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.

The Shigley Law Firm  represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents.