US truckers begin life under new fatigue regs

New fatigue regulations in the United States limit truck drivers to a 70-hour work week

July 2, 2013

Truck drivers in the United States are now limited to a 70-hour work week under new fatigue regulations that took effect yesterday.

The new rules cut the maximum number of weekly work hours by 12 and also require drivers to take a 30-minute rest during the first eight hours of a shift.

The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says the changes are designed to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety.

"These rules make common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety for every traveller on our highways and roads," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says.

The new regime means drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week must rest for 34 consecutive hours before getting behind the wheel again.

The department says the rest must include at least two nights when a person’s body clock demands sleep the most, from 1am to 5am.

However, the new regulations have retained the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.

"These fatigue-fighting rules for truck drivers were carefully crafted based on years of scientific research and unprecedented stakeholder outreach," FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro says.

"The result is a fair and balanced approach that will result in an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health. Most importantly, it will save lives."

Industry was given 18 months to adopt the new regulations, which were first announced in December 2011. The department claims more than 85 percent of the truck driving workforce will see no changes and that only the most extreme schedules will be impacted.

Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed driving limits by more than three hours can be fined $11,000 for each offence, while drivers can face civil penalties of up to $2,750 per breach.

The department says working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes, and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers.

It is estimated the regulations will save 19 lives and prevent about 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.

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