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Is Driver Fatigue a Cause of Commercial Vehicle Crashes?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is taking a new look at driver fatigue and seeking input on the issue. Motor carrier businesses, organizations and operators in Pennsylvania are encouraged to submit their comments to the FMCSA.

The FMCSA is looking for comment on commute times of operators before beginning their shift or haul, specifically when commutes times exceed 150 minutes. The request for commentary is a requirement of the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act. It will also conduct a web survey issued to approximately 12,000 randomly selected drivers. There is no expiration date for public comment at present.

The FMCSA already has strict rules concerning the number of hours a driver is permitted while on duty, the amount of rest time required and mandatory sleep periods. However, these rules do not always cover when a driver is traveling for personal reasons, such as commuting. Adding more than two hours of commuting to a maximum driving period can increase the risk of driver fatigue.

The administration outlined two concerns when seeking public comment: First, it identified the national trend of increased commuting times for the general public in the past few decades. Second, it has cited medical evidence that those with a larger commute time are more likely to be physically unfit, suffer from poor cardio health and have higher blood pressure. The cited study did not refer to drivers in the trucking industry specifically.

Because the FMSCA is currently at the stage of obtaining information on the issue, it is unknown at this time whether public comments will lead to new federal trucking regulations. Upon receiving public comment, the administration is required to submit a study with its findings to Congress. With the concern over driver fatigue and national highway safety, it is possible that those with long commutes may have restrictions on their maximum driving time.

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