DOT limits hours truck drivers can work per week, but not per day

Safety advocates has pushed transportation officials also to place a limit on the number of hours truckers could drive each day.  The new rules require truckers to take a break of at least 30 minutes for every eight hours they drive, but they maintain a daily 11-hour limit on driving.

On Thursday, the Arlington, Va.-based Truck Safety Coalition called the unchanged daily limit "dangerous."

"This rule will not come near addressing the widespread problem of fatigue in the trucking industry," Ed Slattery, whose wife was killed in an accident with a trucker, said in a statement released by the organization. 

"A 70-hour workweek still exceeds most Americans’ schedules by 30 hours per week, or 1,560 per year, and most Americans do not control an 80,000-pound vehicle and have the fate of others near them in their control,” he said.

The new rules were also met with skepticism by the commercial retail industry, which relies heavily on trucks to ship goods. The Retail Industry Leaders Association, also based in Arlington, said the new requirements would "increase highway congestion and increase the cost of moving goods via trucks."

"Rather than encouraging greater efficiency, the new hours-of-service regulations will increase transportation costs, congestion and pollution by funneling more trucks onto the road at peak driving times,” RILA vice president for government relations Kelly Kolb said in a statement.

“Supply-chain optimization is the bread and butter of America’s most successful retailers," Kolb continued. "Their ability to move goods efficiently has changed the retail landscape and benefited consumers by reducing prices and increasing product assortments. The new hours-of-service rule will upend the advances in efficiency made over the past decade."

Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) have introduced a bill to address trucker safety, the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act. The measure would require on-board recording devices like airplanes have to assist accident investigations and give the FMCSA more authority to penalize "reincarnated carriers," or companies that resume service under a different name after being shut down by regulators.

Lautenberg said Thursday that he supported the rules released by the DOT Thursday, but that he would keep pushing for his bill.

"Trucks are an essential part of our transportation network, but we must work hard to ensure safety never takes a backseat," he said. "This rule is an important step that shows we are gaining on the issue of fatigue-related crashes, but more needs to be done and I remain concerned by the number of hours per day that drivers can be on the road."

Lautenberg added that truckers had a responsibility for safety too.

"If drivers are not fully alert, they should not be behind the wheel," he said Thursday. "We must make sure that only the safest drivers are on America’s roads, and I will continue fighting to pass my truck safety bill.”