Drowsy Truck Driver Crash Drives Upcoming HOS Changes

by Jana Ritter - Published: 6/13/2013

 A drowsy semi truck driver crashed on I-5 near Mount Vernon early Thursday morning, leaving quite a mess on the freeway, the Washington State Patrol said. The driver of the FedEx semi fell asleep driving north and awoke to his semi drifting off the freeway. Trying to steer back, he over-corrected and the truck tipped over. Luckily, no other cars were involved and the driver escaped with a few minor injuries, but the northbound lanes were blocked for about an hour as crews righted the truck and pulled the wreckage off the road.

Washington accident

While Troopers said neither drugs nor alcohol were suspected as a factor in the crash, the issue of sleep – (common with commercial drivers), is most likely the cause and a timely reminder of the FMCSA’s hours-of –service regulations set to take effect July 1. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published a “visor card” outlining the changes and summarizes each of the provisions of the new rule, comparing it to the old rule. It is designed for truck drivers to keep in their vehicles for quick reference.

The American Trucking Associations and Public Citizen has already sued to stop the rule and although the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has not ruled on the case, the implementation of the new rules isn't expected to be a completely smooth ride - as both industry and law enforcement will need to make significant adjustments to accommodate them.

“We expect there will be some growing pains with this,” said Steven Keppler, Executive director for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). “The changes are not too complicated but they do impact a truck driver’s work day. And from the enforcement side, the changes create additional work for our folks in terms of logbook data reviews.”

However, during last week’s Roadcheck 2013 “kickoff event” held at the FedEx Field football stadium in Landover, MD, Anne Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), said she didn’t think there would be too much disruption caused by the HOS changes. “We think HOS reform is going to go smoothly; the vast majority of carriers and drivers are informed about the changes,” she said. “We recognize that these [HOS] changes will significantly affect 7% to 10% of the driver population but we believe carriers are making adjustments to compensate for that.”

The July 1 changes to the HOS rules are as follows: