The recent news of the crash that left comedian Tracy Morgan critically wounded, three others injured, and another comedian dead has once again raised questions about hours of service. Unfortunately, the Morgan case sheds a negative light on an already-contentious issue.
According to the New York Times, the details that emerged following the crash indicate that the driver of the truck, Kevin Roper, was “traveling north in the center lane of the highway, and failed to observe slow-moving traffic ahead of him. Though he noticed the traffic at the last minute and tried to swerve, [he] struck the van. It has been determined that Roper had not slept in more than 24 hours before the crash occurred.”
The final provisions of the hours of service regulations went into effect July 1, 2013. Specific to property-carrying drivers, the regulations indicate that drivers operating commercial motor vehicles may be on the road for, at most, 11 hours in a 14-hour workday, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. In addition, drivers must take at least 30 minutes off during the first eight hours of a shift. The maximum work week totals 70 hours, a full day’s work (and wages) less than the previous limit of 82 hours.
Intended to increase safety on the road, the HOS regulations were touted by Department of Transportation as having the potential to save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.
The unfortunate consequences of the regulations are loss of productivity for companies, and loss of income for drivers. As the regulations approach their first anniversary, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted by a wide margin to suspend the current 34-hour restart provision of the hours of service rule while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration studies the impact of the rule. With the Morgan crash so top-of-mind for the public, the media, and—undoubtedly—elected officials, we can only hope common sense overcomes hysteria, and that the rules are appropriately reviewed and adjusted.