The [removed]American Trucking Associations[/removed] (ATA) recently told the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that the trucking industry has seen a large decline in the truck-involved fatality rate since the current hours of service (HOS) rules took effect, citing a 25% drop in the rate of persons injured in large truck crashes since the rules took effect in 2005.

Furthermore, the implementation of the rules was associated with a 22% drop in truck-involved fatality rates. According to the ATA, the continually improving safety figures illustrate the real-world benefits of the current rules, which are based on a decade of research and analysis.

ATA chairman Tommy Hodges and vice chairman Daniel England expanded on the impact of the rules at an FMCSA listening session in Los Angeles. They told the FMCSA that the 34-hour restart provides drivers with the ability to gain quality rest. The two ATA representatives shared that the most recent figures from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) indicate that the truck-involved fatality rate in 2008 declined 12.3% to 1.86 per 100 million miles, from 2.12 per 100 million miles in 2007. This decline marks the fifth consecutive year the fatality rate has dropped in addition to the largest year-to-year drop ever. Persons injured in large truck crashes went from 44.4 per 100 million miles to 39.6 (an 11% reduction).

While the current HOS rules are helping, ATA believes the rules can be improved by allowing more flexibility in the sleeper berth provision  in order to encourage circadian-friendly sleep and naps. Constraining drivers to one, inflexible option overlooks the individual needs of each driver, according to ATA.

America’s Road Team Captain Ben Saiz also spoke at the listening session, stating that the current HOS rules are working, but professional drivers should be the judges of when they need rest.

“A mandate may not take into account how the driver is feeling that day,” said Saiz, a relay driver for ABF Freight System. Saiz also noted that professional drivers are alert and safe whether driving during the day or night, and that nighttime hours should remain the same.

According to ATA, to better address the true causes of fatigue, FMCSA should focus its resources on:
• Sleep disorder awareness, training, and screening;
• Promoting the use of Fatigue Risk Management Programs;
• Increasing the availability of truck parking on important freight corridors; and
• Partnering with the trucking and shipping communities to develop an educational process that identifies for drivers the location of available truck parking.

Four listening sessions were held around the country as the FMCSA again considers HOS changes requested by special interest groups like Public Citizen and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.