The regulations that limit the amount of time that truck drivers in California and around the country can spend behind the wheel may soon be relaxed. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced on Aug. 14 that it plans to publish revised hours of service regulations in the Federal Register. Once published, the public will be given 45 days to submit comments about the changes. Organizations such as the American Trucking Association have welcomed the changes and believe they could improve road safety, but several other advocacy groups oppose relaxed hours of service rules.

Truck drivers are required to take a 30-minute rest break during the first eight hours of a shift that can be no longer than 14 hours. If the proposed changes to hours of service regulations are implemented, truck drivers will be allowed to take this break at any time that they are not actually driving. This means that truckers could fit the break in while they are waiting in line to have their cargo either loaded or unloaded.

The proposed revisions will also broaden what is known as the short-haul exemption. Truck drivers who operate within a 100-mile radius and work shifts of 12 hours or less are not required to log their hours electronically. The FMCSA proposal would extend the short-haul range to 150 miles and lengthen the maximum short-haul shift to 14 hours. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has urged the FMCSA to reconsider these changes because short-haul truck drivers have an accident rate significantly higher than long-haul truckers.

When preparing a truck accident lawsuit on behalf of injured victims, attorneys may check hours of service records carefully to find out if fatigue may have played a role. Attorneys could also could also arrange to have the semi-tractor trailer involved inspected to obtain the information stored on its data recorder. This could reveal how long the truck was on the road before it crashed and whether or not its driver attempted to avoid a collision by taking emergency action.