The U.S. Department of Transportation is looking to relax current federal regulations that govern the amount of time commercial truck drivers can be on the road without taking a rest break. This could lead to an increase of fatigued truck drivers on the nation’s highways which, in turn, could result in more deadly trucking accidents.
Current regulations limit the drive time of long-haul commercial truck drivers to 11 hours of a 14-hour on-duty day. A driver must then take 10 consecutive hours off before the clock can start again, and if they are going to be driving for more than 8 hours, they must take a rest break of a minimum of 30 minutes before they can drive again. Essentially a driver cannot exceed 70 hours of driving in eight days. This is known as the 70-hour rule.
Even with such drive time regulations for commercial truck drivers, serious accidents involving fatigued truck drivers are all too common. In 2017, there were 4,657 fatal truck crashes, a 10% increase from the prior year. A study by the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) found that a significant percent of fatal accidents involving truck drivers was caused by fatigue. In fact, sleep deprivation and fatigue has been noted to be one of the most frequent causes of fatal large truck accidents. The NTSB has recognized that truck driver fatigue is a “pervasive problem” and has declared reducing fatigue-related accidents as one of its “most wanted” safety improvements of 2019-2020.