Massachusetts readers may or may not have heard the latest trucking safety news: Congress has decided to roll back changes made to federal hours-of-service rules implemented in 2013. In particular, Congress has suspended a rule known as the 34-hour restart rule, which had placed restrictions on truckers in terms of how frequently they are able to restart their work week and when they are allowed to take their break.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website, the 34-hour restart rule required truckers to take 34 consecutive hours of rest after working their maximum number of weekly hours, currently at 70. That break had to include two rest periods between the hours of one and five o’clock in the morning. In addition, the restart could only be used once per week, which was not a restriction under the previous rule. 

Since the implementation of the new law in 2013, the trucking industry has opposed the rule because of the burdens it places upon the industry and the lack of evidence for its effectiveness in improving highway safety. After months of urging lawmakers to suspend the rule, the industry was successful in obtaining that suspension over the weekend. The president has reportedly already signed the suspension into law, so truckers are no longer bound to the 34-hour restart rule until further notice is given. Under the recently passed law, the federal government is charged with studying the law’s impact and effectiveness on highway safety and the industry’s daily operations.

Truck safety is something that should concern all of us, of course. Because of the potential damage large trucks can cause on the highway, truck drivers and their employers have the large responsibility of ensuring they are abiding by federal safety regulations and exercising reasonable caution in daily operations. We will undoubtedly be following developments in the government’s findings on the suspended rule, which is an important part of the discussion on truck driver fatigue, so readers can expect to check back for more information and perspective as things unfold.

Source: The Washington Post, “The Department of Transportation wants truckers to sleep more. Congress said no,” Lydia DePillis, Dec. 16, 2014.