Representatives from affiliates and member companies of the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and other trucking industry speakers told the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) last week that the current Hours of Service (HOS) rules are working but need flexibility in the sleeper berth provision.

America’s Road Team Captain Ralph Garcia, a professional truck driver who has driven more than 2.5 million accident-free miles, was among more than 40 speakers at the FMCSA listening session in Dallas, Texas. This was the second of four sessions being held around the country as the FMCSA again considers HOS changes requested by special interest groups like Public Citizen and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

In his remarks, Garcia, an over the road driver for ABF Freight System, said the current HOS rules are working. “When the current rules took effect, I noticed that I started feeling better,” said Garcia. “I wasn’t as tired.” He added that he prefers nighttime driving because there is less traffic congestion and less stress. Garcia did note that there is room for improvement in the current HOS rules. “Sleeper berth provisions make it difficult for drivers, who prefer more flexibility with their rest,” Garcia said.

He added that flexibility is important to all drivers who know when to take breaks. “We are more in tune with our body’s time clock than most people. Our safe driving is a testimony to that.” Garcia, who has driven professionally for 30 years, noted that just this week the U.S. Department of Transportation released 2008 figures showing that the truck-involved fatality rate decreased 12.3 percent from 2007, the fifth consecutive year the rate has declined. “The American truck driver continues to keep America rolling,” said Garcia. “We are better trained, better informed and improving the safety of our industry every year.”

While representatives from many trucking companies voiced support for the current HOS regulations, they added that more flexibility was needed with regard to both the on-duty period and sleeper berth provision.

ATA believes that to better address the true causes of fatigue in transportation, FMCSA should focus its resources on (1) sleep disorder awareness, training and screening, (2) promoting the use of Fatigue Risk Management Programs, (3) increasing the availability of truck parking on important freight corridors and (4) partnering with the trucking and shipping communities to develop an educational process that identifies for drivers the locations of available truck parking.

Remaining listening sessions will be held on Jan. 25 in Los Angeles and Jan. 28 in Davenport, Iowa. FMCSA officials said they will consider adding an additional session that will be limited to truck drivers. For time and location details of each of the sessions, visit FMCSA’s information page.