Highway safety regulators are changing work rules that limit truck drivers’ time behind the wheel, shifts they said would give drivers more flexibility without increasing overall daily driving time.
The new regulations, which come as truck drivers face tough operating conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic, would save trucking companies an estimated nearly $274 million annually over 10 years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said Thursday.
The modifications are aimed at settling years of debates between safety advocates, trucking companies and drivers over regulations intended to reduce accidents caused by highway fatigue. The rules limit most commercial truck drivers to 11 hours of driving time in a 14-hour workday, with certain prescribed rest breaks.
Some trucking companies and independent truck drivers say the existing rules are too rigid and end up running out the clock when drivers get stuck in traffic or are waiting at loading docks. Safety advocates and the Teamsters union warn that altering the regulations could increase the risk of crashes.
Under the hours-of-service rules set to take effect later this year, periods when long-haul truck drivers are on duty but not driving can be used to satisfy a required 30-minute break after eight hours of driving. Drivers also gain additional leeway to split a mandated 10-hour off-duty period into two separate breaks, neither of which would count against their 14-hour driving window.