A chain reaction crash involving four big rig tractor trailers on I-285 near Camp Creek Parkway in south Fulton County, GA, killed a woman in a passenger car on June 19, 2018.

According to the Georgia State Patrol, A tractor-trailer was traveling northbound when it struck three other big rigs and the rear of a car, pushing the car underneath another tractor-trailer.

News photos showed that at least one truck’s cab was badly crushed and the roof of the passenger car was caved in.

In addition to the one fatality, five others were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. It

As a trucking accident lawyer in Atlanta, I have been following developments in rule changes on truck driver hours of service for several years. There has been quite a history of the administration proposing longer driving hours, with trucking industry backing, only to have the rules struck down by courts as arbitrary, capricious, etc.  However, the regulators have persevered in repeatedly reissuing controversial temporary rules extending driving time from 10 driving time to 11 hours driving out of 14 hours on duty, after 10 continuous hours off duty.

Yesterday the  Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released its final rule on truck drivers’ hours of service. It seeks to make permanent the extension of  hours truckers can drive from 10 hours to 11 hours.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, this is part of a broad-ranging last-minute push to enact regulations supported by business and in numerous instances opposed by consumer, safety and environmental groups. Also included are new rules that open the way for commercial development of oil shale on federal land and add restrictions on employee time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) first isued the hours-of-service rule in 2003, increasing the number of hours truckers can legally drive. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the rule in 2004, but Congress reinstated it as part of the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2004.

FMCSA issued a new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in January 2005, proposing a rule that was essentially the same as  the 2003 rule that had been struck down.  On July 24, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for the second time threw out the rule that increased driving time to 11 hours from 10 hours and allowed drivers to go back to work after being off duty for only 34 hours. In a 39-page opinion, Judge Merrick Garland called the rule "arbitrary and capricious."

The Teamsters Union called yesterday’s action "a dangerous midnight move" and vowed to fight it. 

Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen was quoted saying, “This rule will continue to force truck drivers to continue enduring sweatshop-like working conditions. This puts the health and safety of drivers at risk, along with the public who must share the road with tired truckers.”


U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., has asked the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to reconsider electronic on-board recorders, citing recent high-profile truck accidents in her state.  Feinstein cited the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which claims that a third of drivers omit hours from log books and that the percentage of truckers asleep at the wheel at least once in the past month increased from 13 percent in 2003 to 21 percent in 2005. European trucks already have non-electronic tachographs, and two years ago, the European Union began requiring new trucks to have electronic recorders, Feinstein said.  In January 2007, the FMCSA proposed a rule to establish performance standards for recorders and incentives to encourage their voluntary installation. The proposed rule would mandate the recorders, however, only for carriers that have serious and continued violations of the hours rule twice within a two-year period.

As I have discussed several times in this blog, the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration significantly increased truck drivers’ hours of service last year.  Under the current hours of service rule, truckers may drive 77 hours in 7 days or 88 hours in 8 days – a more than 25 percent increase from the previous rule. On-duty hours during which truckers may drive also have increased, allowing a truck driver working 14-hour shifts to work as many as 84 hours in 7 days or 98 hours in 8 days – a 40 percent increase over the old limits. The adverse effect on trucking safety is just sort of common sense.

Now the European Union has gone the opposite direction, requiring shorter driving hours and longer rests periods for truck drivers.  The EU has reduced the maximum work week for truck drivers from 74 hours to 60 hours, including loading and unloading. After 4.5 hours of driving, they will have to stop for at least 45 minutes to have a rest. The 45-minute period can be divided into two shorter breaks, but the first one may not be shorter than 30 minutes and the second no shorter than 15 minutes. The required daily rest time will also be extended. Under the old regulations, truck drivers are required to take an 8-hour daily rest. Under the new regulations, the daily rest period is defined as a break in driving of at least 11 hours. Daily rest can also be divided into two parts. In this case, the total time has to be extended to 12 hours because the first break may not be shorter than three hours and the second has to last at least nine hours. Additionally, drivers who drive alone and have no one to alternate with them at the wheel will have the right to an additional 9 to 11 hours of rest, but only three times a week. If the truck crew is made up of two people, each driver will have to take a break of at least nine hours (up from eight hours under the existing regulations) within 30 hours of the end of the previous daily or weekly period of rest.  European truck drivers are not allowed to drive longer than 56 hours in a single week. In a two-week period, the limit for driving time remains unchanged at 90 hours.

European truck drivers are apparently better organized than their counterparts in the US.  Back in 1998, truck drivers across Europe circled trucks into blockades at border crossings to dramatize their demand for better working conditions and fewer hours.

Whether the rules are set for reasons of drivers’ working conditions or safety of other people on the roads, anyone who has ever driver across the country instinctively knows the difference between driving nine hours, broken up by a 45 minute break, and driving eleven hours straight.  The effect on fatigue and alertness of driving 77 hours per week versus 56 hours per week is just common sense.