You have no idea what these so called "good new rules" do. You and the government have forced drivers to drive when their tired. Theses new rules do not offer any flexibility to take a nap when tired. All those lobbing for this got it. Now go get your CDL and drive with these rules you forced on us. You have no idea what safety is or nor do you belong lobbing for such things if you can't back it with "real science" and facts. Thanks, a tired and fatiqued driver.

I agree that steps need to be taken to try and minimize driver fatigue, but your research tactics are flawed and I'll tell you why. There are primarily two reasons: 1. I'm quite certain you didn't confer with an appropriate number of actual drivers. 2. Your focus is on the drivers and a much larger portion of your focus needs to be on the causes of fatigue in our industry and move to regulate that. Additionally, to me this is a no-brainer, but here's the truth regarding your lack of common sense: you impose primarily blanket-type regulations on an industry that is nowhere near universal. Do not misunderstand me; I am devoted to safety, however, you folks are taking the wrong approach and horrendously dropping the ball.

I been driving for 20 years now. I don't mind rules. but the logbook doesn't know when I'm tired. I do. But with only 14 hr a day to get my miles in and can't take a 2 hr. Nap with out it messing up my mile. That is what makes a driver drive tired. The 2 1-5 break periods is not needed. It just make it harder as well. I differently don't get what the once a week deal dose but cause problem on guys over the road and I have to run harder to get home on Friday to pull out Sunday . Where I could take my time and be safe by getting in Saturday morning and not be tired. Things would be great if it was. Keep the 10/11 and go back to the old 34 hr rest and make the 14 more flexible as it was when it was 10/8 so drivers can have time to stop take a nap if needed. Thanks you want driver to be safe there. And punish the bad not everyone.

One of our biggest problems with the current HOS rules is there is no room for flexibility. If I didn't sleep well last night and I wan't to stop and take a nap at 1, I ruin the whole day. I can't tack those "nap hours" on at the end of the day so I am most likely to drive tired because I don't want to loose those hours. Also, not everyone sleeps at night so forcing an overnight re-set can cause more 'tired driving" problems than they solve. E Shannon Watson Watson Transport LLC

well instead of focusing on hours driven in a day, focus on a decent living wage so that truckers can be the professionals that we all hope they are and get rest when they need it instead of squeezing out every single mile possible in the time allowed by law!

Changing the 1/2hr break would b welcomed.However until you get shipper and consignees to (un)load within NOT GET TRUCKS IN POSITION you won't fix the wrecks. Also force dispatch accompanying this. Noticed in example were forced dispatched most examples of this...DRIVER SITS OR WORKS ALL DAY AT CUSTOMER then forced to drive. Using some form of less pay...ie no load fer few days, fired or reduction of pay as driver absorbs the late fee

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