A recent federal court case brought against regulations adopted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) highlights the link between highway safety and hours spent on duty or behind the wheel.
Challenge focused on hours-of-service
In 2020, the FMCSA adopted a final rule that addressed four separate issues related to hours of service. Three safety groups and the Teamsters brought a claim to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Focusing their attention on two regulations specifically, they argued none of the four adequately addressed either safety or driver-health effects.
- Short-haul exemption: Lengthened the maximum on-duty (non-driving) time from 12 to 14 hours and extended the distance in which they may operate from 100 to 150 miles
- 30-minute break rule: Required a 30-minute break after eight hours of consecutive driving and allowed on-duty to be used rather than off-duty status
In defense, the FMCSA asserted that the new regulations increased flexibility for drivers. The court agreed. On both issues, the FMCSA explains sufficiently why the new rule satisfied a safety-neutral criteria. The groups may consider a petition for rehearing before the court.
Accidents and fatalities with trucks increase locally
Data from the Traffic Safety Commission for the State of Washington for 2021 reveal King County and Seattle have experienced the impact of overextended hours of service. Seattle accounted for more one-third of all fatal accidents in King County. Moreover, the number of fatal accidents involving heavy trucks in nearly tripled compared to 2020. This number accounts for three percent of the fatalities in King County.
Online demand for goods will continue to pressure the transportation sector to deliver. Commercial operators balance the squeeze of consumer demands with abiding by and complying with regulations designed to ensure the safety of all vehicles and drivers on public roads. Even under the best circumstances, accidents with commercial motor vehicles happen. Attorneys who understand the law can provide guidance.