How the updated FMCSA regulations can affect driver fatigue

Big trucks line New Jersey highways day and night, regardless of the time, weather conditions or construction zones. Since commercial drivers get paid by the mile, they often have long shifts and can become fatigued when behind the wheel.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that updated hours of service regulations went into effect in September 2020. These provisions govern how long truckers may drive in a particular timeframe. Although the change increases flexibility for drivers, it also lets them spend more time behind the wheel, which has its own dangers.

Hours of service updates

Truckers can now enter a 30-minute break into the logbook as an on-duty, not-driving status, rather than going off-duty. During adverse driving conditions, drivers can extend the maximum driving limit up to two hours. They can also split the 10-hour required off-duty time into longer segments. This means that drivers can take a two-hour break in the middle of a 14-hour shift rather than going off-duty. Short-haul truckers also have exceptions when they stay within a 150-mile radius of their work reporting location.

Dangers of driver fatigue

According to the CDC, fatigue can impair a person’s ability to safely perform tasks, including driving. Inadequate or poor sleep quality and long hours behind the wheel can negatively impact coordination and judgment, increase reaction time and reduce vision quality. Poor weather conditions require physical and mental exertion when handling a big rig. This can cause fatigue long before the hours of service regulations require the driver to take a break.

Drivers may forget to check blind spots before changing lanes when fatigued or veer into oncoming traffic if their attention wanders, resulting in devastating head-on collisions. Victims of these wrecks often require long-term or permanent medical care.