Trucking Hours of Service Regulations Are Changing Again — and Not for the Better

 In Commercial Trucking Accidents, Trucking Accident

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced upcoming changes to Hours of Service rules for truckers. These changes will take place on September 29, 2020, and they are designed to give drivers greater flexibility and control over their schedules. However, the changes also put ordinary drivers at significant risk for a deadly truck wreck.

Hours of Service rules determine the maximum number of hours that a trucker can drive before they’re legally required to take a break, and these rules are a critical piece of what it takes to keep our roads safe. Keep reading to find out more about the upcoming changes.

How the Hours of Service Rules Are Changing

The Hours of Service (HOS) rules exist to ensure that drivers have adequate time to rest, relax, and recharge. The upcoming changes supposedly give drivers more flexibility. But the reality is that the existing HOS rules are based on decades of careful study into how long truckers can drive without becoming dangerously fatigued, and any change that relaxes those rules is cause for concern.

Here are the changes coming to a highway near you.

  • On-duty limits for short-haul operations will increase from 12 to 14 hours and from 100 air-miles to 150.
  • Truckers can drive up to two more hours in bad conditions.
  • In addition to an 8/2 split for the required 10 hours of rest, drivers now have an option for a 7/3 split.
  • Rest break will now be required after eight hours of driving time instead of eight hours of on-duty time. Also, periods where the driver is on-duty but not driving will count toward required rest breaks.

Why the HOS Changes Are Dangerous

While advocates of the HOS changes say they give drivers more ownership and flexibility about when they drive, the new rules don’t do enough to prioritize safety. The new HOS rules go against our best information about how to fight truck driver fatigue and give unsafe companies more options to push drivers beyond their limits.

Plenty of highway safety advocates have lined up to protest the HOS changes. In June, The Teamsters joined the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers, and the Truck Safety Coalition to petition the FMCSA to reconsider the changes.

“The weakening of the hours-of-service rules will undoubtedly endanger the lives of truck drivers and the citizens with whom they share the roads every day,” the organizations wrote in their joint petition. “Despite claims that these revisions will empower drivers to make independent choices to address fatigue more efficiently, the repeated mention of traffic, foul weather, and detention time belies this claim as the agency’s actual justification for this proposed change to the hours-of-service rules.”

While all of the changes are likely to contribute to more truck crashes, the worst change is probably the new, lax rule about driving in bad weather and other conditions. Driving in poor conditions is extremely stressful and draining for a truck driver. Stress causes people to fatigue more quickly, which increases the risk of making a mistake behind the wheel. And when you’re driving an 80,000 pound, fully loaded semi-truck and trailer in bad weather, there is no room for error.

The decision to add another sleeper split also makes little sense. The current 8/2 split rule already causes confusion and HOS violations, and adding another split option further complicates what should be a simple, sensible requirement for 10-hour rest breaks.

RELATED: Do Truck Companies Pressure Drivers to Break the Law?

Fatigue Is a Common Cause of Truck Wrecks

The HOS rules were designed to fight truck driver fatigue, and loosening those rules is likely to increase the number of dangerously fatigued truckers on our roads. According to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (the same body that sets the hours of service laws), 87% of large truck crashes are caused at least in part by driver error. In the study, the FMCSA defined the most common errors as poor decision-making, failure to recognize a dangerous situation, and failing to perform adequately while behind the wheel. All of these errors are impacted by fatigue; the more tired a driver is, the more likely they are to make these kinds of mistakes and cause a deadly collision.

Hurt in a Crash With a Semi-Truck in Washington? Call Seattle Truck Law

At Seattle Truck Law, we have years of experience fighting and winning on behalf of truck crash victims. Not only do we fight tooth and nail to make sure victims have the financial resources they need to recover, but we also advocate for safe driving laws that protect drivers like you on Washington roads.

When you work with Seattle Truck Law, you can expect compassionate but aggressive legal representation that includes investigating every possible cause of the crash. To schedule your free consultation with an experienced truck wreck attorney, call Seattle Truck Law today at 866-580-HURT (4878) or use our quick online contact form.


Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (2007). The Large Truck Crash Causation Study – Analysis Brief. Washington, DC: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from

Schremmer, M. (2020, August 7). FMCSA plans to roll out new HOS rules on Sept. 29. LandLine. Retrieved from

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.


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