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Trump Administration May Relax Trucking Regulations

For several years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has imposed strict rules as to how long a truck driver can be on duty and off duty. The hours of service rules put out by the FMCSA outline how long drivers can safely operate their tractor-trailers in a single day, and these rules apply across the country.

The Houston Chronicle recently reported that the Trump Administration has taken the first step to relax some of the current FMCSA regulations so that drivers can stay on the road for more extended periods without enforced rest periods. These are changes to the hours of service rules are something that both motor carrier companies and truckers have been pushing for. However, safety experts believe that relaxing the rules can lead to more accidents involving big rigs.

The current rules governing on duty and off duty operations limit drivers to 11 hours of driving time within a 14-hour on-duty period. The rules also require that drivers take 10 consecutive hours off duty before they can legally resume driving again. Currently, a truck driver who has been operating for 8 hours must take at least a 30-minute break and be off duty within an 8-hour period.

FMCSA head, Raymond Martinez told reporters in a statement that truck drivers and motor carriers asked for more flexibility and safety to the current rules. “It puts a little more power back in the hands of the drivers and motor carriers,” Martinez said.

Harry Adler, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, firmly disagrees with Martinez on the matter. “The agency is offering flexibility without regard for the fact that it could be exploited by the worst actors in the industry, including drivers who will operate while fatigued and motor carriers who will coerce them to do so,” Adler said.

According to a recent report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board in May of this year, Adler’s concerns about industry abuses are not without good reason. In 2017, there were 4,657 fatal crashes in which a commercial big rig was involved. The report indicated that this most recent number was an increase of 10% over the number of accidents in 2016. The report also indicated that in 60 of those crashes, the driver was either asleep at the wheel or fatigued.

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