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Tracy Morgan crash illustrates dangers of truck driver fatigue p2

Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan continues his recovery from injuries received in a motor vehicle accident almost a month ago. Morgan has left the hospital and transferred to a rehabilitation facility, entertainment news outlets report. How long he will be there is not yet known.

Nor is it known how long the reaction to Morgan’s accident will last. The limo van he and his friends were riding in was struck by a tractor-trailer. Local and federal investigators have focused on the driver’s hours of service and whether his fatigue caused or contributed to the crash.

A day or two before the accident, the Senate Appropriations Committee introduced a bill that did not garner as much notice as the crash but that is, for the moment, closely tied to it. Among the provisions of the bill is a suspension of trucking regulations that went into effect last year. If the bill becomes law, more than a decade of negotiating for meaningful and mutually acceptable hours of service limits will fall by the wayside, according to one opponent.

Beginning in July 2013, truckers could no longer drive 82 hours per week. The weekly limit was lowered to 70 hours. Work days were still limited to 14 hours with only 11 hours behind the wheel. Truckers were, however, required to take one 30-minute break during the first eight hours of driving.

The most controversial change was the addition of a “restart” period. The rule mandates that drivers have one 34-hour rest period during each 168-hour work week. That rest period must include two consecutive periods between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

The bill would suspend only the rest period requirement until the Department of Transportation completes a study to determine if the requirements are justified. Those findings will then be presented to Congress.

What’s the rationale? We’ll explain in our next post.

Source: CCJ (Commercial Carriers Journal), “Senate committee clears bill amendment to temporarily undo parts of HOS rule,” James Jaillet, June 5, 2014

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