84°F
weather icon Clear

Government moves toward easing truckers’ drive-time rules

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration took a key step Wednesday toward relaxing federal rules that govern the length of time truck drivers can spend behind the wheel, a move long sought by the trucking industry but opposed by safety advocates who warn it could lead to more highway crashes.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency of the Transportation Department, issued proposed changes to the “hours of service” rules, which dictate breaks truckers are required to take, and their time on and off duty.

“It puts a little more power back in the hands of the drivers and motor carriers,” said Raymond Martinez, head of the federal safety agency. Martinez said the agency listened to drivers and their calls for safer and more flexible rules.

But highway safety groups have warned that putting the revisions into place would dangerously weaken the regulations.

“The agency is offering flexibility without regard for the fact that it could be exploited by the worst actors in the industry, including drivers who will operate while fatigued and motor carriers who will coerce them to do so,” said Harry Adler, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition.

There were 4,657 large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2017, a 10% increase from the year before, according to a May report issued by the agency. Sixty of the truckers in these accidents were identified as “asleep or fatigued,” although the National Transportation Safety Board has said this type of driver impairment is likely underreported on police crash forms.

Trade groups that represented truck drivers and motor carriers have pushed for years for less rigid hours of service rules, arguing that the regulations were too rigid and out of step with the daily realties confronting most truck drivers. They found a supporter in President Donald Trump, who has made rolling back layers of regulatory oversight a priority.

“To me, having the flexibility is huge,” said Terry Button, a hay farmer from upstate New York who owns his truck and has logged about 4 million miles since he started driving in 1976. “It’s good that the government finally took the time to listen to the people who do the job.” Button spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The existing regulations limit long-haul truckers to 11 hours of driving time within a 14-hour on-duty window. Drivers must have had 10 consecutive hours off duty before the on-duty clock starts anew. A driver who is going to be driving for more than eight hours must take a 30-minute off-duty break before hitting the eight-hour mark.

Under the proposed revisions, truckers could take a break while they are on duty but not driving. Drivers have complained that long waits for cargo to be loaded or unloaded keep them idle yet they are still required to take an off-duty break, even if they do not need to rest or cannot find suitable parking for a big rig.

The administration also is proposing to allow drivers to “pause” the 14-hour driving window for an off-duty break of up to three hours, provided the trucker still takes the 10 consecutive hours off duty at the end of the work shift.

Short-haul drivers are exempt from logging their time electronically if they meet certain criteria that include starting and returning to the same location within 12 consecutive hours and not exceeding a 100-mile radius. The proposal would extend the on-duty period to 14 hours and increase the distance limit to 150 miles.

Eric Teoh, a senior statistician with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, had urged against lengthening the short-haul work period. In a letter sent to Martinez and the agency last year, Teoh said that a recent Institute study showed that interstate truck drivers operating under the short-haul exemption had a crash risk 383% higher than those not using the exemption.

The powerful American Trucking Associations, whose members include the nation’s largest motor carriers and truck manufacturing companies, said in a statement that the revisions maintain the “core principles” of the regulations.

A group representing independent truck drivers hailed the “common-sense approach” that will make it easier for truckers to avoid heavy traffic, bad weather and other adverse situations.

“Truckers have families and want to get home safely just like everyone else. They are the most knowledgeable, highway safety advocates and the agency’s proposal, overall, recognizes that fact,” said Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

The organization Spencer heads and a grassroots group called TruckerNation.org last year petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to amend the hours of service rules.

The proposal will be published in the Federal Register next and be open for public comment for 45 days. Martinez said he couldn’t say when a final rule would be issued and take effect but he described what the agency issued Wednesday as a critical step in the process.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - Video
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - Video
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
US envoy Sondland distances himself from Trump

Gordon Sondland’s testimony to House impeachment investigators was aimed at distancing himself from President Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Kurdish commander says Trump OK’d deal with Moscow, Damascus

The commander’s comments underscored President Trump’s willingness to see a crucial U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State switch allegiance to Moscow and Damascus.

Pence says Turkey has agreed to 5-day cease-fire in Syria

Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday that the U.S. and Turkey had agreed to a five-day cease-fire in northern Syria to allow for a Kurdish withdrawal from a security zone roughly 20 miles south of the Turkish border, in what appeared to be a significant embrace of Turkey’s position in the week-long conflict.

Powerful US Rep. Elijah Cummings, who took on Trump, dies at 68

Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings died early Thursday at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to complications from longstanding health challenges, his congressional office said. He was 68.

US airstrikes destroy ammunition left behind in Syria

Most of the 1,000 U.S. forces in Syria are being withdrawn over the coming days and weeks because of the Turkish invasion into northern Syria and the attack on Kurdish forces.

Parents of slain teen stunned by Trump’s attempted actions

Harry Dunn, 19, was killed in August when his motorcycle collided with a car allegedly driven by Anne Sacoolas outside a British air force base.