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Are new driving limits making truckers more tired?

Several months ago, new federal regulations aimed at preventing drowsy driving accidents in the trucking industry took full effect. These new rules limit the number of hours that truckers may remain behind the wheel per shift and per week. They also mandate rest periods under certain circumstances. It is hoped that these new laws will help to prevent hundreds of serious truck accidents on American roads annually.

Oddly however, a recent survey conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute indicates that more than two-thirds of all commercial drivers surveyed are more fatigued now than before the hours of service (HOS) amendments went into effect. Given that roughly two-thirds of all commercial truck drivers have taken a pay cut as a result of the rules, some drivers could simply be stating that they are more fatigued now in an effort to get the rules reversed. However, others may be legitimately more fatigued. The question is, why?

It is possible that some drivers are experiencing a greater sense of fatigue now, given that over 80 percent of respondents indicate that the new HOS regulations have negatively impacted their overall quality of life. In addition to pay cuts, many commercial truck drivers are reporting decreased productivity while on the job. That stress combined with a decrease in income could be leading to poor sleep and fatigue as a result.

Time will tell whether or not the new HOS regulations improve driver fatigue and crash rates over time. But at the moment, it seems that truck drivers may be experiencing fatigue spikes associated with either transition to the new rules or the new rules themselves.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “New Limits on Truck Drivers Boost Fatigue for Some, Survey finds,” Betsy Morris, Nov. 18, 2013

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