March 11, 2011

Updates in Trucking Safety

By: Michael E. Memberg, Esq.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently issued a regulatory proposal that would revise hours-of-service (HOS) requirements for commercial truck drivers. Under the terms of a court settlement agreement, the FMCSA has to publish a final HOS decision by July 26, 2011.

The proposed changes would include the following:
Drivers can restart their 60/70 hour work week by taking off 34 consecutive hours, but the restart period must include two consecutive off-duty periods from midnight to 6:00 a.m.
All driving must be completed within a 14-hour workday, and all on-duty work-related activities must be completed within 13 hours to allow for at least a one hour break.
Flexibility to extend a driver's daily shift to 16 hours twice a week to accommodate for issues such as loading and unloading at terminals or ports, and allowing drivers to count some time spent parked in their trucks toward off-duty hours.

Commercial truck drivers who violate the proposed rule would face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense. Trucking companies that allow their drivers to violate the proposal's driving limits would face penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense.

Beyond the civil penalties, an increase in driver safety can help reduce the number of work related accidents. Furthermore, there could be a defense to a workers’ compensation claim if the driver willfully disregarded any of these new rules. While willful misconduct is often difficult to prove as a defense in workers’ compensation claims, since the system is “no fault”, a violation of new regulations such as being proposed may open the door for more companies to explore the merits of asserting such a defense.

Additionally, the FMCSA recently enhanced its Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) by adding data for co-driver safety and post-crash violations to the roadside inspection and crash records previously available. The PSP report also now shows the date drivers' safety records are updated. Pre-employment checks are a critical part of the overall safety and risk management plan for trucking companies. By taking full advantage of the PSP, trucking companies can help keep dangerous drivers off the road and limit their exposure for workers’ compensation claims.

Further details are available on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website at

If you have questions or comments, please reply to this post or contact your David & Rosetti attorney at 404-446-4488 or by visiting our website at

Nothing contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice or opinion on specific facts. For editorial comments or suggestions, please contact David W. Willis at (404) 446-4491 or

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