The Transportation Department made changes Thursday in the complex rules governing the rest required for truckers on the road. The moves were welcomed by industry groups but not safety advocates, the Washington Post reports. The changes, which the Trump administration had been advocating since shortly after coming into office, will increase flexibility for truckers and drivers working to keep goods moving during the pandemic. They'll also save trucking companies almost $274 million a year over 10 years, said the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates trucking, per the Wall Street Journal. Calling the decision a step in the right direction, an executive of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said the agency "is always in a tough spot when it comes to regulatory reform, and finding a balance to make all parties happy is virtually impossible."
Commercial truckers generally are held to 11 hours of driving in a 14-hour day, with mandated breaks. The new rules permit counting time when drivers are on duty but not driving toward a 30-minute break, for instance. They also lengthen the maximum on-duty period by two hours in the event of severe weather or other difficult conditions. The Teamsters and safety advocates say such changes could increase the chances of accidents. Many in the industry say flexibility is needed because drivers' time can run out when they're stuck in traffic or waiting at loading docks. "The real hours and fatigue issue that drivers have to contend with isn't time working; it's time waiting to load and unload," said the president of the independent drivers' group. "That's the real fatigue issue that costs drivers specifically and undermines the efficiency of the entire supply chain." (Read more truckers stories.)