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U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Proposal to Improve Highway Safety By Ensuring Truck Drivers Get Adequate Rest

April 25, 2000

May 1, 2000

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today proposed a revised rule for motor carriers that is designed to improve highway safety by ensuring that drivers of large trucks and buses have the opportunity to get adequate rest.

"Safety is President Clinton and Vice President Gore's highest transportation priority and the North Star by which the U.S. Department of Transportation is guided and is willing to be judged," Secretary Slater said. "This proposal would help assure that big rig operators and other truck and bus drivers have sufficient rest so that they can drive safely it will help prevent fatigue-related crashes and thus save lives and prevent injuries."

Today's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) if formalized would shift the focus of federal oversight from counting hours driven by drivers to one of assuring adequate rest time so that they can drive safely. The proposed rule is science-based, tied to a 24-hour clock (as opposed to the 18-hour cycle in the current regulation), emphasizes rest, and avoids a "one-size-fits-all" approach to regulating the motor carrier industry.

Secretary Slater emphasized that the Department is seeking feedback from the public on today's rulemaking and noted that all comments will be thoroughly reviewed before a final rule is issued. "We especially want comment on the data supporting our conclusions to ensure we meet our objective while imposing the least burden, particularly on small entities," Secretary Slater said.

To facilitate comment on the rule, seven public hearings will be scheduled to take place within the next 90 days. The hearings will be in Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Denver; Indianapolis; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; and in the Springfield, Mass.-Hartford, Conn. area. Written comments also may be sent to a public docket.

According to analysis by the FMCSA, the proposed rule would prevent approximately 2,600 crashes, 115 fatalities, and 2,995 serious injuries annually. This rulemaking is part of FMSCA's safety action plan which includes an overall stretch goal of reducing truck-related fatalities by 50 percent by the year 2010. In 1999, there were 5,203 truck-related fatalities.

In developing its proposed hours-of-service rule, the Department's FMCSA reviewed more than 150 research studies from sources around the world. All research studies known to FMCSA are in the official FMCSA docket, FMCSA-97-2350.

The proposed changes abandon the one-size-fits-all approach to work-rest cycles and adopt different mandatory rest periods for five types of motor carrier operations. The five types of motor carrier operations proposed are the following:

Type 1 (Long-haul)
    
drivers who operate two or more off-duty periods away from their normal work reporting location must have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty in each 24-hour period. They must also have 2 hours off-duty during the workshift.

Type 2 (Regional)

drivers who operate only one off-duty period away from their normal work reporting location must have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty in each 24-hour period. They must also have two hours off duty during the workshift.

Type 3 (Local-split shift)

drivers who operate within 6 hours' driving distance of their work reporting location and return to that location at the end of the shift must have at least 9 consecutive hours off duty during the 24-hour period with an additional 3 consecutive hours off duty at some other point during the same 24-hour period.

Type 4 (Local)

drivers who operate within 6 hours' driving distance of their work reporting location and return to that work reporting location at the end of each shift must have at least 12 consecutive hours off duty in each 24-hour period.

Type 5 (Primary work not driving)

drivers whose primary duties for the motor carrier are duties other than driving, and who report for work and are released from work at the same normal work reporting location must have at least 9 consecutive hours off duty in each 24-hour period. 

A significant change under the proposed regulations would require long-haul and regional drivers to use electronic on-board recording devices (EOBR). This would ensure verification of these drivers' compliance with the regulation and would be used by the Department only for such verification -- the Department would not use the EOBRs for other purposes. Tougher standards are being proposed for these drivers because of their high level of fatigue-related crash involvement. Long-haul drivers have the highest number of fatigue-related crashes and regional drivers have the second highest number of these crashes.

Hours of service rules for commercial drivers date back to a 1937 Interstate Commerce Commission regulation that saw its last major change in 1962. The current rule requires that drivers take eight hours of rest after a maximum of 10 hours' driving or 15 hours on duty.

Written comments on this proposal should be sent within 90 days of publication in the Federal Register to the USDOT Docket Facility, Attn: Docket FMCSA-97-2350, 400 Seventh St., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590. The NPRM is posted on the Internet and can be viewed after searching at

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Updated: Thursday, April 10, 2014